How to Talk About Negative Experiences at a Previous Job at an Interview

At some point in their career, almost every employee comes to the realization that the “dream job” does not exist. Even those that look perfect on paper and seem like the perfect culmination of your education and work experience up to that point often fall short of our expectations. Other times, the role itself is great, but office culture or a particularly difficult manager overshadows the good parts.

But even after you leave this position, it’s probably not really for you: there’s a good chance it will come up in your next job interview. Here are some ways to honestly and professionally talk about negative experiences at a previous job if they come up in an interview.

Focus on your goals, not complaints

Instead of going through a list of complaints about your old job, discuss your career goals and how this potential new position can help you achieve them. Or, as Caroline Senisa-Levin said in an article for Forbes: “Speak what you’re looking for, not what you’re running from.”

Emphasize the positive

Given that you are actively looking for a new position, interviewers understand that something did not work out with your last role. So, again, instead of being defensive and thinking that you need to list all the reasons why your last job didn’t work for you, highlight its positives instead.

If the interviewer has specific questions about why you left this position, be sure to answer them (diplomatically). But if they just ask you to tell them about your previous role, you can start with something positive, like describing new skills you’ve learned or how you’ve had the opportunity to work with talented people.

If you need to address deficiencies, be concise and discreet.

Sometimes there is no way to get rid of the negative aspects of your previous job. If/when this happens, this is not your invitation to pour out your soul. Instead, answer the interviewer’s question as concisely as possible, but be as careful as possible . Find general ways to discuss what went wrong instead of revealing any secrets or specific shortcomings of your former employer.

While the company you’re interviewing with may find this information useful from a broader business perspective, your willingness to discuss it may leave them thinking when it comes to you. If you had no problem sharing these things about your former employer, they may be worried that you will do the same after leaving their company.

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