Tough Interview Question: “What didn’t you like about your last job”


Answering tough interview questions should be the bread and butter of your job search preparation. One of the toughest questions is why you may not have loved your last job. Of course, there are right ways and wrong ways to answer a question like this. Here, we offer a few examples of things NOT to say if your last position was a total train wreck. And in addition, we’ll cover a few things you can say instead. 

Why Interviewers LOVE to Ask This Question 

Interviewers ask this question because the answer is very revealing. How someone talks about what they didn’t like about their last job shows a great deal about how they approached their job and how they approached growth within a role. Of course, everyone experiences some level of conflict or failure in their careers, and it is resiliency that shows employers what you can do. Personalities clash. Different priorities sometimes make collaboration challenging. Risk-taking is not always successful. Employees get bored. Each and every day, all these things happen no matter how great a company or an employee is. But the lessons learned from those experiences matter. That’s what an interviewer is trying to unravel. They want an interviewer to reveal more about themselves and their approach to work by talking through their challenges. And honestly, they also want to see whether the thing that made you want to move from your last role will make you want to move on from this next role. So as you craft an answer, be honest but also emphasize your learnings and think critically about how those learnings would apply to your next role.  

How Not to Answer This Question 

The obvious way to avoid getting the job is to be completely negative about your experience with your past company. No matter how difficult the situation was, a very pessimistic attitude will not reflect well on you in an interview. Avoid talking about specific people, whether a bad boss made a job unbearable or you were at odds with another coworker. A big part of the interview process is finding out whether you are a good fit for the team you are looking to join. Showing that you take people skills, and talking poorly about past employers or coworkers does not look good in an interview setting. As tempting as it may be, save the gossip for another venue.  

Similarly, when answering this question, avoid putting the blame exclusively on the situation or the role. As an employee, you have more agency over the work you do than you might think. Finding the things you like about a job, even when it’s not where you want to be long term, is part of the resiliency you should be able to develop. If you focus on the negatives and let that attitude influence your output, chances are that you really aren’t delivering on your employer’s expectations. Take some responsibility for your work and if it’s not the right fit for you in the long term, then recognize that. But don’t blame others. Only you can take ownership of your career.  

Some Good Ways to Frame Your Response 

One approach may be to describe a real example of how you have dealt with difficult situations in the past. Remember not to linger on the conflict. Instead, focus on the resolution. Map out your vision of your career growth, both through and beyond the work that you no longer enjoy or find rewarding. Describe how you overcame difficult relationships or conflicting communication styles. Emphasize the desire to learn from and grow beyond the challenges of your old job. That’s a great set up to discuss how you think this new role will better fit your skills and career trajectory.  

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