Even for those of us who genuinely love our current roles and companies, “What do you like least about your job?” is a topic that could easily spur a lengthy monologue over a few rounds of drinks with friends. But if you’re asked this as an interview question, it’s not the time to dish about, for example, how your coworker doesn’t believe in using headphones or your employer thinks that the best reward for a job well done is a pizza party.
Because “What do you like least about your job?” can feel like a bit of a “gotcha” question, you’ll want to craft your response with care. We talked to a few career experts and got their insights to help you avoid the pitfalls and answer it the right way.
Why interviewers ask “What do you like least about your current job?”
While this isn’t a “trick” or “gotcha” question, the hiring manager probably wants to learn more than just what you dislike. “Asking questions that feel ‘negative’ like this one can help employers assess whether you are honest and straightforward or not,” says Muse career coach and the director of Coach Connect Eloise Eonnet. “If they get a clear, poised, honest answer, they trust you more, which is key.”
The specifics of your answer matter, too. “They may also ask this question to make sure you really want the job you're interviewing for,” Eonnet says. Basically, “They'll expect to hear that you dislike something currently, but that joining their team would fix it for you.” If what you like least would be part of this job too, you’re likely not going to be happy in this position—and you may not have done all the research you should have before applying.
But being honest and clear doesn’t mean venting. Even though you’re talking about something you dislike, you should show that you can do so professionally. You don’t want your interviewer thinking that you’d be a negative addition to their workplace.
How to answer “What do you like least about your current job?”
“Be honest when answering this question, but brief,” Eonnet says. “Share something that you don’t like very much or wish weren’t the way it was.” Then, spend the majority of your answer focusing on connecting your dislike back to this job. For example, consider “talking about the skill sets you would use to thrive in this position and what you look forward to if you were to join,” Eonnet says.
Let’s go through preparing your answer step by step:
1. Choose what aspect of your current job you’d like to talk about.
Reflect on the aspects of your current position that could be better. Is there something you’d like to do more or less? Is there something about the work environment or the way things are done that isn’t ideal for you? Is there a responsibility at your current job that simply isn’t challenging you anymore? Do you feel stagnant in your professional development?
Don’t go too negative or focus on specific interpersonal problems. Your answer shouldn’t leave the interviewer believing they could be the star of your next gossip session if things don’t go well. Speaking too negatively of your current employer ends up reflecting poorly on you, not the company. If you must vent, save that for your friends.
Here are some of the kinds of job aspects you could talk about:
- A task you no longer want to do or want to do less
- A type of work you’d like to do (or do more of)
- A feeling that you’re ready for more responsibility
- A lack of opportunities for professional growth and development
- A work environment that isn’t best suited for you
- A skill you’d like to learn or knowledge base you’d like to build but can’t in your current role
- The industry your current company is in
- The kind of client or customer your current role or company serves
- The type of company or team you work for (for example a startup vs. a more established company or a larger vs. smaller team)
- The kind of communication your current company, management, or team uses
- A process or approach that your current team or company uses
- A lack of flexibility in how you approach your work
- A lack of flexibility in your schedule or where you work
- A lack of interaction or community between colleagues
- Company or team values or priorities that are different from your own.
Then, look over the job description. What about this job would be different from what you do and where you work now? What drew you to apply in the first place? See where the overlap lies between what you dislike about your current job and will be different in your new job. One way to answer is to talk about a responsibility you’d get to have at your new job that your current role doesn’t offer. For example, if the job you’re interviewing for requires that you deliver presentations to large groups, you could share that you wish your current job gave you the opportunity to flex the public speaking skills you’ve honed at your local Toastmasters club.
Whatever you do, don’t decide to declare your disdain for a duty that’s integral to the job you’re interviewing for. But if you’re having trouble finding something you dislike about your current job that isn’t also part of this opportunity—it might be time to withdraw your application.
2. Frame the negative in a positive—or neutral—way.
No matter what you talk about, always take the opportunity to turn the negative into a potential positive with your new employer. “You don’t want to focus too much time on something you hate or don’t like,” says Tamara Rasberry, an HR Manager in Washington, DC. Instead, you might talk about how this aspect of your current role has taught you something—either in terms of skills or about yourself—or how it prepared you for this job that you’re interviewing for. “Even when you briefly mention something you don’t like, highlight that you are well-versed in it but that it simply doesn’t challenge you anymore or utilize all of your strengths,” Rasberry says.
So if your biggest gripe is that you haven’t gotten a raise or promotion in years, talk more about how you’ve mastered your current role and you’re ready to take the next step in your career at a company that values your skills and experience—rather than how your current employer hasn’t acknowledged that. If you hate how your current company holds a two-hour meeting about every single thing, you can frame it as a less agile work environment than you’d like and how you’ve discovered that you are more productive in a role where you have more flexibility to manage your own time.
Sometimes, of course, there’s no way around it. You’re in a toxic work environment and trying to frame it positively or even neutrally would be a lie. In this case, briefly state the main issue—no need to get into the nitty-gritty—and quickly move onto what you’ve taken from the job. By pivoting to how your current role was a necessary and informative building block for your next career move, you show your ability to find the silver lining and do what needs to get done.
3. Explicitly connect your answer to the new opportunity.
Don’t forget to tie your answer back to this job directly. Remember how you based which aspect of your job you liked least on what would be different about your current job? Now’s the time to really spell out that difference. Will this role give you the opportunity to focus more on bigger strategies than small details? Will you be able to lead projects or a team? Will the environment at this company better allow you to do your best work? Tell the interviewer exactly how what you disliked about your current job led you to apply here.
Example answers for “What Do You Like Least About Your Job?”
Need some inspiration? Consider these sample answers:
An example answer if you want to do a similar job for a different kind of company
By concentrating on the positives of the new employer, you can avoid mentioning anything explicitly negative about your current job.
“While I enjoyed working for a large law firm because I was able to gain experience across several areas of law, I’d prefer to join a team where my work would have a deeper impact in one area, specifically the entertainment industry. I’m glad this job has given me a broad baseline knowledge of law and helped me figure out what area I’d like to work in. But I’m ready to take the next step in my career by bringing the broader knowledge I’ve gained to a smaller, entertainment-focused firm like yours.”
An example answer if you want to tackle different job duties or to take the next step in your career path
This answer briefly mentions a current responsibility, but focuses on the opportunity the new job would provide.
“In my current role, I’m responsible for drafting media lists to pitch. While I’ve developed a knack for this and can do it when it is necessary, I’m looking forward to a job that allows me to take all I’ve learned about different media outlets and use it to inform a more hands-on role in working with media partners. That’s one of the things that most excited me about your account supervisor position.”
An example answer if you disagree with your current employers’ strategies
This response speaks more bluntly and directly about something you find not-so-great about your current role or company. But it still ends on a positive note that spotlights your enthusiasm for the new job.
“My current company acquires new business through traditional methods like cold calling and direct mail. I’m impressed with the digital, email, and social acquisition campaigns you’ve implemented and how they reflect a more modern, innovative approach. While I appreciate traditional methods and have learned a lot about the fundamentals that gave rise to some of the newer methods, I’m eager to work for a company that embraces change.”
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.