In my experience, both personal and professional, the ability of a person to receive and effectively utilize constructive criticism is invaluable. However, it seems that it is something that may not be assessed as often as other character traits are in the application process.

Note: Of course asking them is one possibility, and if that's the best way then fair enough. However, I'm not sure that simply asking someone is the best way of making an accurate assessment.

Related: How to acknowledge project failures but still emphasize my technical abilities in job interviews?

In an interview, what is the appropriate way to answer self-critical questions?

Thus, my questions are:

  1. What are some useful ways to ascertain a candidate's ability to handle criticism?
  2. Similarly, as a candidate, what would be the best way to demonstrate your ability (perhaps without even being asked specifically about it)?
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    Great question! "However, I'm not sure that simply asking someone is the best way of making an accurate assessment." Haha, you're not wrong. Nobody is going to come straight out and say "Yep, I'm terrible at taking criticism, if you ever dare suggest an improvement you'll regret it!" – Mel Reams Mar 8 '17 at 1:35
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    Criticize them ;) – DonQuiKong Mar 8 '17 at 7:23
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    "You're ugly and your mommy dresses you funny" grab some popcorn and see what happens.. – Snowlockk Mar 8 '17 at 8:04
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    Tell them "you're mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries". Then fart in their general direction. – Grimm The Opiner Mar 8 '17 at 8:10
  • @GrimmTheOpiner While the reference to Monty Python's - The Holy Grail is funny, I'm not sure how that would help in the interview process. Specially the part where you "fart in their general direction". – Ismael Miguel Mar 8 '17 at 10:43

Standard stressor questions like:

  1. Tell me about a time you failed, what did you do?
  2. How would you deal with an overly critical coworker?
  3. Tell me about a time when a coworker corrected an error of yours.
  4. What is the most important thing to do when critiquing a coworker?
  5. When was a time you had conflict with a coworker? (Thanks enderland)
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    I'd also add "when was a time you had conflict with a coworker?" as that is pretty revealing in that situation. – enderland Mar 7 '17 at 18:58
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    "3.Tell me about a time when a coworker corrected an error of yours." ..."edited 7 mins ago" – inappropriateCode Mar 8 '17 at 7:40
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    I once got asked about a time where I was really glad someone pointed out a mistake to me. – PlasmaHH Mar 8 '17 at 10:06
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    A good answer to a good question. But I feel I should opine that numbers 3 and 5 on that list are by far the most useful and effective. Number 1 is a fairly common question and the candidate may prep for it by glossing over problems. Number 2 doesn't demand real world evidence and thus safe and easy to answer with a lie. Number 4 probably won't tell you about how the candidate reacts to constructive criticism. – Bob Tway Mar 8 '17 at 12:00
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    None of these will tell you much about how someone deals with criticism. They will give you a sense of their communication skills, how they think they should deal with criticism, and how good they are at preparing for interviews. – De Novo Oct 18 '18 at 23:57

Check out common interview questions which ask applicant's about times they've failed, or made mistakes, and how they've dealt with them.

A person uncomfortable with admitting fault will most likely be very uncomfortable answering. This ties in with their ability to take criticism:

Tell me about a time when you did not meet your manager's expectation, either in a review, or in a project.

Does the applicant go into some detail, and actually discuss the case, or does he answer superficially?

I'm sure that there's other websites and articles out there which can give you more ideas.

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    Tough to answer without seeming evasive, if you genuinely can't think of such an occurrence ;) – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 8 '17 at 11:46
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    "A person uncomfortable with admitting fault will most likely be very uncomfortable answering.". That doesn't seem very accurate, I imagine plenty of people are not great with coming up with situations on the spot. For instance, I know that I have had many failures. However, I have a distinct inability to remember situations. Even now, after thinking about this for a few minutes, I cannot think back to a specific situation where I had a failure. Even though I know I have had plenty. – Douglas Gaskell Mar 9 '17 at 0:04

You'll want to learn about how to perform a "behavioral interview". This type of interview focuses on assessing a candidate's detailed narrative of past projects to infer how they would work in your organization.

Behavioral interviews focus on how the candidate HAS dealt with adversity, difficult people/situations as well as mistakes and criticism in THEIR OWN work experience. These type of interviews explicitly avoid hypothetical scenarios (eg "what would you do if...?"). The idea is that past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior. Behavioral interviews give the best picture of what the candidate would be like to work with and they're the best "asshole filter" you can get in a job interview scenario.

Behavioral is the most difficult type of interview for both the candidate and the hiring manager.

Candidates should prepare by carefully practicing behavioral questions which are easily found with a google search. Perhaps even more important, the candidate should compose details of their work history into "S.T.A.R." narratives, either mentally or in writing if it helps.

Interviewers should become familiar with interviewing and easing the candidate into a dialog rather than a rapid-fire questions. Starting "cold" with "Tell be about a time when you were criticized...?" Will get you deer-in-the-headlight looks and stilted answers. Instead, start with a discussion about some project the candidate has worked on, ask detailed questions, then start to focus in on conflict/problems and how the candidate handled criticism. People don't naturally index their memories into short vignettes, but a skilled interviewer can coax these out with such ease that it doesn't even feel like a job interview.


Question 1:

  • Please share with me a situation where you made a mistake.
    candidate talks.
  • How did your manager or client expressed his/her critiques to you?
    candidate talks.
  • How did you feel about this critique? Did you feel their critiques were fair?
    candidate answer about how he/she manages the frustration.
  • Finally, which changes did you make to avoid repeating the mistake?
    here the candidate will show if he/she was open to made changes after the critique.

Question 2:

Experience is basically technical know-how plus soft abilities like handling critiques. Hence you need to show that while you were younger you made some mistakes at work, and thanks to the critique and mentoring from your seniors you had the chance to learn and improve in your job. Thanks to that experience you have learn to ask for help and also you are open to critiques, because you have learned that it is quite valuable to get feedback from your boss.


If for a given position, you can create near work environment do so. For example a white boarding problem for software engineer. The candidate will (almost always) make sub-optimal choices, this gives an interviewer an insight into how candidate handles suggestions or criticism. If the candidate overly defends their suboptimal solution, or ignores the interviewer's suggestion it is a red flag.

I believe the above is a better approach than prepared questions because, the interviewer can observe the candidate's reactions to actual criticism, not just candidate talking about criticism.

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