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How To Answer Interview Questions About How You Handle Criticism

How To Answer Interview Questions About How You Handle Criticism

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Criticism comes with the territory in any job—and in life. So, in your job interview the interviewer will probably ask you about how you handle it. It may come in the form of a behavioral interview question such as ‘Describe a time when your work was criticized and how you handled it.’ Your answer—the story you choose and how you talk about it—will tell them a lot about your character and how you perform under pressure.

Related: How To Prepare For Your Job Interview

The truth is that in order to be successful, we all need to be open to criticism. If you aren’t, then you aren’t coachable. You can’t learn things that make you better than you were before. And if you can’t do that, then you don’t grow and you never become as accomplished or as valuable as you could be.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is: ‘Am I coachable?’

Our ability to take criticism and learn from it to be better is crucial to our success. If you don’t take criticism well and always become defensive, eventually people will stop trying. That may feel nicer for you, but ultimately it hurts you. If your boss can’t communicate with you and help you to become better at your job, eventually they’ll just cut you loose.

No one is perfect. We can all learn and improve. Everyone can be corrected or coached to a new place or a new behavior that makes us better, stronger, and more than we were before.

What does a good criticism response story sound like?

Basically, all of these types of stories should sound like this:

  • Tell about a time when someone told you how you could do some task differently or better.
  • Tell how you responded and what you did in response (how you did that task better).
  • Tell what the results were.

This structure fits the STAR technique (Situation or Task, Action you took, and Results). Many times, job seekers miss telling about the results of the story (what happened as a result of the action you took), and this is one of the most important parts.

As with all of your job interview answers, be strategic. Don’t choose a problem that someone criticized you about that is a central component of your job—for instance, an accountant that was criticized about her sloppy math would be a bad story to tell, no matter how much she improved. Choose something that is a side component. Maybe the accountant was weak in communication skills with colleagues but took a class and made an effort and now works collaboratively on six team projects per year.

Whatever it is, talk about how you responded, how you became better, and give evidence of that.

Interviewers will always ask about adversity of one kind or another in interviews, so be prepared to talk about a few of these types of stories.

Give interview answers that sell you for the job. Find more than 200 job-winning answers in How to Answer Interview Questions and How to Answer Interview Questions II, available on Amazon.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

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Peggy McKee Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.