|  November 14, 2016

Common Interview Questions: What do you think we could do better?

There are many tricky interview questions out there, but this one feels particularly difficult to navigate:

What do you think we could be doing better as a team and/or company?

You may also see this phrased a few other ways:

  • What’s an idea that you have for our team?
  • What’s one thing we’re not doing as well as our competitors?
  • What’s one thing you think we’re doing well, and one thing you think we could improve?

From an interviewer’s perspective, I actually like this question. Let’s say I’m interviewing someone for a social media job as an example.

I’ve probably already asked plenty of questions about the person’s background and gotten a good sense of past social media campaigns they’ve run, programs they’ve used, and some of their accomplishments at their previous companies. 

What I don’t yet know, is how this person will apply their expertise and background to my specific business based on all of its nuances. This question addresses just that.

If you get asked this during an interview, the interviewer is really looking for a few basic things:

  • That you bothered to do your research. In addition to researching the company in general, the interviewer is going to want you to have a grasp on the exact function you’re interviewing for. In the social media example, they’re going to want to know you bothered to look at the company’s different social accounts and took note of style, tone, following, posting cadence, etc. If you were interviewing for a recruiting job, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check the company’s jobs site to see how many roles they were hiring for and what type. You get the picture – high-level company research isn’t enough to nail this answer.
  • That your point of view and ideas will add value to the team. Most companies aren’t just trying to hire a warm body to fill a seat. They’re looking for people who can move the business forward in some way. Asking you to present an idea will help them gauge your creativity, critical thinking, and willingness to think outside the box.
  • That you’re confident enough to speak up. Sharing an idea or feedback not only shows that you’re knowledgeable about your field and the company’s approach to it, but also shows confidence. How you present this information in an interview is indicative of how you may present your opinion in a meeting if you get the job. 

With this in mind, here are a few tips for answering this question:

  • Learn the company’s approach to the area you’re interviewing for as much as you can. We already talked about this above, but go to a physical store, download their app, watch their CEO speak about the future of X at a conference, sign up for their newsletter. Learn as much as you can that relates directly to the job function you want to be in.
  • Always stay diplomatic. Especially when this question is phrased in a more negative way (i.e. what should we be doing better?) you have to be really careful. You never know if you’re talking to the exact person who made the thing you’re about to insult. Even if you think the team is doing a terrible job at whatever you’re talking about, tone it down a bit. I suggest phrasing this by starting with something positive, even if you’re not asked. For example: “something I think the company is doing great is X – and one thing that I think could make even more of an impact on Y.”
  • Don’t share the obvious. This probably goes without saying but your suggestion or idea shouldn’t be really basic or obvious. The more you can show that you’ve really thought about this in depth and came up with something creative, the better.
  • Share the rationale behind your suggestion. Perhaps you like the idea because you’ve seen it done before by other companies and it seemed to work well. Maybe it’s something you’ve personally tried in previous roles and saw a positive result. Either way, share what you’re thinking and WHY you think it will work at the company you’re interviewing with.

Here’s a rough script you can use for your answer:

While I was doing some research on [company’s] [insert] strategy, I noticed that [what you learned]. I thought it was great that [share things you thought were positive/impressive]. One idea I had was to [describe idea in depth]. I’ve seen this done [or I’ve had experience with this] at [other company] and the result was that [describe positive impact].

I know your team may have already considered this, but that was one idea I thought could be interesting.

As always, the more you go off script the better. The best interview answers sound genuine, thoughtful, and not robotic!

Before we wrap, I want to share that I was actually asked this in one of my interviews when I was moving from JPMorgan to Tory Burch and I shared a pretty out-of-the-box recruiting idea that my interviewer did NOT like. She actually responded by telling me “that really wouldn’t work within our culture.” (Note: she was 100% right!)

I was honestly worried that interview (and specific answer) might have cost me the job. Those who were interviewing me were probably already suspicious that a background in banking would be relevant for the fashion industry. My answer didn’t help.

I guess I’ll never know if that particular interviewer voted against me but as you know, I did get that job, went on to have a great working relationship with her, and was a perfect culture fit for the company.

And for the record, we never implemented that idea!

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