The Interview Question Most People Stuff Up




Have you got an interview to prepare for and want to know which interview question trips up most people? There are not many people who like interviews and the number one reason is that people say they don’t like or feel comfortable “selling” themselves in an interview. In my experience, not only do people not like to sell themselves, they definitely don’t like to talk about the areas that they need to improve in. Naturally at an interview we want to try and share all the great things we have to offer.

The interview question that I see people stuff up, time and time again, is the interview question about receiving constructive feedback. It might go something like this:

  • Tell me about a time when someone gave you constructive feedback.  What did you do?


  • Tell me about a time you received a challenging piece of feedback about your attitude or performance at work? What was it? How did you respond? What did you do? (This is one of my fave interview questions, courtesy of recruitment guru and trainer Ross Clennett)

In the majority of cases, the interviewee takes one of two paths. The first one is that they can’t answer the question, they pause for a period of time, seemingly trying to recall a time they have been given feedback. After a few moments they apologise and explain that they can’t recall a time they have been given feedback. Even when prompted to reflect on their last performance appraisal they still can’t recall a time. Some say they don’t get performance appraisals and I know that might genuinely be the case. I’m sure though that at some stage in your career or life you have received feedback.

The second path people take is to recall a time very early on in their career. I’m talking like 10 plus years ago, like in one of their first jobs. At least they answer the question. Most people wrap up that response with explaining that it was early in their career and they have learnt/improved that skill since then. It as if they are trying to justify the situation.

The thing is that as an interviewer asking this type of question, we are not actually that concerned about what the feedback you received was, we are trying to assess your ability to receive feedback. We want to understand how you handled it and what action you took post receiving the feedback to show that you can take feedback on board. We are assessing how proactive you are in learning from feedback regardless of if you agreed or disagreed with the feedback.

By taking either of the two paths detailed above, you are not doing yourself any favours. If you have been in the situation where you really can’t remember on the spot a time when you have been given feedback, it would be a really good idea to come up with an example in preparation for your next interview. If you are sitting at the interview table and asked this question, instead of trying to avoid the question, my advice would be to tackle it honestly and openly. We all receive feedback all the time. No one in the workplace is always going to agree with our ideas or our way of doing things or our style. That’s the reality of workplaces and it is to be expected. However, it’s how you handle and respond to those situations that will determine if you are a good fit for a team or an organisation.

Trying to avoid the feedback question will actually do your chances of winning the job more harm than good.


Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at or by following Angela on LinkedIn.



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