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Tell me about a time you received negative feedback - Your ultimate response guide

Interviewers will ask you several questions to help them understand and evaluate your weaknesses that could hinder your performance in the job you've applied for. One question that could provide insight into your weaknesses is, "tell me about a time you received negative feedback" There are several variations of this question I've given you within this article. It is difficult to answer this question as it does not just reveal your weakness but also a situation where another person found it out.

Handling critical feedback related interview questions
Handling critical feedback related interview questions

The ability to handle criticism is essential because it demonstrates your ability to learn constantly. This article will help you understand the following:

What interviewers want to assess

How to answer the question about critical feedback2

3 answers to "Tell me about a time you received negative feedback"

Conclusion

 

What interviewers want to assess


The interviewer will try to determine how you respond to situations you face in your daily life. They'll try to figure out what you'll do in the future based on how you previously reacted to situations. They need assurance that you won’t feel like a fish out of water when you take on your new job. Behavioral questions usually begin with one of these phrases:

"Tell me about an instance when..."

"Describe a situation when..."

"Let us talk about a situation when..."

It's hard to respond to negative feedback, but you must. Taking criticism positively means learning from it. How you react to negative feedback will demonstrate how you handle anger, the ability to admit the weaknesses you have, and the desire to constantly improve your skills.

Interviewer assessing your response to critical feedback
Interviewer assessing your response to critical feedback

Interviewers will always prefer candidates who don’t take criticism personally even though it is difficult to take critical feedback. The interviewers would like to know if you can accept any feedback with grace, examine it, and then modify your actions based on criticism if it is the right thing to do. An ideal answer should demonstrate your maturity, ability to adapt, and a willingness to learn.

 

How to answer this question

When answering the question, keep it positive. Your answer should discuss the circumstances that made you able to handle the criticism. You can focus on what made you able to respond well to the criticism, such as your willingness to learn and grow. It doesn't matter if the person was critical of your work or of a previous manager, but it is important to talk about how you handled the criticism and how it helped you improve.


Don't dodge the question

An experienced interviewer will not let you skip this question. So, it is not advisable to avoid the question. If you're in a unique situation where you never received any critical feedback, you could mention that and give evidence of your excellent evaluations. However, stating "I've never received negative feedback" will generally not go well with interviewers.

An equally poor response would be to say that you can’t recollect any critical feedback. There would have been a situation where someone would have questioned your actions in the past. It would be hard for any interviewer to believe that you've never been the subject of any criticism.


Be honest

You also need to share a believable anecdote from your life and avoid any dishonest stories. Don’t sound rehearsed when you give your response. Also, avoid speaking negatively about the person that criticized you or your work. It reflects badly on you and can make the impression that you're unable to take any criticism.

Show willingness to learn

You should demonstrate that you are eager to improve as an employee, and you can handle constructive criticism as it helps to enhance your knowledge and the performance of the work you do. Your answer should clearly state your willingness to accept criticism and how you reacted to deal with constructive feedback and improve your performance. This will show the interviewer that you are open to criticism and willing to seek out areas for improvement within your professional life.


Use STAR Technique

Your answer should be based on the STAR method for answering this question. By bringing up a personal story, you will show that you've listened to what they said and learned from it. This will be a strong way to stand out during the interview. It is important to be prepared to talk about an incident or two that has surfaced over time. Make sure to pick a subject you've resolved and improved on.

STAR Response to Behavioral questions
STAR Response to Behavioral questions

STAR: The Acronym is a reference to Situation, Action, Task, Results. Let's look at how we can apply this technique to answer this question.

  • Situation: Begin by speaking about an instance where you were the subject of criticism. Inform the interviewer of the reason for the incident and who the party was. Be sure to choose a constructive event

  • Task: Now, inform the interviewer about what the criticism was and what your part was. Don't take more time on this one

  • Action: Next, you need to explain the steps you took to improve your performance based on the feedback you received. Make sure to be as precise as you can without being overly detailed.

  • Results: Finish your answer by explaining the outcomes of your work. This is the time to demonstrate that you've taken the feedback constructively and utilized it to work to improve yourself.

Keep your response to within 3-4 minutes and the letters of each STAR acronym should take up to two sentences to describe. Focus more on ‘Action’ part.


Utilizing the STAR method, you will ensure you're answering the interviewer's questions while showing your ability to overcome past challenges and achieve success.

 

3 answers to “Tell me about a time you received negative feedback”

  1. Once, I had to create some slides to present to our management. After my delivery lead reviewed my content, he shot down the slides and asked me to rework completely on it. It was difficult to believe that he asked me to rework on a content that I had spent 2 days to create. But, I chose to ask him why he felt the content had to change. He had prior exposure in presenting to senior leadership and gave inputs on customizing slides based on target audience. I reworked on the slides based on his feedback and the session went great. His feedback on creating content based on target audience was a valuable one that I have used not just for that session, but also in other presentations and it has helped me to maintain the audience focus throughout my delivery.

  2. When I was assigned my first project management role, it was not progressing as per the timelines. I received a feedback that I was being more friendly than firmer with the team members. This feedback was hard for me to consume and was difficult to incorporate as well. However, I made a conscious effort to keep personal and professional conversations separate. I made efforts to be tough with team members on deadlines and took actions when they failed to do so. Slowly, the team members realized that I could still be their friend outside of work, but they still needed to be living up to the expectations in the project. It was a great feedback and learning for me helping me to grow as a leader.

  3. When I was assigned my first project management role, I was being too aggressive and was pushing the team members to deliver. But, the project was not progressing as per the expectations. I was given a feedback by my manager that I needed to slow down and stop doing micro-management. It was frustrating for me initially, but I slowly started taking conscious efforts to assign tasks and not constantly ask for updates. Instead, I took a SCRUM approach seeking daily updates and letting the team do their work. It showed great results and the project was completed as per the timelines within budget. It was a feedback that I used to change myself for my and organization’s betterment.

There are a number of videos available on youtube that you can watch for free and practice your answers.


Important Tip: Negative feedback and criticism are not restricted to professional life. We face these situations in personal life as well. Unless the interviewer has been particular about criticism at professional life or at work, you can bring up an incident from your personal life as well. But, remember to follow the same STAR approach.

 

Conclusion

In this article, you have learnt why interviewers ask the question about critical feedback and what they assess when they ask this question. You have also learnt how to answer this question using STAR technique. The most important thing is to demonstrate that you can accept criticism and improve upon it without taking it personally. Even though criticism is inevitable, it's important to show that you're open to accepting it and learning from it.

The same question can be asked in multiple variants as below and it's crucial to practice preparing for the criticism at the interview.

  • How do you handle criticism?

  • How do you respond to negative feedback at work?

  • How do you respond to negative feedback?

  • Can you describe a time when you work was criticized?

  • Tell me about a time you handled a critical feedback

  • Tell me a time you received negative feedback

  • Tell me about a time when you received constructive feedback

Now you should be able to:

- Create YOUR answers to this tricky situational question

- Attend interview with confidence knowing exactly how to answer this question

- Deliver your response effortlessly

If you need further help with interviews, reach out to us for mock interviews or professional coaching services.

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