Some top job interview questions and answers are fairly straightforward and easy. However- a few questions can be traps and amount to something of a double-edged sword. One such question is- “What did you like least about your last job?” One of the major rules about job interviews is to avoid saying negative things about other companies and other people- yet here you are being asked a question where a negative reply seems all but inevitable. Even an answer such as “The tasks became repetitive” could cause an interviewer to think- “Many tasks here are very similar. Maybe this person is not the best fit.”
The question can be worded in other ways- such as- “What bothered you about your last job?” and “What do you wish you could’ve changed about your last job?” Another way of expressing it is to ask about what you learned at your most recent job. Regardless of phrasing- the interviewer wants to assess your compatibility for this position and to glean insight into how you relate with others.
How to answer the “What did you like least about your last job?” interview question
Discuss circumstances or tasks- not people
One of the quickest ways to cross yourself off as a job candidate is to badmouth people. Even if your reasons are legitimate- interviewers can’t know that- and they can be justifiably afraid that you’ll speak negatively of this company to others. Instead of discussing people like a moody boss or a supervisor with a chip on his or her shoulder- discuss circumstances or tasks. For example- you could say that the job required an unreasonable amount of paperwork and you would rather focus on helping customers. Or you could discuss a circumstance that is unlikely to occur again at a new job. For instance- what you liked least might have been some inflexibility with scheduling- because you were taking care of your aging parents and were overwhelmed in many aspects of life; you wanted to temporarily work part-time but it just was not possible.
Talk about solutions
Sometimes what you didn’t like about your previous job is also present at this company. Perhaps you’ve grown as a person- though- so you’re up to the challenge now- or you’ve found coping strategies to deal with these tasks you did not like. Presenting solutions is an excellent way to position yourself as proactive and forward-thinking. Suppose what you did not like about your previous job was that you did not feel adequately trained- and as a result you were rarely in control of situations; you can say that now you’ve gained formal training and are much more prepared to do what is required of you.
In order to remove some of the sting that comes with discussing negative things- include at least one or two positive attributes about the previous job. Use that discussion to ease into explaining what you did not like and consider ending your answer on another positive note. These positive aspects can include both people and tasks. Keep your voice pleasant or neutral as you talk; avoid letting potentially bad memories influence your tone and expressions. Remember that how you talk about previous employers is how prospective employers expect you may talk about them in the future- so positivity counts in all situations.
Sample “What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?” Interview Answers
1. I must say that I loved many things about my previous job: amazing people and an environment where I was challenged at every turn. However- there was one thing I didn’t like: expectations sometimes were unclear. I would be assigned a project with loose guidelines and turn it in on time to specifications. I’d then be told I did the project wrong. I’ve since learned to communicate better- to ask my supervisor if I have questions- and I’ve learned to never assume. Two people can look at project guidelines and draw vastly different interpretations of what is to be done. I’ll always be thankful for that learning experience and for the great folks at the company.
2. I had amazing experiences at my previous job. I loved the independent work and the trust the employer put into me. What I liked least about the job was that I had no say in my schedule. That’s important to me given all of my personal obligations. The company is great; many people would be lucky to work there- and I was- too. It just was not a great fit. That’s why I’m excited to work here since you offer flexible hours and telecommuting. The culture of this organization is very compatible with who I am as a person.
Hopefully the question “What did you like least about your last job?” is not as intimidating now. You can actually use it to work to your advantage. Because it appears on many resources for top job interview questions and answers- begin today to prepare for it.
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