Job Interview Question: What Won't You Miss About Your Last Job?

How to respond to one of the stickiest interview questions

Two men in a job interview

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Interviewers have a way of putting you in a bind with some sticky questions. To get a sense of your personal and professional passions, strengths, and weaknesses, interviewers may attempt to determine what type of work activities do not hold your interest. 

The underlying assumption is that you will put your best work into tasks about which you are passionate. Therefore, the question “What won’t you miss about your past or current job?” helps the interviewer understand whether you will be suited for the responsibilities of the job at hand.

The key to answering this question is to be honest yet positive in response to what seems like a negative question. Although they're asking what you disliked about your last job, this is not the time to badmouth supervisors or colleagues, complain about the company's facilities, or rant about a project or task you despised. Your interviewer is liable to wonder if you'll do the same thing at their company.

Compare the Jobs

Along with being honest and positive, your answer should look ahead to the job for which you are applying. As you're preparing for this question, start by making a list of the various parts of your past or current position that you liked the least. Try to include some duties that you had to carry out only rarely and weren't central to your overall success. 

Next, examine the job you’re interviewing for and make a list of the different responsibilities included in the description. If the job advertisement lacks detail, look at the employment section of the organization's website to see if there is a more elaborate description. You can also scan major job sites by title to see what other employers incorporate into the job.

Try to order the list of activities involved with your target job in terms of priority. If you are unsure about the relative importance of various components of the job, ask professionals in the field to help you with your appraisal. 

Pick 3 Low-Priority Responsibilities

Now, pick three aspects of your past or current job that you didn't enjoy. The trick, though, is to choose items that aren't high on the priority list in your target role.

Compare your lists and pull out past items that are not a major part of the job you're seeking. You want to avoid giving any impression that you're not likely to enjoy significant aspects of the job. If your previous negatives are all central to this new job, then you probably shouldn't be interviewing. Keep looking for a job that's a good fit.

Stay Positive

As with any tough job questions, you want to avoid negative wording in your answer. Frame your explanation in a way that shows that you were able to get the job done even when faced with less invigorating tasks.

Be truthful about the duties you disliked in your previous job, but take a positive approach in explaining your reasons why. You wouldn't want to say, for example, "As a retail sales manager, I hated taking inventory counts. It was one of the most boring things I've ever had to do, and it drove me crazy."

Instead, you should phrase your answer in a way that suggests you enjoyed more stimulating, challenging projects but still learned to cultivate the right degree of discipline for tasks that were tedious but necessary.

For example, you might say, "As sales manager for a clothing boutique, I really enjoyed almost all aspects of my work. I suppose the facet that held the least interest for me was taking inventory of unsold clothing, as I did not find it mentally stimulating. However, I was able to focus on the details of the job and make accurate counts, as I knew my results would be important when it came to projects I did enjoy, like selecting pieces for our new fall line."

Sample Answers

Take a look at some additional sample answers and use them for inspiration while coming up with your own response to the question, "What did you dislike most about your previous job?"

  • While I loved my time as an administrative assistant at XYZ Company, I always wanted the chance to demonstrate my fundraising and grant-writing experience. I just never had the opportunity to expand my duties. I'm excited at the prospect of this position, which offers a 60-40 split between administrative duties and grant writing. This kind of position will allow me to show my skills in multiple fields.
  • As a salesperson for ABC Company, I gained valuable sales skills and had great mentorship from my superiors. I enjoyed being able to make sales calls on my own, but I always wished we also did some team sales. I feel that I am extremely skilled at making sales in a group environment, and I love the opportunity to work with and learn from my colleagues. I believe I would thrive in a sales position at your company, because of the heavy emphasis you place on teamwork and group sales.

An interviewer's job is to uncover characteristics that might make you a questionable fit for the job. Always prepare for the toughest questions so you won't be caught off guard.