Personal and professional development

In what ways do you intend to improve upon your performance?

Alternative and related questions:

How do you think you can improve upon your performance?
Do you think you need to improve upon your performance?
Can you tell me about your last appraisal?
What areas for improvement were identified at your last appraisal?
What training needs do you have?

The meaning behind the question:

This is an interesting question, specifically because, by implication, it is suggesting that there are indeed ways in which you need to improve.  It’s a question an interviewer might well ask as an immediate follow-up to the question we covered previously in Chapter 3, “Can you tell me about your last appraisal?”  This question is designed to prompt you to admit precisely where there is room for improvement in your performance.  In some ways it can be seen as a version of the Top 10 question, “What are your weaknesses?”

Your answer:

Are they asking in what ways or in what areas?  And does it really make any difference?

You’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t with this question!  It’s rather a Catch-22.  If you say you feel there aren’t any ways in which you need to improve upon your performance then you’ll come across not only as arrogant but as someone who is unlikely to develop further because they don’t even perceive the need for further development.  Conversely, if you do talk about specific ways in which you intend to improve upon your performance then you’re immediately admitting a weakness.

The best solution is to keep your answer to this question pretty general and, without declaring any specific area of weakness, emphasize that you are always looking for ways in which you can improve upon your performance and that you’re always open to training and development opportunities.  Alternatively, you can mention a specific area provided that it is an area which is not critical to your ability to undertake the role for which you are applying.

Example:

I’m always looking for ways in which I can improve upon my performance; I’m always open to training and development opportunities.  Everyone always has room for improvement; you can never be too good at anything.  For example, I find I am now required to give presentations from time to time and, while I’m generally happy with the way I handle these, it’s fair to say that I’ve not had any prior training in this, so I am just about to embark on an evening course to help me to improve upon this aspect of my work.

Word of warning:

Admit to any specific weaknesses and you could immediately eliminate yourself from the running.  However, if you don’t mention any specific areas for improvement, there’s always the chance that the interviewer may go on to press you to discuss one.  In this case, your answer should be along the lines of my example above.

How has your current job prepared you for greater challenges/responsibility?

Alternative and related questions:

In what ways has your current job prepared you to take on greater challenges/responsibility?
How do your skills and experience match the job description/person specification?
What have you learned in your last job?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer is driving at what you have learned and how you have developed in your current (or last) job which could now be of use – to you and to them – in the job for which you are applying, with specific regard to your ability to take on new challenges and responsibilities.

Your answer:

Why are you looking to move on to a new job?  The chances are that greater challenges and greater responsibility are pretty high on your list of reasons.  You need to demonstrate to the interviewer that you’re ready for this – and explain why.

The key to this question is to cite specific examples, examples which are pertinent to the job you’re now applying for.

You should have a very clear idea of the key requirements of this vacancy.  Use those as your guide when picking your examples, aiming for two or three examples which you can turn into strong selling points.

Example:

My current job has prepared me in many ways to take on new and greater challenges and responsibility.  This is one of my main reasons for wishing to move on to a new job – so as to capitalise on what I have learned.  As I became increasingly proficient in my role, I was entrusted with training and coaching newer members of staff, something I much enjoyed and found very rewarding.  I was also asked to participate in increasing numbers of management-level meetings so as to represent matters from the point of view of the ‘shop floor’.  Also, I was called upon to deputise for our manager and oversee operations whenever he was away.  I consequently feel I’ve reached the level where I’m no longer sufficiently challenged by my current role and, keen to learn and develop further, it’s clearly the right time for me to move onwards and upwards into a management role.