Categorize this question under “trick questions,” because it is meant to tempt you to vent. Double that temptation if your last job was less than wonderful.
Often my new clients share with me that if they are asked this question during an interview, they will openly describe both the good and bad elements of their last company “in the name of honesty.” That’s a slippery slope.
Why You Shouldn’t Share Negative Information About a Previous Employer
You may be the most ethical, wonderful and pleasant professional ever, but unless you are personal friends with the interviewer, he or she has no way of knowing if your comments are “fair and balanced” or if you are a malcontent. Why risk the potentially negative exposure?
The general rule is to never say anything negative about your last job to your prospective employer. Certainly there is a time and a place for such discussions, but it’s generally not during a job interview.
Your job interview is your precious window of time that you won through your commitment to your job search goals. Use this time to focus on your future. A positive attitude and positive comments are extremely important in a job interview. I cannot stress this enough.
What You Can Say About Your Last Job And Keep It Positive
So what do you say when your interviewer asks you the question, “What didn’t you like about your last job?”
Here are some options:
- Letting people go. Sometimes it was necessary, but I dislike doing it.
Have you ever had to fire anyone? This is the best answer you could give. No one likes it (at least the majority of people don’t) and it’s a good benign answer. It’s also short and doesn’t open a can of worms. Also, it would be difficult to over-talk this answer.
- Reprimanding team members. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it’s not something I enjoy.
Never fired anyone? This is another great answer that keeps things clean and simple.
- My last job was actually a very positive experience. The only thing I didn’t like was the commute.
These answers are intended to help you breeze past this trick question, so you can invest your window of time on building the value of who you could be to your potential employer.