It happens in so many interviews – everything is going along smoothly, when suddenly the interviewer drops a bomb: “Tell me, what did you like least about your last job?” How do you answer that without sounding insincere or like a Negative Nancy? The trick is in a carefully crafted diplomatic response.
Although the question sounds like an invitation to trash your previous place of employment, that’s not actually why they are asking it. What the hiring manager really wants to know is what your work ethic is, what makes you tick and how you respond to unpleasant situations. It is an interesting interview question for hiring managers because it can reveal a lot about a candidate, both good and bad.
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How NOT to Answer
When asked about your least favorite aspects of your last job, avoid complaining about something that will still be a part of the new job.
“The worst thing somebody can say is, ‘My least favorite part of the job is having to follow the commands of others,’ shares Joe Flanagan, Senior Consultant at Velvet Jobs. “It goes without saying that almost every job in the world requires at least some command from someone, whether that be a boss, team member or customer.”
Likewise, don’t just say that you did not like all the mundane, repetitive tasks you had to do in your last job. In all likelihood, the new job entails some repetitive tasks, too; it’s the nature of work.
“Do not answer in a negative tone or focus too much on the things you hate,” reminds Lori Bumgarner, a Career Specialist at YourPassionInLife. No one likes a whiner. There is no need to ramble on; just one relevant example is all you need to provide.
And whatever you do, do not resort to complaining about the company as a whole or about specific employees that you worked with. This just makes you look bitter and unreliable. Keep you answer within the boundaries of your specific job function.
Avoid answers like these:
- “My boss was a real jerk, we just did not get along at all.”
- “The job just got too boring. I didn’t feel stimulated or challenged by it”
- “The hours were terrible. I want a regular 9-5, with better work-life balance.”
Strategies for Answering ‘What Did You Like Least …’
If you just answer what you didn’t like and leave it at that, you’re missing a good opportunity to show yourself in a positive light. Use this question as a chance not just to tell what you don’t like, but also to highlight a good quality about yourself. Interviewers really appreciate it if you can show how you turned a negative into a positive.
“I always love it when the candidate turns the question into an opportunity to talk about how they have made their current job better, easier, or more productive,” says Jeffrey Kelly, Founder and CEO of AssetLab. “Someone who tells me what they dislike and hasn’t ever done anything about it is probably out of the running.”
Keep the tone positive and upbeat. Bumgarner suggests focusing your answer on how your least favorite task kept you from your favorite tasks.
- “I didn’t enjoy the repetitive tasks in my last role, but I realized that they were unavoidable. So, I made a system where I broke up the work so that I could focus on more exciting projects in between, and still get all the work done by the end of the day.”
- “I really prefer not doing administrative work, because it is time not spent with the customer, which is my strong suit. Of course, I understand that housekeeping items are necessary to continue performing my best tasks.”
- “The job involved a lot of collaboration, which was challenging for me because I generally prefer to work alone. But I came to appreciate the help of my teammates and recognized that the work we produced together was of a higher quality than any one of us could have done alone.”
When you’re posed the interview question, “What did you not like about your last job?” don’t fall for the trap of moaning about the terrible things you had to do and your inept last boss. Instead, give a positive answer that shows how you are willing to take on difficult tasks and be innovative in how you handle them.
Check Out More Interview Tips
- How to Describe Yourself in a Word During an Interview
- How to Stay Positive When Discussing Negatives During an Interview
- How to Spot Toxic Company Culture During a Job Interview