How to answer the Interview Question: What did you like least about your last position?
During any job interview, you’ll be asked about your work experience in past jobs. You have to use this question to share a thoughtful reflection on what you’d like from a workplace, a supervisor, and other elements of your next role.
Using this question as a chance to spotlight what you value during a job interview shows employers you have the ability to turn negative into a positive.
As a job candidate answering a question such as, “What did you like least about your last position?” can be tricky most times. And the wrong response can change the direction of your job interview!
You see, interviewers do not want to hear you complain about a job you had in the past, even if they ask a question that seems to invite this.
While this question might sound like it’s looking for a negative, job-hating, or boss-hating response, that’s not the case as this is not an invitation to go negative. In fact, an interviewer is usually looking for a way to gauge your possible levels of satisfaction if you were employed at the organization you’re interviewing for, and they want to watch the way in which you answer the question.
So since the question asked what and not who you liked least, avoid talking about people, either by their names or their roles. Instead, talk about the aspects of the role you didn’t like—for example, the kinds of tasks that you didn’t like, those that you are looking to shift from in your next job (for example, talking with angry clients or spending most of your time performing tasks on your computer or some aspect of the work environment that you didn’t like e.g. limited opportunity for career development.
Before this question comes up, thoughtful preparation is vital for you to successfully answer it. As you prepare, focus on what you actually didn’t like. Make an inventory of them and then make efforts to find out what made you dislike each item on the list. Use this list to create your answers to the question. Also, use this list to form the basis for the questions you would ask the hiring manager about regarding the role you’re interviewing for. You don’t want to go through the trouble of landing the exact role you hate.
It’s easy to discuss at a job interview what you liked about your last position, but you would have to take care when responding to questions on the downsides of your last role. A job interview isn’t the time to vent, so here’s what you would have to understand about answering this sort of question.
Some of the common ways interviewers ask about previous jobs include:
- What did you dislike about your last role and your teammates?
- What were the best and worst parts of your last employer?
Why do interviewers ask ‘What did you like least about your last position?’
Interviewers would ask you ‘What did you like least about your last position?’ to find out more about your attitude toward your previous employer. A good employer isn’t trying to get a response that describes your last job negatively. Instead, they’re trying to get responses that showcase what you would like if you get the role. By making comments on things you didn’t like in your previous job, you’re indirectly saying what you hope for in this new role.
This question gives employers insight into your level of integrity. If you say negative things about your previous employer to a perfect stranger, this might indicate you’re susceptible to gossip. By asking the question above, a hiring manager often isn’t that eager to know the actual likes or dislikes you’ll provide. Rather, they’re trying to gauge your character by taking note of the tone and attitude with which you answer a difficult question. The details you give of your likes and dislikes can also reveal if you’ll be a good fit culturally at their organization. Use this question as an opportunity to show what you want out of a job instead.
This question provides an opportunity for the interviewer to know the type of work you can do. It can also be a way for them to access your experience level with specific workplace scenarios and rate your soft skills besides how good of a fit you will be if you work for the organization. Thus, organizations want to make sure they’re hiring a culture fit and a talent fit, which is why they pay serious attention to your answer.
One thing to remember as you’re discussing your fitness for the organization with employers is that the idea of “culture fit” can sometimes be used as a way to disqualify candidates who don’t think, act or look like existing employees. A better alternative concept you would possibly consider talking about would be what you will add to the culture which is known as “culture add,” or your ability to bring fresh/additive ideas and feedback to the team. ‘Culture add’ make the organization stronger by diversifying the professional experiences and perspectives of its workforce.
How does one answer the question “What do you like least about your last position?”
The best tactic to use is to focus on the positive aspects of your previous position, and discuss how your work experiences there have prepared you to take up a more progressive and challenging new role in a different organization.
You don’t want the hiring manager to think you’ll also say negative things about this job or the company should you decide to resign after they hire you. You also don’t want to give them the impression that you complain a lot, hold grudges, or are difficult to work with.
So when you’re asked about what you didn’t like about your previous position, please try not to be too negative, and if the hiring manager presses you to mention something negative—or if you are feeling that your answer won’t be complete without mentioning some of the negative aspects— try to keep it focused on tasks, company structure, or situations, and not on people.
The best strategy for answering what you liked least about your previous position is to approach the question with a positive, casual tone and name one thing about your previous work that you felt could be better, on the other hand, name some positive aspects about the role, too.
You have to start by answering their question directly, but you’re not going too deep into the subject at hand and you’re not bad-mouthing either.
Most importantly, you conclude with some positive aspects of the position in order that the employer knows you’re ready to make the most of any situation and you’ve got a good attitude.
You also want to show that you’re ready to stay positive and motivated at work even when things aren’t going well. This type of answer will make the employer feel at ease hiring you because employers are scared of hiring someone who’s going to be negative, or someone who will get discouraged if things become tough in the organization.
So the steps below will show that you’re positive and resilient even if there are things you didn’t like in your last job.
- Make a list of what you like about the new organization: When preparing your answers for this question, do some research about this new organization and the position you’re applying to. Take note of things like learning opportunities and activities you will be doing. This will help you spotlight things that your last employer didn’t offer that this new employer does. By discussing things you like, you’re showing your enthusiasm for this new job.
- Reflect on your previous role: If you have already quit your job or are brooding about leaving, reflect on your reasons. Is the organization’s culture a poor match for you? Do you find your role challenging? Is there any room for career growth? All of those are acceptable reasons for you to look for a new job. Use any of them as your answer then demonstrate how this new position would suit you better.
- Turn any negative aspect into a positive one: Even if you’ve got unpleasant feelings toward your last employer, keep your response to the question professional. There is no need to talk about all the small details about what you hated about the role. Instead, give general information about the aspects of the job you didn’t like. After sharing the negative parts of the last position you held, try taking a positive spin around them. For instance, you can say that this bad experience motivated you to make some positive life changes and it was a way to discover more about your own needs and wants.
- Showcase your value: Throughout your answer, try to elucidate how your last role didn’t allow you to attain your full potential. Include details about what you are doing well and would want to do in order to move forward.
Furthermore, when you’re asked about what you like least about your last position, your response should be focused on balancing your feelings toward your previous employer and the way this new role can aid you to get to where you would like to be in your career. Here are some steps you can take in order to answer this question effectively:
1. Make an inventory of the unpleasant aspects of your last role.
2. Identify solutions to that unpleasantness.
3. Compare your solutions to what the role offers.
4. Practice your answer.
1. Make an inventory of the unpleasant aspects of your last role
Identify elements you are not proud of in your previous position. Focus on elements that can be changed or avoided during a new role. This step can help you talk about your previous position in terms of how it didn’t suit your career goals, personality, or work-life balance. Some unpleasant aspects include:
Different industries, organizations, and roles may have employees who do specific jobs always like attending to abusive customers. You can discuss this element if your last position didn’t suit your personality or ability to be productive.
This element differs and is determined by the number of employees, locations, and physical worksite size. Consider this element if you’re trying to find a certain work setting, either larger or smaller. Be sure to know which you want or favor and why.
Relationships with colleagues and management, professional development, work-life balance, and values and mission all form a company culture. Consider this element to illustrate what values and expectations you have for your next workplace which was not available at your previous job.
The amount of your time going to and fro home from work can impact your productivity, work-life balance, and job satisfaction. If you lived quite a distance from your previous workplace, then it’s a relevant point to mention to a hiring manager and point out your desire to enhance your work experience.
Certain industries are better fitted for those with specific personalities, values, skills, and goals. If your previous role was in an industry that didn’t match your goals or personality, you can talk about this element with the interviewer.
If you’re trying to find a job that gives you the opportunity to assume leadership roles, build new skills, and network with professionals, consider talking about your need for career development or growth as an incompatibility.
2. Identify solutions to that unpleasantness
For each element you didn’t like about your previous position, consider how it could be improved upon in your next role. If your last job made you commute for a long time, your solution might be a position that requires a shorter commute or allows you to work from home. If you don’t want to chase after professional development, consider getting a role that provides seminar and conference sponsorships, education stipends, or skill-building coursework. This step can help you talk constructively about what you least liked about your last position.
3. Compare your solutions to what the role offers
Once you address come up with your points, tie them into the role you’re applying for. Look at some methods which will help you in planning your response.
Review the job description
Identify what responsibilities and activities this new position require and select those that are more compatible than that of your previous position. Take note of the professional skills you’re wanted to build on in your new position and tell the interviewer how your skills are transferable to the job you applied for.
Research the company online
Visit the company’s “About Us” page to find out about its values and mission. You can also look for their social media pages to ascertain the sorts of employee-focused posts and engagement they make. This step can make you understand their company culture. If you didn’t bond well with your colleagues at your last job, talk about the efforts you would make in order to interact with colleagues in your next role. Try addressing prospective out-of-office tasks you’ve seen them post to align yourself with their culture.
Read reviews from previous employees
You can look for company reviews written by previous and current employees to know the organization’s culture, like professional career development and how they take up new challenges. If you’re trying to find a role that makes you pursue more customer service responsibilities, discuss how more person-to-person interaction would help you transition and promote your career development which wasn’t possible with your previous role.
4. Practice your answer
Select one or two unpleasant elements you would like to talk about. For each, know why that element was unpleasant and what solution you’ve found for it. Then, showcase the positive elements of this position that counteract the negative ones of your last role. Outline your answer using bullets points to make sure you speak naturally rather than memorizing from a written script. Before your interview, say your answer aloud to regulate your tone and improve your confidence.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
The first big mistake to avoid: Don’t take this as an opportunity to badmouth your last organization. That’s not what an employer wants once they ask what you like least about your last position.
In fact, that’s the most important mistake when answering any interview question. Badmouthing will cause you to sound negative and can cost you a job offer, so take caution to never badmouth an organization, employer, or team member.
Don’t respond with a long list of the aspects of the former job you disliked. It’s better you stick to a few aspects.
Don’t mention a dislike for an element that’s common at the organization that you are interviewing for.
Avoid talking about office politics at your former job.
Don’t give a response that makes you look like you’re inflexible, or set in your ways and opinions.
Don’t leave the hiring manager with the impression that you are impossible or difficult to work with.
Don’t bad-mouth an employer or your team members. When an interviewer sees that you refuse to talk bad about your previous employer, they’ll trust you to give them the same respect and loyalty if you become their new employee.
Answering this question which is negatively based shouldn’t be hard and showing the interviewer that you are a good fit for the job is as simple as answering the “What did you like least about your last position?” question in a professional and positive manner while remaining honest and open.
Tips for giving the best response
Display positive energy: Your skills matter but employers also are trying to find candidates who have enthusiasm, dedication, and energy. Avoid complaining in your response. Instead, talk about the good experiences at your former workplace.
Mention positives aspects that showcase your culture-fit or skills and the mention of a positive aspect of your previous position should ideally advance your candidacy.
End on a positive note: begin by mentioning a positive. Then talk about the negative and try to turn the discussion into something positive again. You can do this by talking about how you managed the aspect you disliked, or by making a connection to the role you’re interviewing for.
Focus on tasks over people: this is really not the time to complain about colleagues or your supervisor. Instead, mention structural problems or characteristics of the organization, unavailable professional opportunities, or activities that were frustrating.
Be honest. As you’ll see, you would want to be strategic in your response and make sure it is also genuine. If you truly loved your previous job let that show in your response, and be specific about what made it great. And if an element of the job was frustrating, do mention it without letting it overpower your overall answer.
Points to Emphasize
When responding to the “What did you like least about your last position?” question, it is important that your answer maintain a positive tone. Remember to remain tactful, respectful, and gracious when talking about your previous superiors and the organization you worked for, even if you feel you don’t have anything great to say about them. Find a way to say something nice because definitely you likely grew professionally in your previous role, or picked up a skill or two, so open up and say what you learned at your previous job.
Remind yourself to stay task-oriented when discussing the things you didn’t like about your previous position and this point can’t be emphasized enough.
When you finish mentioning your dislikes, talk about aspects of the position you’re interviewing for that you really like. It could be the day-to-day responsibilities, opportunities for career advancement or travel, or perhaps something you took notice of when you went through the job description.
Stay positive while discussing the solution and mind not only what you say, but how you present yourself and your body language.
That’s how to ace this type of interview question in your next job interview.