World strives for constant growth and improvement, and the employers expect the same from their employees, and from the job candidates. It’s a road to madness really, as long as your happiness depends on it. Because we cannot improve forever. As we get older our intellectual capacities diminish, and we slowly lose our strength, bit by bit, until we eventually retire and die. Just our soul does not age, but that’s a topic for another article…
Just like with most other interview questions, hiring managers care especially about your attitude. Do you strive to improve on your strengths? Do you try your best to minimize the impact your weaknesses have on your work, and the relationships you have your colleagues? They have these things on their mind when asking about areas of improvement. And it doesn’t matter how they formulate their question.
Be it the most popular “What are your weaknesses?“, or less frequent questions such as “What areas do you need to improve on?” or “What would your former manager want you to improve on?”, or “What skills would you like to improve?“, the concept is always the same… Now we will have a look at 7 sample answers to this question (picking the 2nd variation), and below the answers I will also explain some additional details you should consider while deciding about what exactly you should say in an interview.
7 sample answers to “What areas do you need to improve on?” interview question
- I can definitely improve on my time management skills. Sometimes I struggle to prioritize my work, or I lose too much time with low-priority tasks. Then it takes me longer to complete my work, and I may even struggle to meet deadlines. But I am aware of this problem, and try be more efficient at work. I think that we learn many things by experience, and have no doubts that I will eventually improve on my time management skills, and it won’t be a problem anymore.
- That’s a question I would also like to know the answer to. This is my first job application. And though I faced some challenges at school, and some exams tested my strengths, I realize the corporate world is a totally different level. Hence it is difficult to point out areas of improvement, before I do the job for a few weeks at least. However, I know that I am not perfect, and certainly I will identify some areas of improvement. Once I am aware of them, I am ready to try my best to eventually improve, and get rid of my weaknesses.
- I’d definitely point out computer skills. I’m old school, we grew up playing with ball, and not with a tablet or smart phone. And since I didn’t need to work with computers in my former jobs, and prefer to spend time outdoors when I am not working, I have never really learned to work with computers properly. But I understand it is a big minus on the employment market, in the third decade of 21st century. And that’s why I started attending evening classes, trying to learn to work at least with the basic office programs. It takes some time, but I am getting better and I definitely don’t want to stop now.
* Do not forget to check also: 3 key strengths and 3 areas for improvement.
- When I was deciding what areas of improvement should I put on my job application, I was deciding between several options–communication skills, presentation skills, being more patient with my colleagues. And I eventually decided to include all of them. Not because I cannot talk to people or struggle to talk in front of an audience. I am decent in both, but I understand the crucial role these skills play in professional sales, and hence I want to improve even further. That’s my personal philosophy anyway–to keep improving, to be never 100% satisfied with my skills and results.
- To answer your question with one word only, I’d pick leadership. But of course it’s more complicated than that. One needs a lot of skills to be a great leader. Empathy, listening skills, ability to go by an example, courage to make unpopular decisions, some charisma, perhaps also some results behind them–something that inspires their team. I feel that I lack the listening skills at times, and do not have big results behind me–just I haven’t been able to achieve any in my young career. But I try to improve on my listening skills. Eliminating all distractions, keeping eye contact, and controlling my mind, and I try to truly listen to people. And the big results… well, I hope to achieve some in your company.
- I hope to improve when it comes to reaching goals in work, monthly and quarterly sales targets. I’ve been working in sales long enough, and I think that I have mastered each part of the sales process, starting with generating leads and ending with follow up and closing deals. However, I struggle with planning, with understanding how many of those calls I have to make, and how many meetings I have to attend, to eventually achieve the results I want to achieve. You know how it is in a life of a professional salesman… Te phone keeps ringing, you go from meeting to meeting, but sometimes you just don’t do the right things when it matters. That’s something I need to improve on.
- I am not sure if I need to improve on anything as a manager, but I definitely want to. I think that we should never be satisfied with the status quo. Because others keep improving, learning new skills, and the market changes constantly. One cannot get complacent… So, I want to continue working on my time management, leadership, communication, and organizational skills, and also keep learning more about this business field. But I do not see this like a process that has a beginning and an end. It never ends, at least for me…
Try to talk about job related areas of improvement
It is nice that you want to improve your piano playing skills, or finally get your handicap in golf below seven. But it doesn’t really matter for the hiring managers–unless you apply for a professional musician job, or a position of a golf instructor…
If you aren’t sure what skills matter for this or that position, you can always go with communication skills, time management, or organizational skills–because they matter in any job. Of course it’s even better being more specific, such a pointing out a particular step of a sales process when you apply for a sales rep job, or something about financial analysis when you are trying to get a position of an analyst…
* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Areas for improvement can be both your strengths and weaknesses
It is a common misconception to think that what we need to improve on (or want to), has to be our weakness. On the contrary. Some managers or engineers focus on strengthening their strengths, because they play a pivotal role in their jobs. It is more important than eliminate some weaknesses, which may not have any impact on their performance, or a minimal one.
It’s fine saying that you want to improve on something that’s already your strength. Just do not forget to explain it clearly, so the hiring managers do not misunderstand you, and do not consider your choice your weakness, while it is actually your strength.
* May also interest you: How to dress for an interview?
Saying that you don’t know is also fine–especially when you haven’t worked anywhere before
It is really hard to point out areas of improvement when all experience you have is volunteering in a university library, or working in McDonald’s while you were studying at a high school. And employers are aware of that. Saying that you have to do the job for a few weeks first is a good option in this case.
But you should not sound overconfident. Ensure the interviewers that there will be some areas of improvement, and you are ready to work on them, just you need some time to identify them exactly, and start working on making things better. Check sample answer no. 2 for your inspiration.
Learning never stops for the best of the best
Needing to improve on something, and wanting to improve on it, are two different things. Maybe you’ve been doing well as a manager, engineer, worker, and cannot identify obvious areas of improvement, or at least something you do worse than your colleagues, or the average Joe.
Nevertheless, you want to progress, because you realize that the world is changing, technology is evolving, and if you stopped working on your skills today, they might not suffice in one year time, at least when you judge your work by your high standards.
Hence you continue learning, working, always reinventing yourself, trying to become the best you can be… Many hiring managers will be impressed with this attitude, and you can check sample answer no. 7 for your inspiration, if you decide to follow this path…
How to answer what areas need improvement for a reference
Talking about ourselves is not easy, especially when it comes to areas of improvement. What is even harder though is when our friend, or former colleague, or subordinate, asks us for a reference for their resume, and we should point out some areas that need improvement. And you cannot write none, you have to come up with something. My suggestion is to be honest, but make sure you won’t write something that can be a showstopper in the interviews for your former colleague. Such as that they are always late, irresponsible, or cannot work without exact instructions.
Opt for something “softer” instead. Perhaps they can improve a bit on their time management skills, or on their attention to detail. Maybe their computer skills need some polishing, or an evening course. You can even say that they found it hard to receive constructive criticism, or to provide you such. All these things are fine and can be improved on with some effort, hence they won’t represent a showstopper in the interviews, and you won’t harm your reference in this way…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Interview Success Package – Premium answers to all questions, streamline your preparation and finally get rid of interview headaches.
- When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
- How would you describe your management style?