Is there anything you really hate about your current or previous job?

If it sounds like a loaded question, it is one. You can talk your way out of a job. This question needs thought.

The reason for asking the question is to test responses. Some people trip over the question, and babble. Others try to avoid it. Some answer it honestly, others are diplomatic.

In practice, you need to think about a few things:

  • Is the old job like the new one?
  • Did you have issues with people in the other job?
  • What are the risks of an honest answer?
  • Can you really put your foot in it somehow by saying what you think?

You don't have to be dishonest, or even evasive, but there are times when keeping your mouth shut is a good move at a job interview.

If you're not sure what you're saying, don't say it.

Is the old job like the new one?

If it is, there are a few obvious problems. The work is similar. The work environment will be similar. The employers might not be similar, but they naturally don't want people who hate the job.

Your own circumstances might also be involved. If you quit or were fired from a previous similar job, you can see that employers would naturally be interested to know why. You've probably explained your side of the story in any earlier termination related question, but you can consider this a supplementary question to that one.

Did you have issues with people in the other job?

If you did, unless they already know that, it shouldn't be in your answer to this particular question. People problems aren't actually job related, they're people related. Individuals can be issues, but this is about the job, and the work, not personal clashes.

It also looks bad, in some cases, if people issues interfered seriously with your employment. Any employer is going to wonder about your ability to deal with holding a job, if a clash with someone is going to cause you to leave or get fired. Even if you're in the right, there are other ways of dealing with those issues, and they expect you to know how.

What are the risks of an honest answer?

Bluntly, an answer like I was bored out of my mind isn't ever going to be a great answer, even if it was true. If it's the same sort of job, you've just blown it. People do actually give answers like this, and if the honesty is impressive, the thinking isn't.

You can say things like

  • I really didn't think I was ever going to get anywhere. I wasn't getting a chance at higher duties, or really getting much training.
  • The workload was inadequate. I'd do my work, and be left with empty space, and wasn't given any more to do. I really want to do more, to do a real job.
  • I had been doing the same level of work for years. I needed to move on, to a more demanding job with some chance of promotion. Eventually I decided it was better to leave and try and find one.

You'll notice that all these answers refer to an inadequate job, and your desire for more work, or better opportunities. The answer relates to a logical desire to do better.

Can you really put your foot in it somehow by saying what you think?

In just about all cases, the answer is yes. There are a few very important things not to say when asked if there was anything you didn't like about your job:

  • Never badmouth an employer.
  • Don't emphasize your own case about a job you lost.
  • Do NOT talk about clashes with supervisors or managers.
  • Don't be a victim, saying your former employer was an ogre.

If you say anything negative, it will reflect on your own feelings about work. A person with a grudge or a feeling of being victimized can be very difficult to work with. You may be a great worker, but you've created an image of yourself as an argumentative, possibly thorny person.

In any situation where you're given the opportunity to be negative at a job interview, just don't do it.

There's a positive side to the question, however, because you might get a chance to give some information about why you want the new job.

The logical connection between the old job and the new one is tricky, so make sure you're alert when you're asked.