During job interviews, interviewers ask a bunch of behavioral questions that will help them measure your soft skills such as “Why did you leave your last job?” and “Why were you fired?”. Another commonly asked question that is one of the most difficult to answer is “What did you like least about your last position?” This question is hard to answer because it seems like they are trapping you into a corner, prodding you to bad-mouth your previous employer. Be careful to not fall for this ruse and instead frame your prior negative experience into a positive one.
WHY INTERVIEWERS ASK THIS QUESTION
The interviewer wants to see how you handle such a question: when prompted to be negative, will you jump at the opportunity? Interviewers don’t want to hire someone who is eager to gossip or bad-mouth people as that will create a stressful workplace for everyone involved. Instead, they want to see that though you had your differences with your previous employer, you were able to turn the situation around and see the silver lining. That being said, be a positive person when answering this question to show professionalism.
Interviewers also genuinely want to know what you didn’t like about your last job. This will help them determine if you would be a good fit for the team and company. For example, if you say you didn’t like working from home but the position you’re applying for is getting set up to go remote, then the interviewer will know that this job isn’t for you.
HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION
Before you start formulating your answer, know that no matter what you say your answer will not reflect on your previous company but rather you, yourself. The way you frame your answer will be very telling to the interviewer if you’re a professional person who is seeking new opportunities or a negative person who is easily discouraged.
REFLECT ON YOUR LAST JOB
Begin by creating a list of what you didn’t like about your last job. For instance, what you didn’t like could be:
- Company size
- Company Culture
- Room for growth
- Work Style
These are all acceptable answers to what you didn’t like and drove you to leave your last position. Focus on choosing one aspect of the role you didn’t like while also making sure to do research on the company you're applying for. You need to make sure that what you found incompatible with you at your last position isn’t also a part of the new, prospective job. For instance, don’t say you didn’t like working at a large company if the new company you’re applying for is also large. It’ll make you seem like a bad fit for the role as well as underprepared for the interview.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT THE JOB YOU'RE APPLYING FOR
The main goal of answering this question is to show that you seek new opportunities that the company you’re applying for offers that your last one didn’t. To do this, do research about the company and role and think about what stands out to you. This could be anything from the company culture, new responsibilities, new challenges, or fairer power hierarchy. For example, you may feel your last job didn’t challenge you anymore as the tasks have grown repetitive and you’re ready for a change of pace, taking on more responsibilities at the new company.
The most important thing to keep in mind when answering this negatively worded question is that you need to stay positive. Do this by turning any negative experience you had at your prior job into a positive one. You can do this by saying that you no longer feel as though you have much to gain from doing a certain task at your last job as you’ve outgrown the position. You have mastered it and you’re ready to move onto bigger things. Another way you can spin a negative into a positive is by saying that you've learned a lot about yourself, the industry, or gained a skill and you seek another position that will make you utilize that new skill, further challenging you.