When you’re getting ready for a job interview, it’s always good to try to predict which questions an interviewer might ask. If you’re like most people, you’re fully prepped to field queries about what you know and the experience you have, like “Tell us about your responsibilities in your current job” or “Explain the strategy you used for [project on your resume].”
But don’t stop there! Recruiters and hiring managers also often ask behavioral questions, which can help them get a better idea of your personality and your soft skills. This could include questions like, “What type of work really excites you?” or “Tell us about a time you were frustrated by your colleagues.”
An even more sophisticated example that may not initially seem like a behavioral question is “What do you like least about your job?” Because it can be 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.
Resist the Temptation to Vent
Even for those of us who genuinely love our careers, “What do you like least about your job?” is a question that we could easily wax poetic about over a few rounds of drinks with friends. But an interview is not the time to dish about, for example, how your boss is not nearly as smart as you.
That’s because this question isn’t really about discovering what you dislike, points out Conrad Woody, a partner at Odgers Berndston, an executive search and recruitment firm. More likely, it’s a test of how you would respond to an invitation to vent. “The interviewer wants to know if you’re the type of person who will go negative when given the opportunity,” says Woody.
Your answer should not leave the interviewer believing they could be your next gossip victim if things don’t go well. Speaking negatively of your current employer ends up reflecting poorly on you, not the company. If you must vent, save that for your friends—ideally not ones you work with.
Focus on New Opportunities
A great way to answer this question is to talk about a responsibility or duty 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.
Alternatively, you can speak about a responsibility at your current job that simply isn’t challenging you any longer because you’ve mastered it. Just make sure that whatever it is, it isn’t a duty that’s integral to the job you’re interviewing for!
Frame the Answer in a Positive 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. “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.”
By quickly 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.
What This Looks Like
Need some inspiration? Consider these sample answers:
The “It Was Fun While It Lasted” Answer
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 subject matters, I’d prefer to bring all those learnings to your firm because I believe that your singular focus on the entertainment industry would allow me to have deeper impact.”
The “I’d Rather Be Doing Something Else” Answer
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 have a more hands-on role in working with media partners. That is one of the things that most excited me about your Account Supervisor position.”
The “You Asked, So Here Goes” Answer
There is of course, always the bold option, which is to speak more bluntly and directly about something not-so-great about your current role or company. But again, you’ll want to end 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 have implemented and how they reflect a more modern, innovative approach. While I am flexible enough to succeed in a diversity of work environments, I’m eager to work for a company that embraces change.”
Photo of person in job interview courtesy of Sofie Delauw/Getty Images.
Crystal Marie is a brand marketer and writer who specializes in turning stale resumes and social media profiles into engaging (true!) stories that attract employers. She uses these same talents as a marketer to help brands tell their stories for their target consumers. Crystal Marie is especially passionate about brands and careers in corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion. She can be found on Twitter or Instagram @CrystalMarieCom.More from this Author