Tough Interview Question - What have you done to improve yourself in the past year?

What have you done to improve yourself in the past year?

Similar interview questions:
Have you undertaken any areas of self-improvement in your career?
What are you doing to improve your work skills?
Have you taken any training recently?
Tell me about areas where you need to improve and what you have done to address these areas.

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is probing your willingness to grow and improve. This question can also be posed in a way to differentiate employer-led (or even mandated) training versus training taking on your own personal initiative, so be careful in listening closely to how the question is phrased. The answer gives the interviewer a behavioral indicator into your willingness to invest in yourself to grow and expand your skill set into the future.

The best approach to answering this question:
Discuss a recent example of training which has directly had an impact on your ability to do the job for which you are interviewing. If you do not have an example directly tied to the job, use one that is the most closely associated and/or make a connection in how it has been or can be used in your work. And if you are reading this question and have not completed any training over the course of the past year, start now by pursuing online training in advance of your interviews.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I wanted to expand my technical skills in working with the Microsoft Office Suite, specifically in developing better skills working with Excel. However, there were no courses offered at my university which covered anything beyond the basics. So I enrolled in an online Microsoft certification course, which I have already completed. I’m also adding in other technical skills including programming classes which I’m working on currently. I noted that these are important skills for this job and I want to make sure I am prepared to be productive on day one…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I’m currently studying for my certification exam for my industry. I have completed all of the online coursework and have already passed two of the required four exams. I am scheduled to take the third exam next week and the fourth and final exam next month. This will coincide with my completion of the industry experience requirements, so within a month I expect to be certified…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"I did take some courses through my work since they were offered for free and I was required to take at least one. I chose a course that was taught in Vegas, since I thought it would be fun to party at night while doing the classes during the day…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these 100 Common Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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