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In an earlier post, the questioner asked if, after repeated "complaint[s]" expressed "about some things [in his/her workplace]" HR suggested him/her to leave the current entreprise. Based on answers and comments to this question, some of them underlining the relationship between employer and employee, on one hand, and a thread offering some insight about different approaches to communicate critique here, I have a follow-up question.

Since the employer wants to learn about the potential employee, it is understandable the fomer may ask for examples how the candidate dealt in possibly difficult situations with critique him/herself. Despite warnings about reversing questions initially meant for the candidate, addressing them now to the potential employer (example), why would it not be good idea to answer the initial question (by the employer, directed at the candidate) in first place, then followed by the candidate in lines of: "I know your teams consist of people from different countries (US, Europe, South Korea) -- may you provide an example where you dealt with critique of an employee?"

In difference to blaming (in a tune of "this is just again a bad solution"), critique is meant as simultaneous assessment of the situation and suggestion for improvement ("the suggestion to launch this product seems bad because our team is too small; to reach the deadline I suggest to seek assistance by team B").

  • This is a bit on the wordy side so it's a bit hard to understand. Is the question "How to ask employers back on how they deal with critique", or "Should one ask employers to criticize themselves"? – lucasgcb Jul 11 at 9:27
  • @lucasgcb Clarification: It is for the first, i.e. "How to ask employers back on how they deal with critique". – Buttonwood Jul 11 at 21:44
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Interviews are meant to be two-way: The employer is evaluating your fitness for the position. But, employers generally also want to make sure you know enough about them that you can decide if you'll be happy working there or not.

As such, interviewers generally expect questions from candidates. Often, candidates are explicitly allowed time to ask questions, but in general, it's acceptable for questions to come up in the natural flow of conversation, as well.

All that said, it's important to consider that you're being evaluated. Most interviewers will be paying attention to your overall communication style, and that may include making inferences based on how and when you ask questions.

I think you showed some understanding of this when you said,

would it not be good idea to answer the initial question (by the employer, directed at the candidate) in first place, then followed by

You're raising an important point - generally, if you're asked a question, it's OK to get some clarification before you respond - but it's bad form to ignore the question or immediately turn it on the interviewer. So, you should always focus first on making sure you're providing them with a relevant and acceptable answer to their question. However, this can sometimes naturally lead to a candidate "reversing" the question, as well.

So, if you're asked,

Can you give me an example of how you've responded to constructive criticism in the past?

It's totally appropriate to answer, and then ask,

Along those same lines, I was curious - as an employer, do you have any approach to reacting to improvement suggestions from staff? For instance, if I'm working in a team and I have an idea for how to improve a process, how would that be handled?

I'm being careful with wording here - while it may be typical for an employer to provide critique to an employee, it may not be typical in some companies for an employee to critique "upwards" in the personal sense - hence, focusing on impersonal critique (i.e. feedback policy or process) may help put your question in context a little easier.

Ultimately, when choosing what questions to ask, you need to consider their importance to you - and also the potential that a "negative" result may be a good sign. If you ask an employer how they respond to improvement ideas from employees, and they balk and choose not to hire you (because they assume you think you know better, or they assume you'll just complain all the time), that may be a good thing in terms of helping you avoid a situation where you won't be happy. I'm adding this comment because many candidates seem to have a mindset of make choices on how to act in an interview based solely on improving my odds of getting a job instead of the correct mindset which is, make choices based on determining if this is a good fit or not, which means it's OK if they decide not to hire me based on it being a bad fit.

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