The main objective of the interview question, “How do you handle criticism?” is to assess how well you can take constructive feedback.

Acknowledging and accepting constructive feedback in the workplace is instrumental in improving your performance and promoting a collaborative workspace.

Depending on the way you explain how you handle criticism, potential employers can determine your tenacity and receptiveness to grow and enhance your skills. So, how do you ace this interview question? Read on to find out!

Key Takeaways

  • When interviewers ask the question, “How do you handle criticism?” they want to gauge a candidate’s openness to constructive feedback and initiative to improve.
  • The key to answering questions about how you handle criticism is to cite how the feedback has helped improve your skills and work attitude while exuding positivity.
  • Providing constructive feedback is a must in any work environment because it promotes open communication, transparency, and collaboration among colleagues.

Why Do Employers Ask “How Do You Handle Criticism?” at Interviews?

Why Do Employers Ask “How Do You Handle Criticism?” at Interviews?

Employers ask the “How do you handle criticism?” question at interviews because they are keen on assessing how open candidates are in terms of accepting constructive feedback and embracing opportunities to work on their strengths and weaknesses.

Lending an open ear to a coworker or supervisor’s feedback on your work performance is essential in boosting efficiency by focusing on workplace behavior that can be improved to

minimize future mistakes when carrying out your tasks.

For instance, a team manager may provide helpful suggestions on how you could spend less time performing one task to save time and accomplish more within the day.

Queries that focus on exploring how you handle constructive feedback are also examples of behavioral interview questions. These types of inquiries enable interviewers to get a glimpse of your attitude towards work in general and your capacity to thrive in a group setting.

Additionally, supervisors may express their feedback differently depending on their leadership experience and communication style. Some may be more direct, while others may start by providing positive feedback first before proceeding with the less-than-favorable criticism.

That said, potential employers also prefer candidates who possess an open mindset and will not take helpful criticism personally or negatively.

How to Answer “How Do You Handle Criticism?” Interview Question

Recall Past Critics & Feedback

There are different ways in which you can answer the question, “How do you handle criticism?” with finesse. The key is to exhibit humility and highlight how the critique provided you with a valuable learning experience.

#1. Recall Past Critics & Feedback

A good and effective way to answer the “How do you deal with criticism?” question is to draw inspiration from your past work experiences. Talk about the most recent feedback you received from your superiors or colleagues.

If possible, focus on feedback that has helped improve skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

For instance, if you’re a candidate for a managerial position, you can share constructive criticisms about your leadership style and then share how you worked towards being a better leader to your coworkers.

Another way to use this method is to describe an unproductive habit that you were able to overcome with the help of direct yet very objective feedback from your supervisor.

#2. Use the STAR Method

The STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, is a technique used in answering interview questions, wherein you follow a specific sequence to make your responses more organized and on-point.

When explaining how you take criticism using the STAR method, start by discussing the situation where you received the feedback or criticism. You can talk about a recent performance evaluation from your peers or your manager.

Or, try sharing information about a time when you made a mistake while performing your job. Next, specify the critiques that you received during your evaluation or after you committed the mistake.

You can also include any specific instructions or guidance that your colleagues provided, along with their feedback, to help you improve and correct your errors.

The third important factor to consider when using the STAR method in this context is to share the different steps you had to take to apply all the feedback on your work performance and habits.

Finally, conclude your response by sharing the outcome or results of acknowledging and implementing your coworker’s critiques into your work process.

#3. Use a Positive Tone

Use a Positive Tone in the Interview

Understandably, accepting criticism is not easy, and it also depends on whether your colleagues and supervisors know the fundamentals of giving and receiving constructive criticism.

It is important to note that it is possible to still feel a little discomfort when recalling past criticism you’ve received from your previous jobs. The key is to pause, breathe, and focus on the positive outcome that the feedback has brought to your career.

For example, if you’re a habitually tardy employee, you may benefit from honest yet sincere feedback on your lack of time management skills. Sometimes, all you need is someone reliable to call you out on your unproductive habits and get you started working on your flaws.

Exuding positivity while describing how you handle criticism is a good attitude that never fails to impress interviewers.

#4. Convey What You Have Learned

At the end of the day, receiving constructive criticism is a learning experience that can leave a lasting impact on you.

As such, an excellent way to respond when asked: “How do you handle constructive criticism?” is to share the important tips and life lessons that you gained from all the feedback that you received.

Let’s say you were criticized for how you handle stress and pressure at work. Perhaps your manager noticed that you easily get rattled by deadlines and tend to lose your focus easily.

Their honest and constructive feedback may be instrumental in helping you adapt healthy countermeasures to handle stress at work effectively.

4 Sample Answers for “How Do You Handle Criticism?” Interview Questions

criticism in the workplace

To help you prepare for interview questions that explore how you handle criticism in the workplace, here are some sample answers based on the position you want to apply for to use as your guide:

#1. Sample Answer for a Fresher

I was always anxious whenever I received feedback about my work performance.

However, after one of my managers had a one-on-one coaching session with me, I realized that constructive feedback is an essential ingredient to my growth and improvement.

She was very straight to the point and did not sugarcoat her feedback. She also listed the areas in my work performance that needed improvement, such as my speed and focus.

Since then, I have always looked forward to the next time my manager would approach me for an insightful coaching session or evaluation.”

#2. Sample Answer for a Manager

When I was promoted to HR manager, communication was not my strongest suit.

My peers noted that I tend to hold back and keep my ideas to myself. They added that they wish I would be more expressive and not hesitate during brainstorming sessions and even during casual meetups with the team.

Although it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow at first, their critique was just the push I needed.

I used the opportunity to ask for tips on how I can be a better communicator and step outside of my comfort zone. Since then, I felt more confident to approach my colleagues and interact with them, whether it be to discuss something work-related or talk about our shared interests.”

#3. Sample Answer for an Executive

As someone who has been in an executive position for almost six years, I’m no stranger to constructive criticism. In fact, when people ask me questions such as “How do you handle criticism from our boss?” or “Aren’t you affected by all the harsh feedback from our clients?”, I simply smile at them.

I always view people’s criticism of my work and my behavior with an objective eye. Over the years, I have learned never to take criticism personally.

Now that I am also leading and mentoring younger professionals, I make it a point to impart this knowledge to them by reminding them to assess whether the critique is coming from a place of genuine concern or not.

In doing so, they can focus on the feedback that truly matters and push their career to a positive and promising direction.”

#4. Sample Answer for an Intern

“I used to intern at a tech company where the director of the department where I was assigned would give each intern a weekly performance evaluation. It was a small company, so it was pretty easy to monitor and observe every intern’s tasks and responsibilities.

One of the most striking criticisms I’ve ever received from the director was that he felt I lacked initiative and passion for the job. While I was good at following directions and getting my tasks done on time, I was rarely seen going out of my way to find ways to contribute more to the team.

It was then that I learned the importance of being proactive, resourceful, and self-motivated in a team setting. Moreover, I realized that if I wanted to build my career and open up more opportunities to learn and enhance the skills I have, then I must put in the required effort and commitment.”

3 Do’s and Don’ts of Answering “How Do You Handle Criticism?”

Before we end this article, here are a couple more tips to keep in mind to help you ace this interview query:

#1. Avoid Exuding Negativity

Recalling constructive criticism that was previously given to you can trigger unpleasant emotions. But remember, recruiters are more interested in knowing how you handle criticism and not the kind of criticism that you received in your previous jobs.

As such, try not to make your answers sound as though you are complaining about the feedback. If needed, take a moment to pause and collect your thoughts.

#2. Focus On the Learning Experience

Constructive criticism is meant to guide you in recognizing your weaknesses and acquiring tips to work on fixing your mistakes.

As such, it is best to highlight the important takeaways that you gained from your manager’s or colleague’s feedback. Describe how much all the feedback from your colleagues has influenced your career progression so far.

#3. Don’t Beat Around the Bush

When describing your experiences regarding how you handled criticism at work, provide substantial background and information, but be mindful to be concise with your answer.

You don’t need to provide an extensive backstory; otherwise, you might use up a significant chunk of your interview time.

Final Thoughts

The next time you receive constructive feedback from your colleagues, don’t feel discouraged.

Take in all the important lessons that you can gain from the critique. Next, set aside time to self-reflect and evaluate whether the criticism is directed at something you can work on or not.

The more you build self-awareness through the feedback you receive, the more well-equipped you will be to answer the “How do you handle criticism?” query on your next job interview.