Interview Question: "What Do People Most Often Criticize About You?"

Job interview in coffee shop
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“What do people most often criticize about you?” is a question you will often face when you go on a job interview. Don’t let this question leave you feeling uncomfortable and unwilling to answer. Plan ahead, so you’ll be ready if your interviewer asks you this question.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

The interviewer really wants to know how sensitive you are and how well you accept criticism. An interviewer might also ask this question to find any “red flags” – qualities that would make you a weak candidate for the position. You should show the interviewer that you can be upfront about criticism you have faced and not be nervous about answering this question.

How to Answer “What Do People Most Often Criticize About You?”

This isn’t an easy question, so be careful how you answer. You don't want to imply that you are criticized consistently on the job, but you also don't want to imply that you're perfect. But take a moment to realize that everyone is criticized now and then. The interviewer is asking this question to judge your composure and confidence.

When you’re crafting your answer, it makes sense to mention things that aren’t specifically related to the job for which you're applying.

You want to emphasize that the criticism or weakness would not affect your ability to perform this new job well.

You might also choose to mention a “weakness” that might actually be considered a strength on the new job. For example, you might say that some people have said you are very critical of your work, but you can explain that you have a keen attention to detail, and you bring that detail-oriented nature to the workplace.

The best kind of answer will explain how you improved upon a weakness you once had. This will demonstrate that you are excellent at taking criticism, and you’re willing to do what it takes to improve your skill set.

If humor is appropriate, this is a good time to use it. However, keep in mind that an interviewer might then press you for a more serious answer, so have one ready. For example, “I have a teenage daughter - few things I do are okay on her radar screen.”

Examples of the Best Answers

Look at these sample answers and retool them so they match your job experience and your perception of criticism. Then practice answering the question out loud so you’re ready to answer the question.

There's no on-going criticism. I'm open to personal and professional growth and welcome the opportunity to improve.

Why It Works: The candidate answers the question in a way that lets the interviewer know that he or she does not take criticism personally, but instead looks at it in terms of professional growth.

One of the things that I am sometimes criticized for is being too much of a perfectionist. I tend to expect very high standards of work from myself.

Why It Works: The interviewer will see that the candidate knows that even perfectionism can be a flaw since it can slow down workflow and cause stress. The candidate can critically look at himself or herself.

I had a supervisor many years ago tell me that I was too critical of other people’s work. I took that to heart and made sure from that point forward that my analysis and suggestions were always supportive and helpful rather than critical. More recently, people have praised my ability to give thoughtful and useful feedback.

Why It Works: The candidate was able to express how the criticism was turned around into a positive attribute that he or she has drawn on since.

From the time I was a child, I always had a hard time making presentations in a group situation. A few years ago, I took several courses in public speaking, and last year I received an award for a presentation I gave at the company’s yearly executive board meeting.

Why It Works: The interviewer can see how a candidate took a weakness and turned it into a strength.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Turn a Weakness into a Strength. A characteristic that may have once been considered a weakness may be a strength on a new job depending on the job characteristics.

Show Your Professionalism. Show that you can take criticism professionally by giving an example of how you have used it for personal and professional growth.

Use Humor if Appropriate. If you can give a humorous example, do, but don’t overdo it.

Be Honest. Don’t imply that you’re perfect, but don’t imply that you are criticized constantly.

What Not to Say

Don’t Lose Your Composure. Don’t appear nervous and uncomfortable when asked this question. Be calm and have an answer prepared.

Don’t Get Defensive. If you were to get defensive when asked about criticism, the interviewer would see that as a definite “red flag” regarding your behavior.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

Key Takeaways

  • Keep your confidence and composure when answering.
  • Plan, prepare, and practice an answer to this interview question.
  • The interviewer is trying to judge your sensitivity.
  • Try to turn a weakness into a strength.
  • Show your professionalism when answering this question.