How To Answer “What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?” (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Mar. 4, 2021
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This is one of the trickiest questions to navigate in a job interview, and if you aren’t prepared for it, your answer may seriously hurt your chances of being hired for the position.

Candidates who have thoroughly prepared for interview questions know there’s a tried-and-true formula that can be tailored as needed depending on the interview.

Most companies, even giant corporations like Microsoft, ask a similar list of questions so you can predict and prepare before the interview even begins.

If a hiring manager asks what you liked least about your last job, or rephrases the question to something similar, such as “why did you leave your last job” or “what was the worst part about your previous job,” you need to be ready with a carefully planned response.

Knowing how to answer interview questions will help you stand out from other candidates competing for the same job.

Why Interviewers Ask “What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?”

Interviewers ask what you didn’t like about your last job as a way of fishing for your grievances to determine if you may potentially have those same issues in similar conditions. If you’re complaining about growing bored with repetitive tasks, a hiring manager may believe you’ll become bored at their company as well.

Being expected to answer “what did you like least about your job?” is about as predictable as being asked, “why are you looking for a new job?”

Potential new hires don’t hesitate to rattle off a list of accomplishments and strengths in an interview, but by seeking a negative response, employers have the opportunity to get a glimpse at your flaws, even if you don’t realize you’re revealing them.

Employers are also judging your character to see if you’re the type of person who focuses on the negative or finds opportunities to stay positive. An optimistic personality is a better asset to a team than a downer who doesn’t seem to get along with anyone.

If you’re being interviewed for an internal position within the same company, a positive answer is even more important. Trashing another department or supervisor isn’t just likely to prevent you from getting that promotion; you might find your existing job in jeopardy as well.

How to Answer “What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?”

Your best plan of attack is to address this question in three parts: a positive introduction, a task-oriented explanation, and a conclusion that highlights your strengths.

  1. Start positive. List at least one positive part about your job, such as the opportunity to work with a team of innovators or develop a skill that you’re passionate about.

  2. Stay focused on the tasks. Criticizing the company or coworkers at your old job can lead to messy politics, especially if the hiring manager knows people who work there.

    Choose a specific example of unreasonable expectations put on you, such as consistently working sixty-hour weeks when you had been told in your interview that you would work forty except in rare circumstances.

  3. Turn the conversation back to your strengths. There are two common ways to do this:

    • Show how the negatively impacted your potential. Try to focus on a barrier that prevented you from playing to your strengths.

      Example Answer:

      “The unreasonable amount of paperwork I was required to do prevented me from doing what I do best, which is working with people and forming connections with clients.”

    • Explain how the challenges you listed in Part 2 were excellent learning opportunities that helped you develop additional skills to adapt to the situation.

      Example Answer:

      “The disorganization across the company as a whole helped me understand how being organized impacts productivity, and I was inspired to make organization a personal goal. My stress level and work output drastically improved when I started implementing these new measures to my daily routine.”

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?”

If you stick to those three main parts of your answer, you’ll be in a good position. Here is what you should NOT do:

  • Don’t bash your former company, boss, and/or coworkers. Even though they may have been the sorriest, most incompetent bunch of morons you’ve ever had the displeasure of working with, you aren’t going to score any points by complaining to your potential new boss.

    Whatever you tell the interviewer is just hearsay, and keep in mind there’s a chance he or she might know someone who works at the company you’re leaving.

  • Don’t drone on and on about every single bad thing that happened at your old job. Yes, the interviewer opened the door, but no, you’re not supposed to waltz right through it. That’s part of the trap; it’s a test to see how you respond.

    Are you the type of person to whine and complain about everything and make excuses, or the type to stay focused and remain positive? That is what the employer is deciding about you when they ask this question.

  • Don’t say you left because you were bored. This immediately raises a red flag about your perseverance. A reasonable employer would have to wonder if you’re flaky and likely to quit as soon as you get bored at this new job, too.

Negativity will have to be part of the answer based on the nature of the question, but the best responses are the ones that take a negative and turn it into a positive that shows off your strengths.

Because of the artful complexity of formulating a strong answer, “just winging it” is not a good strategy to take. Expect this question to arise and properly prepare for it, especially if you’ve made it to the final interview stage where you’re being closely critiqued on every answer.

Examples of Good Answers to “What Did You Like Least About Your Job?”

  1. Example Answer 1:

    “I feel like I learned a lot during my time with the company. Unfortunately, because the company was growing so quickly, there was a lot of disorganization that resulted in frequent managerial changes and different people giving different sets of instructions. While the inconsistencies were frustrating, I better appreciate the importance of clear communication and feel that I am better prepared for fast-paced and rapidly changing environments.”

    This is a well-rounded response that focuses on how the company’s weaknesses made the employee recognize the importance of team communication and develop additional skills to adapt in a disorganized environment.

    This would be a great lead-in to another common interview question: “Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work.”

  2. Example Answer 2:

    “I work with a great team of people, but there isn’t room to grow within the company. The only way I can be promoted above my current level is if someone retires or leaves. I’m looking for an opportunity that would allow me to keep developing my skills and work my way up to positions of leadership.”

    Stressing the importance of flourishing within a company and taking on additional responsibilities over time is a good strategy. It shows that you are ready to thrive in the right environment.

  3. Example Answer 3:

    “I had some excellent opportunities to work with big clients. My least favorite part of the job was the excessive amount of paperwork that prevented me from spending more time doing what I’m good at, which is talking to people and forming connections with potential new clients.”

    The word “excessive” is key in this reply because it indicates that the employee doesn’t necessarily hate paperwork in general, but rather, an unreasonable amount of paperwork that detracts from the employee’s passions and strengths.

Examples of Poor Answers to “What Did You Like Least About Your Job?”

Example Answer 1:

“My boss was overbearing and unreasonable.”

Criticizing your former boss isn’t going to reassure a new employer that you’ll be able to follow instructions and work well under the leadership of a supervisor. Are you going to have that same attitude if a new boss critiques your work?

Example Answer 2:

“The repetitive work became tedious. I need a challenge.”

While it’s good that you like to be challenged, most jobs have a repetitive routine. The hiring manager would have good reason to be worried that you will leave if you aren’t adequately challenged. This kind of response also calls into question your attention span and ability to focus.

Example Answer 3:

“I didn’t have enough flexibility with my schedule.”

Employers want stability and dependability. This type of response indicates that you’re likely to abuse sick days and exhaust your requests for time off, or show up late and leave early.

Even if you justify your response by trying to work around schedules for dependents, it still leaves a bad impression for a boss who would rather hire a reliable employee who’s able to work a full shift.

Example Answer 4:

“The company has a high turnover rate, and I had four bosses in two years. I need more stability.”

Even if the company you are applying to is currently in a stable position right now, it may not be in the future, especially in a tumultuous economy. A hiring manager may be concerned that you wouldn’t be able to withstand company transitions or growth challenges.

Example Answer 5:

“I wasn’t getting along with my coworkers.”

Immediate red flag. Employers want team players. If you were having so many issues with your colleagues, you aren’t likely to fit in with a new team, either.

Final Thoughts

When a hiring manager inevitably asks what you liked least about your job, it’s tempting to seize the opportunity to bad-mouth your former company and coworkers. But by falling into that trap, you’re drastically reducing the chances of being hired.

The most important takeaways are:

  • Turn the negative into a positive.

  • Focus on a negative element of the job instead of the company or the people.

  • Redirect to highlight your strengths.

By putting some serious thought into your answer, you will not only stand apart from less-prepared candidates but also drastically increase your chances to make a good first impression on an interviewer.

Planning for the most commonly asked questions in a job interview will give you an edge over the competition.

The strongest candidates are ready for anything, from the beginning of the interview when asked, “How did you hear about this position?” to the end when an employer finishes with, “Do you have any questions for me?”

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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