When an interviewer asks what you'd change about a previous work environment, he or she is probing to find out about your priorities. For example, responding that you'd have preferred a more open schedule and looser dress code at your last job, you communicate a desire for flexibility—but perhaps not a focus on the bigger picture.
Discussing desire to affect change at the organizational level, in terms of operations or policies, can display greater interest in building a better business. This stands in contrast to answers which deal more with changes for personal preference.
Points to Emphasize
Think of changes which create a positive impact for others besides you, be it co-workers, customers, or the general public. Consider the following:
- It can be helpful to highlight positive changes that you actually were able to influence.
- Discuss actions which would've served to benefit the company and its employees on a broad level.
- Make sure you come across in a constructive, positive-minded manner.
- Think along the lines of promoting fairness, equality, accountability, efficiency, etc.
It's easy to talk about ways to make your life easier, but an interviewer's goal is to find out how you'd impact an organization.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
While it's important to touch on specific ideas, don't get too hung up on the details—provide as much information as is necessary to convey your message.
- Strive for original ideas—don't suggest two different changes that are very similar in nature.
- Be careful not to slip into a critical tone; a positive mindset is always best when discussing change.
- Don't brush off the question by suggesting that there's nothing you would've changed.
- Try to make sure the changes you suggest don't conflict with the ideals of the company you're interviewing for.
Remember, it's less important to paint a vivid picture of your previous job and more important to show yourself as an agent for positive change in the workplace.
Your answer will require a bit of reflection, but this example demonstrates an effective approach:
I enjoyed working for my last employer, but I'd have loved the opportunity to institute a more forgiving return policy. As a customer service supervisor, I encountered many instances where less-rigid standards could've benefitted us as a company.
I also preferred a more organized on-boarding process for new hires, although the company utilized a more off-the-cuff approach. I was able to implement a helpful employee handbook to ease the transition, but it wasn't quite the impact I'd hoped for in the end.
This response opens with a positive message, talks about changes that were made, and keeps the team mentality squarely in focus.