The interview question: “what did you dislike the most about your last position?” is not an easy one to answer. Job seekers need to demonstrate their strengths and abilities to perform the job well. They need to give the hiring manager a sense of their fit with the position and the culture of the organization they hope to join. Your task as an interviewee, then, is to avoid the twin pitfalls that can result from a negatively phrased question and to transition to discussing your capabilities, your fit, and your positive goals.
First, avoid giving an answer critical of a past organization or employer. As job search and employment expert Alison Doyle observes, “You don’t want the interviewer to think that you’ll speak negatively about the new job or the company when you’re ready to move on, if you get this job. Rather, it makes sense to talk about yourself and what you’re looking for in a new role.”
In strategizing a potential answer, be sure to accentuate the positive qualities of your past employer first. One method is to use a transition word such as while, since, although, or because to indicate that, after acknowledging the strengths of your past employer, you will pivot to your goals in seeking new employment. Doyle provides a sample answer using this structure: “while the people at XYZ Company were terrific to work with, I felt that the opportunities for me there were limited by the structure and size of the company. I believe that a larger company with an international presence can offer challenges, as well as opportunities unavailable at a smaller firm.” Specific instances of opportunities the job-seeker seeks can then focus on how the job-seeker can contribute.
The second potential pitfall in answering a question like this: International recruitment consultancy firm Michael Page cautions job-seekers not to “be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses that will leave you open to further problems.” In other words, do not dwell on elements of your past job you actually didn’t like. Remember that the task is to demonstrate your potential contributions to the company at hand. In addition, Michael Page recommends giving “your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job.”
One approach is to discuss areas of the past company, such as size or specific processes that are different in the new one. For example, a job-seeker might mention that the potential new company builds positive interaction between the marketing and production departments by planning and implementing specific team-building activities and meetings, and note that similar team-building in the past employer’s departments was not part of the company culture because the departments were in different cities. Then the discussion could move to specific contributions the interviewee could make to the team-building activities.
Crafting interview responses to difficult questions is a skill that can be learned, refined, and practiced! Both Alison Doyle and the firm Michael Page offer advice on how to answer interview questions at: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewquestionsanswers/qt/previsoujob.htm and http://www.michaelpage.com/content/39-top-10-interview-questions-and-how-you-should-answer-them.html#.UzM8ws4TeNI, respectively.