Oh, the interview questions hiring managers will throw at us when we are must vulnerable during the interview. Things are moving along nicely, then comes this zinger: “Tell me what you least liked about your last job?”
The question begs you to bare your soul about all that was horrible about your last job, last manager, and last team. Because the question begs you to bare your soul about your last job (or your current one), too often people do just that. Fail.
Tough times happen in every job no matter how much you like doing it. This interview question probes to find out your pain points on the job and what you do about them. The fact that the question begs for negative answers simply masks the intent: how motivated are you to do the work?
“What did you like least about your last job?” opens it up to go negative. Don’t fall for that trap. You really can’t go negative because, as soon as you do, you are viewed as someone who whines and complains. And you’ll do that with this position too. No hiring manager wants to hire a whiner and complainer, there is too much to get done.
Don’t complain about your current or former manager. Don’t complain about your current or former team of coworkers. Don’t complain about the company.
I once explained that the reason I was leaving was because my current manager was 2000 miles from me and wanted me to call him before I talked to his manager who had his office 20-feet from mine. One sentence. My inside person later came back to me and said the hiring manager thought I was very negative about my manager and didn’t want anything to do with me. Seriously, one sentence and it wasn’t even negative (my boss is a jerk…), it was about the logistics not working right.
Didn’t matter. (Of course, would you want to work for a manager who thought that was negative? Not me, so it turned out to be a good thing…).
The best way to answer this question is to focus on you and what you want in a position and how the last job isn’t providing it any more.
“The last job helped me build my business analyst skills, but now I want to focus on turning those skills to that of a project manager.”
“The last job helped me develop handling medium projects, but now I want to move to even larger sized projects with more responsibility.”
“The last job had a budget of $1 million and I am ready to handle larger responsibilities.”
Thus, the last job was a “good job,” but you have outgrown it or want to move your work into a slightly different direction that the old job can no longer provide.
These questions, begging you to go negative, need to turn around into something positive about you and your work. The way to do that is understanding what the question is really about (motivated to do the work?) and then explaining how the old job built your skills but you are now ready for something different.
What other negative interview questions have you been asked?
Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations. In 2005, Scot started sharing these hard lessons at CubeRules.com, a site devoted to Career Advice for knowledge workers, whom he calls Cubicle Warriors.