Describe a time when your work was criticized! – Interview Question with Answers

interview question with answer

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We all must be very aware of the phrase ‘to err is human’. This is the universal truth that holds for every human from every sphere. No one can be infallible. We all do make mistakes at some point of time in life as well as in career. And the interviewers know this thing, that’s why they bring up the above-mentioned question of describing or quoting a time when you or your work faced some kind of criticism. Many of the candidates get nervous when they hear of this question. But do not worry; good preparation for a response will not let you trip over this question.

Like most of the other questions, this question too is a behavioral question that does not hold any right or wrong; good or bad answer to it. But the answer can be impressive enough to grab you a position in the company. Also, to answer this particular question you also have to answer to an implicit question of ‘how you tackled it?’ why? Simply because if you answered it half, the very purpose of asking this question from you which is o know about your reaction towards criticism will be defied.

This article holds many tips for you that you may use while formulating the answer to this question. Read on, what it holds in store for you.

What the interviewer is trying to judge?

Formulating an answer to a question or answering the question becomes easy to some extent when we get to know the reason as to why is that question being asked from us. This exactly happens for all interview questions. When the candidates know the logic behind the questions being asked, they answer better. So for a better answer, here’s what an interviewer is looking for:

1. About what all criticism you had: Your response will make the interviewer aware of the kind and intensity of criticism that you have faced in your work-spaces. Also, at this point, the interviewer is checking your level of honesty because there can be no job where the work is not criticized. So, if you say that your work has never been criticized that just means, you never worked at all.

2. How you handled them? : This is the main objective here. How you managed the criticism it or how well you handled it, defines your nature. If you learned something or you improved something in yourself after those criticisms then it is said that you took those all in a positive way which is the desired quality in a candidate.

3. Whether or not you are an ideal candidate? So, this is where all the reasons behind all the interview questions sum down to, ‘are you an ideal fit for the company or the organization?’. If you are applying for a job that may invite a lot of criticism from people then you may not be a good fit if you haven’t ever faced criticism ever before.


If you believe this question to be some ‘alternative’ to the question ‘what are your weaknesses?’ then I will not be shocked at all because this may be in some way. Your focus should be to show yourself as an employee that accepts his or her faults and dare to move on with learning something new. What all you need to do in terms of pre-requisites are:

1. When was it? Okay, remember the time when you faced criticism at your previous jobs? If you are not someone who holds an experience, then you may mention the time when your work was criticized by a professor at your college. Along with this you also need to mention what you learned from this experience? Did you take it positively?

2. Be prepared to open up with your fault: It takes real courage to accept your fault and especially when you are in your interview and this risk-taking can get you or cost you a job for the rest of your life. So, be prepared from beginning itself to face it and to say it.

Tips on what to include and what to avoid

Apart from the above-mentioned parameters, the two main things those an interviewer is judging in you while asking this question are:
1. Do you get angry when someone criticizes you on your work where you have put a lot of effort?
2. Do you accept your faults at develop a way to improve your work?

I have mentioned these facts here for you to remember these all the time when you prepare for the answer to this question. And also, the following tips of do’s and don’ts are based on these two major parameters. Have a look.

About what to INCLUDE:

Following are the do’s regarding a response to this question:

1. Focusing on positive aspects: This question somehow has a negative connotation but does not mean that your answer to have to be of the same tone. You have to accept your fault along with asserting what positive you derived out of that experience i.e. Your learning.

2. Giving real-life examples: These will work best with the answer to such a question. The real-life examples develop the confidence of the interviewer on you. Also, keeping the above point in mind, try to inculcate an example in your answer that has a positive outcome.

3. Be succinct: Okay! Being succinct means you have to state your answer i.e. The situation when your work was criticized briefly. But this brief manner doesn’t mean in an un-comprehensible way. Keep your answer short but understandable.

4. Accept your fault: No no, not when someone else is at mistake but accept your fault if feel that you have committed it. Also when you have a reasonable ground to believe that someone else was at mistake then do mention that too in your answer.

Things to AVOID

Following are the don’ts regarding a response to this question:

1. Do not lie: You may think of some great story about such a situation to impress the interviewer, but the fact is that this will not do any good rather this strategy can backfire, and then the interviewer may lose confidence in you. Respond with honesty to this question.

2. Avoiding the question: Shrugging off this question from your shoulders by saying that you have never been criticized for your work ever before seems to be the easiest thing to do. This may be easy but foolish as well. Do not let go of this chance of describing your calm and agile nature. Remember, if you shrug off this answer, the interviewer will think of you as lying or not worth considering for the job.

3. Do not exaggerate: Do not exaggerate the intensity of the mistake of your work or your apologies for the mistake. Just show some kind of professionalism there. Simply, state the situation, the criticism you received, and what you did in return i.e. Your acceptance and learning.

Preparing your answer

Let us put it simple and in a sequential manner. The steps that you need to follow in preparing your answer while keeping the above dos and don’ts in mind are as follows:

1. Admit the criticism: The very first thing should be your acceptance that you used to work with some organization (or you used to work for your college societies etc.) And you have been criticized for your work by a person who can be your senior as well as any junior.

2. What you have been criticized for? Response to this statement must include two things- 1. What was your work or duty; 2. Why were you criticized? Defining your duties at the workplace will give the interviewer a better understanding of this answer. After defining your duties, tell the reason you were criticized for?

3. How you took it? Did you act aggressively after you heard the negative of your work? Or you accepted that and decided to bring a change in yourself? Or you did nothing? What was your approach post-criticism? Answer this part very carefully as this shows your true personality to the interviewer.

4. Did you apply your learning later: Here you can give an example of a situation or task where you applied your learning post-criticism. This will make the interviewer believe that you are someone who trusts in the process of growth through learning.

Sample answers

Example: 1
I am a very enthusiastic person. I feel excited whenever some new task is handed over to me. I like doing my work done as soon as possible. And also, I always want to finish the work as quickly as possible. I often used to finish my work quite ahead of the actual deadline during my previous job. One day, my boss noticed this fact that I was handing in work a week before the actual deadline. She didn’t directly point out my mistake but made a statement that depicted that along with taking care of the timeline I need to keep in mind the quality of work as well. That was the time when I understood that instead of hurrying up with the work, I should give it some time and come up with a good quality of work.

Example: 2
I believe that there are very less people who genuinely point out a mistake in your work and I am thankful to all such people who want me to improve on them by not repeating them in the future. The last time when I was criticized for my work was from one of my co-workers. He did not like my way of report writing. I accepted my mistake at the moment that it was not what he expected. And later, I asked him to help me with a better format of report writing. Once he was done teaching me about that, I resubmitted the previous reports and new ones with all the changes that he suggested. And I use that same method even to date.

Example: 3
Being only a human, I will be making many mistakes in my career field. Sometimes, and I know that sometimes I’ll be warned about such mistakes and the other times my work will be criticized. The time, I remember I was criticized, was when I supposed to make a presentation for the meeting and my boss was to deliver it. However, when I presented my work to my boss, he was shocked because the formatting was not what he wanted to be like. He wanted it to be simple and I did a load of formatting on it. So, he did not like my work at all. But since the day, I know how such formal presentations should be.

Example: 4
I would not say that I am the kind of person who keeps on receiving criticism or negative feedback from her colleagues or bosses now and then but I would here like to mention one of the incidences from the recent past. Just a month ago, I was to submit a report on an assignment to my boss within five hours of receiving this information. I tried hard to finish it on time but could not do so because of which my boss was late for a meeting. I was suggested to work on my typing speed in a serious tone. So, I decided to work on my speed and today I can type three times faster what I could that day.

Example: 5
I take criticism as a concept that helps people to know their fallacy; that they are lacking and then helps them to improve for better. But yes, this thing applies only if the criticism is taken positively. If this goes wrong then results can be disastrous for one’s career. I was criticized by one of my juniors on the way I presented in one of the meetings with them. Later, I too noticed this fault in my skills and I took it positively and worked on improving this lacking in me. I have worked to the point that I do not commit such fault in my presentations now. That’ why I have said, that a positive attitude towards criticism matters a lot.

Example: 6
I think the criticism has proved so beneficial for me in my career as it helped me to improve every time I was supposed to do so. It was when our meetings shifted to be online, I was supposed to joining the sessions on zoom, google meets, etc. But I am not such a tech-savvy person; so, I often had a few problems in joining online meetings. One day one of my seniors, mentioned about me not being late for the meetings related to my inefficiency in handling devices. I felt that. But by the time I understood that I need to upgrade my knowledge regarding technology and its applications.

Example: 7
it was when I was stepping into an organization as an assistant manager. The suggestion or you can say feedback that I received was that I was being much friendly to one of our associates and I need to be firmer. At that time it was really hard for me t inculcate that behavior in me. But as I moved ahead on my path as an assistant manager, I understood the need for that. So, that criticism regarding my approach in dealing with associates helped me during my career advancement.

Example: 8
It depends! On what kind of criticism is it? I sit a healthy criticism or is it a negative criticism? A healthy criticism means a constructive one that genuinely finds fault in the work of a person and that can be improved by working on that fault. So, when you are clear with the type of criticism you have received, you can decide on your course of action further. For negative criticisms, I generally ignore when they are being provided but when a constructive one is given, I try my best to modify myself as per that. Just like the last time when one of my co-workers commented on my trait of being low-confident person, I have enrolled for confidence building classes.

Example: 9
I like receiving feedback regarding my work from my colleagues, seniors, and in-fact juniors. The feedback which was in a way a kind of criticism that I remember to date from my previous job is when one of my seniors said that I do not deserve a promotion because I do not do that work. I knew why he said it, he said it because of my habit of procrastination. I went to him asking for promotion but I am happy that I didn’t receive it that day and instead I received a life-time learning. I committed to removing the word ‘procrastinator’ from my identity. And within two years I got two promotions in my previous organization.

An example of a bad answer:
ummm….well! I do keep on getting comments from people like my seniors, peers, and even from my juniors as well. And most of the time those comments are a sort of complaint about my work. I mean they do criticize my work. No matter how good I do, people do not feel happy with it. So I have stopped minding such comments from people now. I do my work and submit it, no whatever correction they want, they must to that themselves.

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