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How to Answer "What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?"

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Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Turning A Negative Job Interview Question Into Something Positive

Dear Nurse Beth, How can I answer an interview question like this "what is the one thing you least like in your last job". As I'm a new nurse I don't know how to answer this question in a most appropriate way?

How to Answer "What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?"

Dear How to Answer,

You ask a really good question. Everyone dreads the behavioral type questions that put you on the spot. I'll give you a formula for answering your question and others like it. I call them the "negative" interview questions because they prompt for a negative response. But the last thing you want in an interview situation is to leave the interviewer or interviewers with negative associations about you.

You cannot possibly anticipate every version of a negative question you may be asked in an interview, but you can learn and apply principles for answering negative interview questions that will get you through any question.

Your goal is to turn a negative into a positive.

You do this by framing your answer in a way that ultimately places you in a positive light. For example, in your case, "What is the one thing you least liked in your last job?" you could answer,

"There were many things I liked about my last job, but there was one thing I didn't love. I worked as a waitress, and when it was really busy, the kitchen would get behind and dinners would be delayed. This would make the customers upset, and they would take it out on me, their waitress.

I learned to anticipate those times and tell my customers ahead of time that it may take a few more minutes than usual to get their meal, but would they like some bread or maybe a free beverage while they waited? If I did this before they became irritated, it would pre-emptively de-escalate the situation. I think sometimes it actually made them feel they were getting special treatment- that was my goal, anyway.

At first, I would be irritated by the kitchen staff for being slow, but the other thing I learned was that the kitchen staff was just as stressed as I was. I realized we were all a team and needed each other to make it work."

By giving this example, you have turned a negative into a positive. More so, you have demonstrated that you are a good team player and understand customer satisfaction. Being a team player and having customer satisfaction skills are both skills that nurses need and employers look for. Note that you never said, "I have great customer skills," (which is not a memorable statement), but instead you gave a memorable example of your great customer skills.

Follow the 70/30 rule.

Segue from the negative to positive as quickly as possible.When talking about a negative, spend only about 30% of your time on the negative. Spend 70% of your time on the positive. In the example above, most of the time is spent on your skills and solutions to the problem, and not the actual problem. Strategically Pick Your Examples

Pick an example that helps show why you are the best candidate for the job. You could have said, "I didn't like the hours or my scheduled shifts at my last job", but this example does not show your problem-solving skills or adaptability. There would be no point.

By contrast, if you said,

"I worked in a dentist's office answering the phone and making appointments. I love to learn and wanted to learn more skills, such as how to do billing or take Xrays", you could go on to elaborate what you did to take advantage of learning opportunities. You will be seen as someone who sets goals and seeks challenges.

Watch the Tone

Even though you have been prompted to answer in the negative, take care with the words you choose. For example, never say, "I hated..." instead say, "It was uncomfortable", "I disliked...". etc. Avoid highly emotive words, and always take the high road. You will sound more professional.

Final Point

Again, you cannot prepare for behavioral questions by memorizing answers. Rather, incorporate the principles. If you are presented with a question you can't answer, for example, "Tell us about a time you had an ethical conflict with a co-worker", you can say. "While I haven't had that exact experience, I have had..." and segue to another example you have prepared to do with conflict. The interviewers will go with it.

Hope these tips help you in your next interview! For more tips, read my book below.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Nurse Beth is an Educator, Writer, Blogger and Subject Matter Expert who blogs about nursing career advice at http://nursecode.com

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7 Comment(s)

spotangel, DNP, RN, NP

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 32 years experience.

One of the things I loved was the rapport with my coworkers. We worked well together under stress and helped each other. When patients were double booked or triple booked and all of them came at the same time, we would prioritize and get them ready for their visits and keep them informed. We also asked the front desk staff to inform us of any issues while waiting. The patients patiently waited as long as they knew they were not forgotten! 
An example!

The thing I liked the least was that Doctors, our bosses, didn’t get enough credit for their hard work.  Go GameStop .. Power to the Player !!🤜🏻

Edited by Ace Savanahh

CommunityRNBSN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community health. Has 3 years experience.

The waitress example was great. It showed something that would realistically be unpleasant (being too busy) and gave it a great spin. 

Mywords1

Specializes in nursing ethics.

I agree and have been interviewed so many times. You could say that there was nothing I didn't like about the job or mention something trivial or I prefer to be busier

JadedCPN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU. Has 15 years experience.

39 minutes ago, Mywords1 said:

I agree and have been interviewed so many times. You could say that there was nothing I didn't like about the job or mention something trivial or I prefer to be busier

I definitely wouldn't say there was nothing I didn't like about the job because most employers are going to know that is a lie 99% of the time. 

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 10 years experience.

I agree, saying "there is nothing I didn't like" would then prompt the question of why you are looking elsewhere. It's dishonest and dishonesty is absolutely detectable. It's better to be honest and then show how you dealt with it.

TheMoonisMyLantern, ADN, LPN, RN

Specializes in Mental health, substance abuse, geriatrics, PCU. Has 14 years experience.

That's the thing with behavioral interview questions, they don't really invoke an honest response. Sure, you may put a kernel of truth in your answer but you always have to wrap it up with a nice silver lining that makes your look like you have a positive attitude and always happy go lucky. Here's the reality, there are a LOT of sucky jobs in healthcare, sucky bosses, sucky organizations and we all know it but aren't allowed to say it because then we're being "negative" and it "looks bad". You know what looks bad? Patient care that's delivered by a nurse stretched so thin they're getting ready to snap like a rubber band, that's what looks bad.

Sorry I'll get off my soapbox, and Nursebeth this comment isn't directed at you or anyone in this thread, I'm just ranting 😄

The reality is that in order to land the jobs you want, you have to learn how to engage in behavioral interviews and be viewed as a potential asset to the company, it's yet another skill nurses have to learn.