Your former manager. What do they even know about you? They know just the surface, the results you achieved, or failed to achieve in your work. But they can hardly know the true reasons. They neither saw into your head, nor understood the chemistry in your team, and the conflicts you had with some colleagues. At the end of the day they do not know much. Or am I wrong?

Not every interview question makes sense. This one is definitely questionable. But hiring managers may ask you all kinds of questions with all sorts of intentions, and some of them may refer to your former managers–your opinion on them, or their opinion on you.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this tricky question first. Do not forget to read also my notes below the answers, as they will help you to choose the best answer for your particular situation in an interview.


7 sample answers to “What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?” interview question

  1. Punctuality, speed of work, and maybe communication with them. One of the reasons why I had to leave my last job was that I didn’t handle the workload. The working environment was extremely fast-paced, and half of the workers struggled to meet the quotes. But I have the feeling that if the communication with the management was better–and certainly we could impact it as employees, things could have turned out differently. Anyway, I learned my lesson, and in my new job I want to provide constructive feedback to my managers. And I also want to work in a different field, one where quality matters more than speed of work. That’s the reason I am applying with you.
  2. Speaking honestly, I am not sure if they saw any areas for improvement. At least they never told me anything. I decided to leave the company, it wasn’t the decision of the manager. They seemed satisfied with my work. But I did not feel intellectually challenged anymore, and lost my motivation completely. I asked them for promotion but the answer was negative and I decided to leave and look for another job. Having said that, I do not consider myself a perfect employee. I am aware of my weaknesses–though my former manager might not spot them. I try to improve on them.
  3. They would like me to work overtime each day, to have a total obedience to the managers and a to demonstrate a superb loyalty to the company. But that is not something I am looking for in my life. I seek a decent work-life balance, because I have a family and I try to pursue some harmony in life. Work and money isn’t everything for me, though I certainly had some colleagues with such a mindset–and they were very popular with the managers. I actually decided to apply for a job with you because I like the working hours and the fact that nobody stays overtime here.
  4. I really have no idea. You would have to ask them. My contract was terminated without any apparent explanation. I tried my best in work, and did not feel that I missed on my targets or anything. But they still decided to terminate my contract, and I have a feeling–though I can be wrong–that it had a lot to do with personal preferences and with protecting their position in the company. I feel that they would be more happy if I didn’t try to so hard and did not achieve such good results. Because with my results I was a threat for their position. And that may be the real reason why they terminated my contract. They had the power and they did it.
  5. I often asked my manager for feedback on my work, because I was new in the store, and wanted to do the things well. They felt that I should improve my communication with the customer. They observed that I did not keep eye contact, and I also often missed an opportunity for an up-sell. They mentioned these two things often, and I honestly think that I improved somehow over time. It was a short time contract, however, only for the summer, and I didn’t have enough time to perfect my customer service skills.
  6. This is my first job application, so I cannot really tell, because I have never worked under anyone. However, I want to assure you that I am receptive to constructive feedback, and would love to have a manager who’d help me to grow as a professional in this field, and perhaps also as a human being. Because I know that we are often blind to our weaknesses, and we need others to tell us how we can improve, in both work and life outside of work.
  7. I think that before anything else, they’d like me to improve on my leadership skills. We missed a natural leader in our team, and they wanted me to step into the leadership role. But I didn’t know how to do so. They didn’t provide any training, and I neither am a born leader, nor have years of experience under my belt. I failed to meet their expectations, and had to go. But I do not consider it a tragedy. It’s simply how things are with employment and jobs–sometimes there is a great match and sometimes we have to leave and find a better match for our skills and personality. The second is the case with my last job, and I hope for a different outcome in the next one.


We can improve, but we have our limits

Managers may have unrealistic expectations on their subordinates. It can be the reason why you do not have your job anymore, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe your colleagues managed to handle the workload and you didn’t, but it doesn’t make you worse.

They simply did better in the particular area or skill, and you would do better in a different area. There wasn’t a match, and you left the job, or the company terminated your contract. It’s perfectly fine to refer to these things in your interview answers, as long as you do not show overly negative emotions towards your former manager. Check sample answers no. 1 and no 7. for a good example.

* Special Tip: What if I told you that you can practice your answers to ALL tricky behavioral interview questions, getting an immediate feedback from a life-like AI interview coach? And that you can start doing it for free, and it is a lot of fun too? 🙂 Check out this page on our partner website, Real Mock Interviews, pick a question, enter your email, and start practicing for free, either on your mobile phone or on your computer.


Show your willingness to improve

Perfect employees do not exist–everyone has some weaknesses. But it’s an attitude to our weaknesses that separates average people from exceptional people.

Exceptional employees (and you should try to present yourself as such in any job interview) do not struggle to admit their weaknesses. What’s more, they induce the managers to tell them what could be done better. Because they do not want to stay at the same spot for ten years. They try to improve on their weaknesses, and they enjoy the process.

You will win many interviewers over with this attitude. See sample answers no. 5 and no. 6 as a good example of demonstrating this attitude.

There’s more to life than work

While it is great to have some meaningful occupation and to try hard in job, everything has some limits. Because if you spend all your time working or thinking about work, you will eventually face a burnout, and your relationships will struggle.

Role of an employee isn’t your only role in life. You are a son/daughter, father or mother (or may become one later on), a friend, perhaps a believer… You have many roles in this life, and should not give all your time and attention to the role of an employee.

But that’s what many managers expect from their subordinates–an unwavering loyalty, 70+ hours in an office each week, and taking work home. If this was what your former manager wanted you to improve on, you can cite it as your reason for quitting. No need to be ashamed of it. What’s more, with this answer you avoid a need to talk about real weaknesses :). See sample answer no. 3 for your inspiration.


Conclusion, answers to other tricky interview questions

Each of us experiences all kinds of relationships in the workplace. You may work under a great manager who has understanding for your weaknesses and for your life outside of work, and who helps you to grow as a person.

But you may also experience a despotic manager with unrealistic expectations, who tries to convince you to slave for the company, and to virtually live in your office.

Regardless of what you experienced in your last job, try to explain it clearly to the hiring managers, showing right attitude to work and a willingness to improve on your weaknesses.

Read the sample answers once again, find one that resonates with your personal experience, and adjust it slightly to match your real experiences. Once done, I suggest you to check our Interview Success Package 2.0, for premium answers to 104 interview questions, including each tough scenario-based question you may face. Thank you, I wish you good luck in your interview!

Matthew Chulaw, Your personal interview coach

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