What Have You Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year?

During a job interview, the interviewer tries to get to know more about your personality, skills, and work experience. To get to know you better as a professional and assess your willingness to grow and improve yourself, a commonly asked interview question is ‘What have you done to improve yourself in the past year?’.

This question about your self-improvement is similar to ‘What’s your greatest weakness?‘ only it’s a little more open-ended. These questions are therefore regarded as  ‘tough interview questions.’

As you can imagine, economies, businesses, and strategies constantly change in fast dynamic environments. Companies must, therefore, continue to adapt to stay profitable. This means that as the company changes, their workforce needs to adapt too. This is also the reason for employers, when making hiring decisions, to look for candidates who are proactive in their professional self-development.

As with many other interview questions, with the right preparation, you can use this common interview question to your advantage. However, it does require a well-thought-out and honest answer to convince the interviewer of your self-development activities.

Related questions to ‘What have you done to improve yourself’ are:

In this blog, we discuss why the interviewer is asking about what you have done to improve yourself. Also, we tell you what you should focus on when answering this question. Furthermore, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why Interviewers Ask What You Have Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year

The main reason for asking this question is to try to find out if you are willing to improve and grow as a professional. Professional growth can mean different things because there are different ways to develop yourself. There is, for example, employer-led training or even mandatory training within a company, and there’s training that you take on your own initiative, which shows proactiveness.

Interviewers are curious to see if and how you are progressing with your skillset development. It’s important to understand that for employers, your potential is determined by your ability and desire to grow as a professional.

Employers specifically look for candidates who not only can successfully perform the job today but eventually can develop themselves further to take on greater responsibilities and add more value to the company. Therefore, ensure that you have examples ready to discuss how you’re developing yourself and how this helps you achieve your career goals.

Furthermore, make sure that you can back up your statements with facts and show that you’re a proactive individual when it comes to self-development. Your answer gives the interviewer insights into your professional behavioral patterns and your willingness to invest in yourself to develop your skillset throughout your career.

Learn more about growth potential interview questions and how to answer them.

How To Approach Interview Questions About How You Have Improved Yourself

Just like other common job interview questions, you should be prepared to answer questions about self-development and how you’re improving your qualifications. But how do you do this?

You can start your preparation off by writing down the top three of the courses that you have completed in recent years. Make sure you rank them on importance and relevance in relation to the position that you’re currently interviewing for.

Per course, you should write down a short paragraph or bullet points on how you benefited from that specific course. Your goal is to present yourself as someone eager to learn and develop.

When asked about a certain course, you can ask the interviewer if he or she is familiar with the course before you present your key takeaways. Describe what the courses were about, what you’ve learned, and how they broadened your horizon as a professional. You can also talk about how you stay up to date on current market developments and what advantages this gives you.

Showing that you took the initiative to develop yourself is always a plus. Only mentioning company-sponsored or mandatory training courses won’t impress the interviewer.

Examples of what you could discuss are courses, seminars, and training that you attended, to develop your existing skills, or acquire new ones. Including specific examples of times, you went out of your way or your comfort zone to work on your development is the way to success. Also, if you volunteered to use your abilities to help others are always worth sharing during job interviews.

In short, discuss your professional development, specific training programs, educational curricula, specific studies in your professional field, engaging with a professional mentor, other skills-building activities, industry-relevant books, etc.

Answers To Avoid When Discussing Self-Improvement

Just like there are important aspects to focus on during a job interview, there are also answers you should avoid because they could hurt your chances of landing the job.

Example of a weak answer:

‘I took some courses in my previous job because it was free and I could do it during work hours. For me, this was perfect because I did not really like what I did at the time. I chose a course that was taught in the city with a couple of co-workers. This way, we could do the course during the day and go out into the city immediately after.’

As you can imagine, this answer won’t lead to the results you’re looking for. It’s a ‘lazy’ answer that’s not well thought out. Furthermore, the information in the answer is pretty negative, and your actions are not helping you progress as a professional.

Interviewers ask about how you work on your self-development to get an understanding of how proactive you are, what your career goals are, and what actions you’re taking to achieve them. Make sure you focus on these positive points and prepare your answers in advance to make sure you provide the interviewer with the information they’re looking for.

Sample Answers To ‘What Have You Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year?’

Below, we discuss a couple of example answers to the interview question ‘What have you done to improve yourself in the past year?‘. However, these are only general examples. Make sure you tailor your answers to the specific company and position that you’re applying for.

Sample Answer 1: ‘What Have You Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year?’

‘To keep developing myself as a professional, I’ve asked an experienced industry expert, who I’ve known for years through my network, to be my mentor. I reached out to him last year and explained where I was in my career and the guidance I was seeking. I convinced him of my willingness to do the necessary work and really follow-through. 

For me, this mentor/mentee relationship has already been very beneficial. We meet every other week, and he gives me concrete tips on becoming a better professional in my field. Furthermore, he provides me with challenges for me to stretch myself professionally and personally.’

Sample Answer 2: ‘What Have You Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year?’

‘The financial industry is constantly changing, and it’s essential that I continue to gain knowledge through seminars and conferences. For example, this year, I attended the Banking Horizons event and several other smaller events regarding Fintech – in which I’m specializing at the moment.

Through these conferences, I’ve met some great connections in the industry, which increased the value of my professional network. Besides offering networking  opportunities, I always end up coming back with new energy, ideas, and knowledge that I can apply in my position.’

Sample Answer 3: ‘What Have You Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year?’

‘In my current position as a sales representative, I’m formally not yet leading my own team. However, I’ve volunteered as a team captain, which makes me responsible for leading meetings and assisting in setting up sales forecasts. In the long-run, I’d love to become a team manager and take on more responsibilities as a leader. 

To get ready for these responsibilities, I’m currently taking additional leadership and management courses. These classes help me build more confidence and work on my management competencies. These courses focus on management capabilities, such as different managerial methods and techniques.

Furthermore, these courses help me to actively work on my presentation skills, problem-solving skills, and financial management skills.’

Sample Answer 4: ‘What Have You Done To Improve Yourself In The Past Year?’

‘Continuing education and following courses is a requirement to maintain my license in our industry as a professional. That’s also the reason why I bring it upon myself to go out of my way to go to make sure that I do the necessary and more. Each year I take various elective courses to follow market developments and develop myself as a professional in our industry.

After one specific course, I convinced my manager to let me put my new skills and knowledge into practice. After a couple of months, we saw significant results in business growth, and I started training two co-workers so that they, in their turn, could help others as well. At the moment, I am waiting for confirmation to join a volunteering program to help young professionals develop their skills by transferring my knowledge.’

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