How to Answer ‘How Do You Want to Improve in the Next Year?'

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a caricatured human brain wearing glasses and asking questions

During the interview process, you could easily get hit with this question: ‘How do you want to improve in the next year?’ How you choose to answer this could play a major part in your interview success.

So, to ensure you have the perfect answers up your sleeve, we are going to walk you through the ways that you can tackle this query and give an ideal answer.

Without further ado, here is how to answer this somewhat tricky interview question.

Why interviewers ask this question

Interviewers generally ask this question to evaluate your self-awareness and ambition. They don’t want to see a list of weaknesses here. Instead, they want an insight into what improvements you want to make within your professional life over the coming year.

By reviewing how you want to improve, the interviewer can decide if you’ll be a good cultural fit and will also be able to assess whether they can help you achieve your goals. For example, if you want to learn a new skill, they may offer a training scheme that can help you reach that goal.

How to prepare a response

Although you can’t prepare a single response for all types of interviews, there are ways that you can get ready to answer this curveball interview question.

To help you form the ideal answer, we’ve listed some key tips that you shouldn’t overlook:

1. Align your goals to those of the company

When answering any interview question, it’s important to align your goals to those of the company that you’re interviewing for. For example, if you’re interviewing for a marketing company, you could say that you’d like to enhance your SEO skills and learn more about digital marketing over the next year. This goal aligns perfectly to the role that you’re applying for and shows that you’re ambitious and keen to enhance and develop your skills further.

2. Be honest

While your main goal is to impress the hiring manager, you also want to be honest. If you’re not, you’ll eventually get found out and will lose the trust of your peers. Therefore, it’s important to select a goal that you actually have in mind, rather than something that will get you a few brownie points. This could be something like becoming a member of the social committee and focusing on giving to a particular charity. While this doesn’t necessarily align with the job you’re applying for, it showcases some of your life goals.

3. Share your weaknesses

It’s likely that you’ve already answered the interview question ‘Tell me about some of your weaknesses?’. If you have, you can tie your answer into this question. Use your weaknesses as a starting point and explain how you plan to improve them. For example, if a lack of time management is a big weakness of yours, share how you plan to improve this skill by using various apps and tools to help you.

4. Explain your yearly plan

If you have a yearly plan, now is your time to explain what it is. List your goals and what you intend to do to achieve them. For example, you could say that in the first quarter, you plan on enhancing your cognitive skills, while in the second quarter, you want to focus on learning new skills. By the time you get to the fourth quarter of the year, you could be aiming for additional responsibilities at work.

 5. Be confident

No matter what your answer is, make sure you say it with confidence - even if it is one that highlights a few weaknesses. The point of your answer is to show that you plan on progressing and improving your personal and professional life over the course of the year.

6. Keep it short

Don’t forget that an interviewer’s time is precious, so instead of embarking on a long monologue, offer a clear and concise answer that targets all of your points. If you don’t, the hiring manager will lose interest.

7. Steer clear of job titles

Try to avoid mentioning any job titles in your answer. You don’t want the hiring manager thinking that you’re out to get someone else’s job before you’ve even stepped foot through the door and proved your worth.

8. Don’t mention finances

As with job titles, it’s important not to discuss finances, including pay raises and promotions before you’ve been offered the role. Instead, focus on professional goals that will naturally include an increase in pay.

9. Avoid being vague

Interviewers want to hear long-term goals and ambition, so don’t neglect to offer a few valid points that you want to discuss. Your answer here relies on precision and long-term thinking and planning.

Example answers

If you still don’t know how to answer this question, here are a few examples of what you could say to ensure you get the job, and some hints of what you definitely shouldn’t during the interview!

The good

  • ‘At the moment, I work closely with an international team (with the majority of them located in Spain). So, to help improve our communication, I plan on learning Spanish over the coming year. Since I know that one of your largest markets is in Spain, too, I believe this additional language skill will benefit your company if I’m successful in this interview.’
  • ‘At the moment, I don’t really have a great work-life balance. I spend a lot of time in the office trying to finalise projects and feel like my personal life is suffering. In the new year, I plan on learning how to take more frequent breaks to ensure that I don’t feel burnt out, and so that my creativity doesn’t suffer.’
  • ‘Although my work as a content writer isn’t directly related to social media, I’d like to learn more about how to market myself via personal branding. So, in the new year, I have signed up for an online social media and marketing course that will increase my overall knowledge of the industry and current trends.’

The bad

  • ‘Over the next year, my main goal is to get more money. I’ve been working in this industry for over eight years now and feel that I am worth a lot more than what I’m currently paid based on my experience.’
  • ‘I’d ideally like to get a promotion within the next year to show that I’ve progressed on my CV because it’s looking a little stagnant at the moment.’
  • ‘There’s a lot of goals that I’d like to focus on like industry learning and time management, but it’s difficult finding the time with family and home life. My kids take priority, and I find that my work occasionally suffers.’

Like any other interview question, it’s important to prepare your answer in advance, always ensuring that you align it to the role that you’re applying for. If you fail to do so, one small hiccup could cost you the job.

Have you ever had to answer this question during an interview? What was your response? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 1 February 2015.