If you’re interviewing while you have a job, you can expect employers to ask, “What do you dislike about your current job?”
And if you’ve already left, they may ask, “What did you dislike about your previous position?”
There are a couple of key pitfalls to avoid in your answer, and there’s a certain way to structure your answer to boost your odds of landing a new position.
Coming up, I’ll share how to give the best answer possible, with word-for-word examples.
When an interviewer asks you what you dislike about your current or previous job, it’s not an invitation to badmouth.
Even if they say, “What do you like least about your job?” they’re not looking for a long story about how awful the job or company is.
Believe it or not, you should answer this interview question with a positive tone.
An overly negative answer will make the hiring manager worry that you’re difficult to please and may cause them to look to other job seekers for their position.
There’s a specific answer structure that you should follow, which I’ll explain below.
The best way to answer, “What do you dislike about your job?” is to start by discussing one or more positive factors that you appreciate about the job.
Do this briefly. You don’t want to seem like you’re avoiding the real question in your job interview, but do find at least one positive angle to begin your answer.
Then, as the second step, name one factor about the job/company that you feel could be better.
Always name just one factor that you dislike about your job.
This will keep your answer short and concise and will prevent you from talking too negatively about your current or former job.
Also, don’t sound upset or emotional in the interview.
You want to sound like you’re simply observing a situation with a professional attitude and commenting on an area that could be improved.
Talk about your last job almost as if you’re a consultant talking about how a particular company could improve their workplace, efficiency of specific tasks, etc.
You should use the steps/rules above whether you’re currently employed and talking about your current job, or whether you’ve already left and are discussing a previous employer.
Next, let’s look at some sample answers so you can practice your own response and hear what the best answers will sound like.
I enjoy my current position, but one area that my present employer could improve is employee retention. We’ve had high turnover and I can feel the whole team’s mood dip when we receive an email that yet another person has left. Otherwise, it’s a great office environment and I’ve enjoyed all of the projects and work.
I enjoy the work environment and company culture in my present role. However, my particular role has become repetitive now that I’ve mastered the basics. Management seems to be slow in assigning new work or handing out additional responsibilities, so I don’t always feel like I am receiving enough challenge from the role.
I feel that I could be growing faster and learning more if I were challenged more, which is one reason I’m looking to join a new company and take on a higher-level job now.
I enjoy my work, but we’ve gone through multiple company acquisitions in the past few years so I have concerns about the stability of my job and the organization as a whole.
I’ve had four bosses in a two-year period, for example. My position has been changed a couple of times in terms of focus and while I still enjoy the work, I’m not sure this company is the ideal place for me to continue growing my career.
I’d prefer a workplace with more stability and a clearer future so that I can focus on growing my career and producing great work, rather than always adjusting to new organizational changes and structures in the workplace.
During some times of transition, employees have gone weeks without being given new tasks and have essentially sat idle. This has led me and other team members to feel we’re not developing our skills or growing in our careers. At least, not as much as we could be.
I enjoy my current job, but one area of potential improvement is the speed at which we implement new ideas.
Often, I see competitors take an idea and roll it out much faster than we do, whether it’s a new product or new feature.
So we’re left playing catch-up in the marketplace.
I have friends and colleagues in other firms in the industry, which is how I know the speed at which other companies are innovating.
Because of this, I feel our company is in a position to do more innovation and move more quickly, but we don’t take full advantage yet.
As seen in the sample answers above, you should always be naming one single factor that you disliked about your job.
There’s no difference in whether the employer asks, “What do you dislike about your job?” or “What do you like least about your job?”
Also, notice how the example answers above sound positive and motivated, despite talking about one area you disliked about your current/last job.
You can see this tone being used in the sample answers above, in phrases such as:
Even in the last sentence of the final sample answer above, there are ways that you could say this much more negatively.
Instead, the answer sounds generally positive and optimistic by saying:
This type of attitude is critical to demonstrate in any job interview and is especially important when answering a seemingly-negative question like, “What do you like least about your job?”
Employers are a lot more likely to hire a new employee who shows enthusiasm and eagerness to grow/learn.
They want someone who will find job satisfaction in the role, and who wants a challenging, career-advancing position.
They’d rather hire someone who presents their job search in that light versus someone who is simply looking for any new position they can find or seeking more money.
In the eyes of employers, the person seeking challenges and growth will be more likely to stay with the company long-term and put forth their maximum effort.
Those are a significant part of what hiring managers look for in an interview and can sway their hiring decision!
There’s nothing wrong with looking for more money or a new job because you’re unemployed right now, but that’s not the best way to answer this interview question.
Before we wrap up, there are a couple of critical pitfalls and mistakes to avoid.
The first mistake to avoid: talking too much in your answer. You should respond in an honest and upfront way, but also be selective in what you share.
Aim for 60 seconds maximum and avoid giving unnecessary details, especially if those details make you sound negative.
Also, avoid any answer that makes it sound like you struggle to work with others.
Don’t say that you couldn’t get along with coworkers because of company politics, or that you disliked your team and didn’t feel comfortable with them.
Also, never say that you didn’t get along with a former boss, or your future boss may wonder if you were part of the problem.
In general, it’s best to avoid stories involving conflicts with others when answering questions about what you disliked in a job.
Instead, talk about one or two skills you wish you had more opportunity to learn, one or two tasks you would have liked to do more of, an opportunity you wish the company took better advantage of, etc.
That’s how to sound positive in your interview when answering this question.
Even though this question sounds negative, the key to a successful interview answer is to avoid badmouthing.
Make a positive impression by using a two-step answer containing the following:
Try to sound motivated, positive, and enthusiastic in your answer.
Show employers that you’re not angry or negative about your current job; you’re simply looking for the right job as the next step to reach your career goals.
Keep your answer to 60 seconds, and don’t dwell on the topic.
If the interviewer wants more info, they can always ask a follow-up question (which isn’t necessarily a bad sign… it just means they’d like to understand your background and interests better).
Related interview questions:
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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