A hiring manager asking "Could you have done better in your last job?" may seem like a tricky proposition, where he or she is trying to get you to admit to some major flaw.
No one is perfect, but a job interview is not the place to confess to all your shortcomings. Being self-critical is important, and a prospective employer wants to know whether you are capable of looking at your performance and finding areas of improvement on your own. The most important thing to remember for questions like this is to never cast yourself in a negative light.
Defining how your old skills and strengths can be used in your new career inside your resume in a proper way, with a specific format that is also appropriate for that new career, is imperative.
Points to Emphasize
It's important to remind the interviewer that you have the skills and experiences needed to excel in this new position even if there are ways you can improve upon yourself.
- Mention how a bad experience at a previous job was beyond your control.
- Talk about overcoming obstacles.
- Give the impression that you are sincerely thinking about the question.
- Use this question as a segue to talk about your accomplishments.
Questions that ask you to discuss the negative attributes about yourself should really be viewed to promote yourself and talk about your positive attributes.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Too many people are unprepared to answer this question and end up actually talking about their downfalls. Avoid falling for this mistake and be prepared.
- Don't go into major problems or issues you had with your last job.
- Don't simply say "No" and move on.
- Don't describe an incident that led to major consequences.
- Be careful not to get too nervous.
Everyone has made mistakes, but an interview for a new job should be an opportunity for you to discuss all the ways you will benefit this new organization.
This question can stump a lot of applicants, but a good response will be something along the lines of:
Honestly, in retrospect, there was probably something I could have done better at my last job, but nothing of any major consequence really comes to mind. We had a few setbacks as a result of the recent economic downturn, but ultimately, that just taught us to be better prepared for anything.
It is the interviewer's job to learn as much about you as possible, and a lot can be learned from your personality if you actually delve into all of the problems you encountered at your last job. These types of "negative" questions are common in interviews, but the best way to approach them is to view them as an opportunity to sell yourself further to this new employer.