“What skills would you like to improve?”
We all have some skills that could use a polish, but talking about these skills in an interview setting is far from ideal.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to answer this question the right way, without hurting your chances of getting the job.
Variations Of This Question
This question comes in a few different flavors, but they’re all essentially the same in terms of how you should reply.
Here are the most common:
- Which skills are you lacking?
- What would you most like to improve about yourself?
- What skill do you feel least confident in?
- Tell me one thing about yourself that you would like to improve?
- Do you have any weaknesses you would like to work on?
Know The Lead Up Questions
There’s no way to know for sure if this question will come up in your interview, but if it is going to make an appearance, it’s usually after one of these questions.
Here’s what to watch out for:
- What Tasks Do You Least Enjoy Doing?
- What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
- What Do You Enjoy Doing In Your Free Time?
- Can You Describe A Challenge You Overcame?
What The Interviewer Really Wants to Know
They want to know if you have the ability to assess yourself honestly.
Honesty and integrity are valuable traits that form a strong foundation of trust in the workplace, as well as enabling open communication between colleagues, managers, and the higher-ups.
All this leads to a more productive and healthier work environment for everyone involved.
This question shows your ability (or inability) to be honest about yourself because it forces you to reveal your own shortcomings in a setting where doing so isn’t really in your best interest.
They also want to know if your development goals align with the position you’re applying for.
Employees that have a desire to excel in their role and work their way up the company ladder are considered very valuable hires. After all, a high employee churn rate can be an expensive and time-consuming problem.
Depending on the skills you decide to talk about, the interviewer can assess whether those skills align with your future at the company, or if you might be forced to leave in pursuit of those skills.
How to Answer: “What Skills Would You Like to Improve?”
There will be three basic components to your answer, and you need to put them together in this exact order.
Here we go:
1. Choose a Relevant Skill
First, name a skill you’d like to improve.
Don’t choose a skill that has absolutely nothing to do with your new potential job, but also avoid choosing a skill that shows you have little to no knowledge of the job in question.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as an I.T. Technician, saying you want to improve your cooking skills doesn’t make sense. At the same time, saying you want to improve your I.T. skills may suggest you’re underskilled for the role.
However, you could say you would like to improve your communication skills, which may help you progress through to a more managerial role.
So, how do you choose a skill?
You could pick a career-based skill. This is ideal if you have a skill that needs some improvement but isn’t critical to the role.
Here are some examples:
- Creative writing
- Public speaking
- Online Marketing
Or you could choose a broader, personal development type skill. This is ideal if you’re applying for a job that accompanies many different tasks and roles, rather than a particular skill set.
Here are some examples:
2. Explain Why You Want to Improve That Skill
Now you need to tell the interviewer why you’ve chosen this skill.
This gives you an opportunity to qualify yourself for the role and show that you have a good sense of self-reflection.
A good way to kick this off is to identify a past experience where you felt you didn’t quite measure up.
For example, if you picked sales as a skill you’d like to improve, you could say:
“I was previously working in face-to-face sales and noticed the more confident members of my team would often have the highest sales numbers.”
Here comes the most important part:
Try to find a direct benefit that results from improving this skill. Something the interviewer (or employer) will value in any employee.
Using the last example, you could say:
“I believe my own sales ability would be a positive impact by working on my confidence, and this would likely result in more revenue for the company if I was ever required to sell.”
Explanations like this show you have a healthy sense of competition and that you’re motivated to find solutions.
3. Finish With How You Plan to Improve It
Recognizing an area you need to improve is great, but for full marks on this question you need to explain how you intend to get better
Employers appreciate someone who makes time to learn because this means they’re not completely set in their own ways of doing things and are more willing to adapt to new methods.
At a minimum, you should end your answer with clear intent to improve. Even something as vague as this will do the trick:
“With the right guidance, I know I can reach my full potential in this particular area”.
However, you should aim to take this further by taking the burden off the employer to fix it for you, and instead outline the exact steps you’re taking (or plan to take) in order to improve.
For example, continuing with the same theme, you might say:
“These days, I’m more proactive about throwing myself into social situations that I would otherwise usually avoid, and I’m finding it a lot easier to talk to new people. I also have a few books on my reading list that will hopefully help me build my confidence.”
Not much of a book person? No problem. There are plenty of other sources of information and learning you can draw from.
Here are a few more ideas:
- Coaches / mentors
- Role models
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
Let’s cover some sample answers that make use of the structure outlined above, so you can see how it all comes together.
Example #1: Communication
“A skill I would like to improve is communication, particularly speaking to larger groups.
I feel as though my communication skills are adequate when dealing with customers, however, I’d like to be able to speak to larger groups and feel that they’re listening and engaged.
This is important to me because I’d love to progress into a leadership role eventually and be confident in delegating tasks amongst my peers, and ultimately getting the best out of everyone.
I’ve been researching different ways to control a conversation and keep people fully engaged, and I’m slowly putting these lessons into practice.”
Example #2: Online Marketing
“I’d like to get better at online marketing.
I feel there’s always room for improvement in this area; always new ways of doing things, but they can be neglected if you don’t keep up with new trends.
Online marketing is one of those skills that transfer well to any industry, because being able to generate eyeballs on a product or service is always going to be invaluable to the company I work for.
I’ve already invested in a few online courses and I’m slowly working my way through them in my spare time. So far so good.”
Example #3: Working as Part of a Team
“I would like to get better at collaborating and working together in large teams.
I’ve often only had to rely on myself to finish my work, but as I’m gravitating into more of a team environment, It would be useful to be able to engage with the group effectively.
I feel I have a lot of ideas to contribute, I know that being more integrated would also help me learn and develop my skills along the way.
To improve in this area, I plan to be more proactive about group participation, whereas in the past I would have typically avoided it.”
How NOT to Answer
Mistakes happen, but knowing what to avoid saying can help you navigate some of the common pitfalls in answering this question.
Don’t Say You Have No Areas to Improve
A common response to any type of question that involves a potentially negative answer is to simply deflect.
In this case, that would mean saying something like:
“I don’t think I have any flaws.”
“I can’t think of any skills I need to improve.”
Obviously, this doesn’t give the interviewer any sign of self-awareness or humility, and it leaves a big fat F on the question.
Everyone has something that they could improve upon, and if you can’t think of a single skill, you’re not thinking hard enough.
Don’t Talk About What You “Can’t do”
This question baits you into talking about your weaknesses, but that’s not entirely what’s being asked of you.
Instead, you can use it as an opportunity to mention things that you’re already average or even good at, but feel there’s still room to improve.
On the same note, rather than frame your answer around how bad or inadequate you are in regards to a particular skill, instead, focus more on how much better you can be with the right training and guidance.
- Learn the various forms this question takes
- Familiarize yourself with the most likely lead-up questions
- Choose a skill that’s loosely relevant to the role
- Explain in detail why want to improve that skill
- Outline the steps you plan to take in order to improve it
- Avoid deflecting by saying you have no weaknesses
- Avoid focuses too much on the weakness itself