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Many questions you receive in interviews are more than what they seem on the surface. One such question is "What do you like least about your current (or previous) job?" Here are five tactics for tackling this seemingly simple but, in reality, quite complex interview question.
1. Understand what this question is asking before you try to answer it.
When asking you this question, your interviewer could be trying to find out any or all of the following: Are you clear about why you're leaving (or have left) your job? Might you run into the same issues here that are causing you to leave your job? Are you quick to blame others when things don't go as planned? Do you badmouth coworkers and managers? Are you ambitious? Do you work well in teams? Will you fit into our culture?
There are more where these came from, too. The point is this interview question is important in that your answer can reveal a lot about you and your candidacy. So don't take it lightly. And when you start to think about how you'd field this question, you'll want to keep in mind all of the above that an interviewer might be searching for when asking you this question.
2. Never be negative.
As mentioned above, your interviewer will be fishing to find out if you tend to speak negatively about others you work with or work for. If you do, this could be one of those so-called red flags that put a quick end to your candidacy. No employer wants to hire someone who's fast to blame others, criticize others, or speak badly in any way about others, especially in a brief job interview. This sends the signal that you might not be the most congenial of employees, and that you might be quick to do the same thing (speak negatively about others) in your next role.
And so, make it a rule never to include, as part of your answer to this question, something negative about a coworker, manager, client, company, or project. Of course, this is no easy task, because if you're interviewing for a new job, chances are there are things at your current job that aren't great, that might tick you off, that might even anger you. However, an interview is not the time and place to rant and criticize. Instead, it's a time for you to be as positive as you can. And if you can show that you take responsibility, that you are the reason, not someone or something else, why you're searching for a new job, then you'll come across as a mature, strong candidate.
Maybe try this, too: Think of your current job like a relationship that's just not working out, in which no one's to blame, in which each side has simply grown apart, has different goals, is moving in different directions. And then, with this in mind, begin to think about how you'd answer the question.
3. Don't choose something like "administrative duties" that you'll likely have to do at every company, in every role.
Although it might be true that you despise dumping data into tiny Excel cells once a month, think twice before mentioning something like "menial admin work" in your interview as part of your answer. Also, things like "going to unnecessary meetings," "traveling for work," "attending conferences," "doing marketing stuff," etc., are probably not the best things to mention.
The reason is almost everybody, at every level, even the C-suite level, has to roll up their sleeves and do some dirty, not-super-fun work once in a while. And if you talk about this when answering this question, your interviewer will come away with one of or both of these thoughts: 1. "Hmmm .. that's not good, they're going to be pretty unhappy about doing that here, too," and 2. "Huh ... that's not good, they don't sound like a team player and someone willing to do what it takes to help us meet our goals."
Another reason you don't want to answer with one of these (yes, boring) tasks is you'll have wasted your chance to nail this question by making your answer about why you're a great fit for the position (read on for more on that).
4. Kick off your answer with all the things you like and have liked about your job.
Even if your interview doesn't ask you what you like about your current or previous job, begin your answer with all the positive aspects about your current or latest role. Don't spend too much time on them—you want to pretty quickly answer your interviewer's question, after all—but taking a minute to list all the great (or even just good) things is a helpful tactic. It puts you and your answer in a positive light, shows that you're not quick to criticize, and gets across that you've had a fulfilling and fruitful experience that you can build upon in your next role.
Also, for extra credit, highlight things you like about your current job that you know your interviewer is looking for in the ideal candidate for this new role. So, work into your answer skills you have that will translate into this new job, areas you've worked in that a person in this role will be exposed to, and anything else you can think of that will show you have the right type of experience to succeed in the role.
5. Focus your answer on you and your goals but also mention how you hope to help your potentially new employer achieve its goals.
This might sound a bit difficult, but if you follow #1 through #4, you'll find that #5 will fall into place quite easily. Here's an example. Say that one of the main reasons why you're looking for a new job is you want to work for a larger company and/or you want to reach and affect more people. This is a perfectly fine reason to be looking for a new job, and one upon which you can build a good answer to this question.
So, with this in mind, when you begin to answer the "What do you like least?" question, you first talk about all the great parts of your current role, including having had the ability to lead various projects, implement various new systems, work with colleagues to accomplish various goals. In doing so, you make sure to mention the type of work and projects that you know the ideal candidate will be involved with in the role you're interviewing for. Maybe you mention you've enjoyed managing people (something the candidate will be doing), working with both big and small teams (another thing), and problem solving and creating solutions with teams and independently (yet another thing). Of course, you want to get as detailed as possible when you answer.
After that, you then get into the part about how now you're looking to reach a larger audience, want to manage more people, work with larger clients, etc. In doing this, you note that you've a hit a ceiling in your current role and that to grow and further challenge yourself you need to look elsewhere. By answering like this, you'll have covered what you like least about your current role—that its reach is not as far and wide as you would like—and done so without being negative, without criticizing anyone or anything. You've also shown that you're ambitious, that you want to challenge yourself.
And then, as a final note, you say something to the effect of: "And I'd very much welcome the challenge of helping a large, successful company like yours reach even more people, affect even more people, and grow even larger."
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