How do you answer an area of improvement question?

Take a minute and picture this: Youre in a job interview for a position youre really excited about. One of your interviewerswho happens to be the Director of Marketingis currently

How do you answer an area of improvement question?

Take a minute and picture this: Youre in a job interview for a position youre really excited about. One of your interviewerswho happens to be the Director of Marketingis currently ranting and raving about the recent website redesign they went through.

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They threw a lot of dollars at this project, they totally revamped their branding, they gathered tons of feedback on the functionalityso on and so forth. Long story short, shes made it obvious that shes pretty proud of this new website they just launched.

Then, she drops a bomba question that sends a rollercoaster of nausea barreling from your stomach all the way up to the back of your throat: So, Im sure youve looked at our new website. Tell me, what would you change about it?

Your mouth goes dry and a cold sweat tickles your forehead. How can you possibly wiggle your way out of this? Honestly, is there even a right answer to a question like this one?

Confession time: This is a true story. As a matter of fact, its a personal storythis exact thing happened to me when I was interviewing for a full-time gig that I desperately wanted. So, believe me when I say that I know firsthand just how panic-inducing this scenario can be.

Being prompted to provide suggestions for improvements in an interviewregardless of the position youre going aftercan be a tough situation to navigate.

On one hand, you want to demonstrate that you bring a lot of expertise, brilliant suggestions, and all-around value to the table for this employer. After all, its an interview, and most people make hires because they believe that person can make a positive difference at the company.

But, on the flipside of that coin, youre hesitant to critique anything. You dont want to come off as condescending, high and mighty, or overly critical.

So, what do you do? How can you prove that you have great ideaswithout straight up bashing what the company is already doing? Implement these five steps, and youre sure to make it as painless as possible.

1. Dont Panic

I wont even try to deny that this dreaded question is enough to inspire quite a bit of anxiety. So, I know that this first tip can seem a little counterintuitive (or, honestly, impossible).

However, think about it this way: The interviewer is the one posing this question. And, he wouldnt do so if he didnt want you to actually answer it with a thoughtful, constructive response.

That means you need to try to resist getting too bent out of shape about the fact that youre being asked to provide a critique (you are quite literally being asked, after all). Instead, think of it as a positive opportunity to further demonstrate the value you offer. That mindset will make it that much easier to dive into your response.

2. Start With a Compliment

You catch more flies with honey, right? Even if your mind is racing through all of the things youd immediately change about the way the company does something, there has to be at least one thing you think the company is already doing well.

When you identify that one thing? Lead with it. Its a classic communication tacticstarting with the positives helps to cushion the blow and make it clear that youre offering constructive advice, rather than trying to brutally tear down their existing efforts.

Sticking with the website example, you could start with a statement like, I have had a chance to look at your new site. You did a great job organizing itits all really easy to navigate!

3. Give Some Background

One of the things that can make this question so tricky is that you dont actually work there yet. You feel pressured to provide suggestions and ideas, without having all of the nitty gritty details of their goals, their capabilities, and how exactly they operate.

Yes, that fly by the seat of your pants approach makes things complicated. And, thats why its important that you preface your reply by sharing that youre speaking from your previous experience. Youre not on your high horse pretending to know everything about their company. Instead, youre only aiming to offer areas of improvement based on information and skills youve gathered through past opportunities.

Not only does this provide a chance for you to feel a little less uncomfortable and condescending, it also offers the perfect opening for you to further illustrate how your experience make you an ideal fit for this position. Its a win-win!

4. Offer Explanation

Of course, this one should be obvious. But, you need to elaborate and explain exactly why youd make that change youre proposing.

Has your experience shown you that your approach increases customer engagement? Significantly streamlines a process? Improves team communication? Impacts sales? What is the key benefit behind your suggestion?

As important as the why is, youll also want to take things a step further to illustrate why it matters. Any statistics, hard facts, or real-world examples of results you can provide will not only give your idea some real credibility, but also prove that youre a candidate who truly knows his or her stuff.

5. End With a Question

Even if you made it through the above steps with grace and poise, wrapping things up can still present a challenge. If youre anything like me, youll ramble your way through a closing that looks something like, So, yeah, I guess thats what Id do. But, I mean, you guys totally dont have to do any of that. Like, what you did already looks super great.

Impressive, right? Not exactly. Instead, youre much better off wrapping up your idea or suggestion with a thoughtful question.

If this sounds impossible to pull off, I promise its not. Heres an idea of what this could look like: Did you guys consider that approach as you were working on this? Id love to know more about your process.

Ending with a question like this accomplishes a couple of different things for you. First, it makes it clear that youre a team player who doesnt stick with a my way or the highway philosophy. You bring your own ideas to the table, but you still maintain an open-mind.

Secondly, it encourages an extended conversation that will allow you to learn more about the company and the way it operateswhich is helpful in determining whether or not you could actually picture yourself there.

Being asked in a job interview to provide ideas and elaborate on areas where the company could improve can often feel like something straight out of a horror film. Believe me, Ive been there.

But, as long as you approach the question in the right way, you can actually work the entire conversation to your advantage. Use these five steps, and youre sure to knock that question out of the parkand maybe even land the job!

Updated 1/19/2022Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from Kat Boogaard

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