Interview Question: How Do You Deal With Criticism?

During a job interview, you can expect different kinds of questions. Think, for instance, about your strengths, but also about your weaknesses. A sensitive topic is discussing times you have received criticism. For instance, about your performance, a specific incident, self-management issues, or time management problems. These are exactly the types of examples that interviewers are interested in.

Questions such as ‘how do you deal with criticism‘ are so-called behavioral job interview questions. These are strategic interview questions that require you to provide the interviewer with example situations that you experienced during work. The way you respond to these questions about criticism tells the interviewer more about your work methods en ethics.

A closely related question is ‘tell me about a time you were on a team project that failed,’ ‘what is your greatest weakness?‘ or ‘tell me about your biggest failure.’ With the right preparation, you can give the interviewers answers that they are looking for to convince them that you’re the right person for the job.

In this blog, we discuss how you can discuss criticism you have received in the past. We also talk about how you can use these questions to your advantage. Furthermore, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why interviewers ask about how you deal with criticism

Interview questions about times you received criticism and how you dealt with it might seem challenging. However, they are actually a great way to show your suitability for the job. The reason why interviewers ask these behavioral interview questions is to gauge your future performance.

For employers, the best way to predict your future job performance is by analyzing your behavior in past work situations similar to the ones that you will encounter in the role that you’re applying for. Of course, the interviewer knows that everyone has received some sort of criticism in their career. This is also the reason that they are not just interested in what criticism you received, but more in how you actually handled that specific criticism and what you did with it.

The goal of the interviewer is to find out how you react and handle stressful or negative situations. For instance, if it makes you angry, frustrated, defensive, undervalued, or motivated to perform better. Furthermore, it also helps them analyze how you work under different management styles and in which work environments you thrive.

Another reason for discussing criticism that you have received is that interviewers are interested in your level of self-awareness and if you are actively working on improving yourself.

How to answer interview questions about criticism

When the interviewer asks you, for instance, ‘what is the biggest criticism you have received from your boss?‘ they want you to tell them an actual example that you encountered during your career. These types of interview questions are called behavioral interview questions. Make sure you provide the interviewer with a genuine example of criticism that you have received. Furthermore, explain the criticism you have received and how you work or have worked on improving it.

The worst you can do when discussing moments of critique is refusing to answer. A seasoned interviewer won’t let you get away easily on this question. Therefore, make sure you prepare to discuss your weaknesses and the critique you received in the past.

If you are able to discuss these topics, it will only make you look stronger and more self-aware as a professional. Therefore, never answer this question with ‘I have never received any criticism at work.’ Remember, criticism can also be constructive. This means that if you received criticism, it’s only to help you become a better professional. It allows you to reflect on yourself and develop yourself as a professional.

The most efficient way to answer questions about received criticism is by using the STAR interview technique. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. It’s a common interview strategy to answer behavioral job interview questions.

You can use the STAR strategy to your advantage by thinking prior to the interview about common interview questions that you are most likely to get based on your research. When you do this, you can already prepare answer scenarios to these questions. Then, during the interview, it’s easier to recall specific scenarios that can help you make the best impression possible.

STAR Interview Technique

Below we describe the STAR interview technique step by step. Use each step to logically structure your answers in your interview preparation. Write your answers down and practice them a couple of times to make sure that you can remember them during your job interview.

Situation

Star your answers by describing a specific situation when you received (constructive) criticism. Talk about who was involved, when it happened, and why.

Task

Next, talk about specific challenges or constraints in that situation. Also, talk about the expectations that came forward from the critique you received.

Action

Then, talk about the actions you took to improve yourself based on the feedback you got. This is also the point in your answer where you highlight any desirable traits that the interviewer is looking for. This depends on the specific position that you’re applying for.

Result

Close with the results you got from your efforts.

Tips for answering criticism interview questions

There are a couple of steps you can take in order to prepare yourself as well as possible to questions about how you deal with criticism. The most important one is remaining calm when the topic is brought up. Don’t respond like you’re offended or show any discomfort. The key is to stay relaxed and to focus on answering the question.

Focus on showing that you’re self-aware and honest in terms of answering interview questions. The interviewer knows what everyone has made a mistake, has failed, or has received criticism in their careers. Avoid discussing criticism or failures that were so drastic that it had a huge impact on your team or the company.

Use an example in which you received (constructive) criticism that you learned from and helped develop yourself as a professional. There’s a reason why interviewers ask you about the criticism you have received. Show that you are that person who can take criticism, learn from it, develop yourself, and bounce back.

Before you go to your interview, make sure that you have answers ready for the interview questions that you expect based on your research. The same goes for answers to interview questions about the criticism you have received during your career. Make sure you pick examples of true situations where you received criticism and handled it well. Furthermore, make sure to include what you learned from that specific critique and how it made you better as a professional.

Sample answers to criticism interview questions

Below you will find two sample answers to the interview question about dealing with criticism. They are already written in the STAR format so you can see how you can logically structure your answers.

Criticism example answer 1:

‘Like everyone else, I have received constructive input from my managers that really helped me improve myself as a professional. For instance, I worked on a project for several weeks that turned out to need some revision before it could be submitted because the requirements were not fully met.

My manager sat down with me and walked me through the plan of action that was made before the project kick-off. After listening carefully to the pointers he gave me, it became clear to me what changes I could make to improve the quality of the final product. 

I’m eager to learn and listen, especially to people who have already been in my position. Feedback, in general, helps me become a better professional. Different views, perspectives, and experiences help me improve my career and skill set.’

Criticism example answer 2:

‘As a content writer, I always deal with a set of target assignments that I’m expected to finish within a certain deadline. At times the content I write is within my knowledge area, and sometimes my work requires extensive research.

In my current job, this one time, I completed my daily assignments, and I still had to take up an article that was passed on to me by a junior researcher/writer. I hardly knew anything about the topic described in the content, but I was still responsible for the quality. I’ve conducted hours of extensive research to read into the materials written, but it turned out it was not enough to thoroughly check the texts on quality. In the urgency to meet the deadline, I scanned the text while still checking and adjusting the document on structure and grammar.

The next day my manager called me into his office and asked me to revise the document because there were some discrepancies in the statements in the text. He also told me that we had a close connection with a specialist on that particular topic that I could contact for more information. 

What I learned from that situation is not to make assumptions and ask for help when needed. There was a contact within our company, which could’ve helped me out in this case, and this situation could have been avoided. Whenever I run into such a situation now, I ask colleagues or my manager if they have knowledge about the topic or know someone that does. This way, I make sure such a situation never occurs again.’

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic