With a question like "What did you like most about your last job?" an interviewer is trying to discover if you'll be a good fit with the company and its current employees.
This is not a trick question with a single "right answer." Nor is it usually a make-or-break question that will end your candidacy if you don't answer it correctly.
However, as with all job interview questions, answering carelessly and thoughtlessly can reduce the chance that you will receive an offer.
The interviewer want to know what makes you tick and what you're looking for in a future position.
The good news is that you can think about how to best answer the question in advance, with a focus on demonstrating that you are a good fit for the job and the employer.
The best strategy, as usual, is to formulate a response that you more or less get down pat prior to the interview.
The Best Approach
Start your preparation by making a list of what you enjoyed most about your last job, and how this opportunity compares with your current and past jobs:
- What did you like most about your last job, and your employers?
- What did your boss and co-workers praise you for, or include in your performance reviews as examples of your excellent work?
- What elements of this job seem to be similar to your current and previous jobs?
- How is this employer like your previous employers?
- What about this opportunity reminds you of what you liked about other jobs you have had?
- What about this employer reminds you of what you liked about working for your previous employer?
Focus on Specific Elements
Then, focus on the specific elements you enjoyed that are related to the new job: the work, the people (customers and coworkers), the market, the industry, or the type of organization. If questions about the new job occur to you as you are prepping a response, make a list of those questions, and consider asking them in the interview.
Points to Emphasize
Answering this interview question can be easy if you're prepared. A number of the below points have been touched on already; all of them bear repeating.
- Steer your answer towards some of the attributes that your prospective company shares with your previous position.
- Keep your response professional (meaning, focused on your last job).
- Dig deep into why you loved and what you loved at your prior position, and answer accordingly.
How to Spin
Wrap your response by spinning it into what you will love about your potential position with the interviewing company.
Be sure to always answer openly and honestly about what you admired about your previous company (and avoid describing the negatives). Also, skip the trivial (to the employer) or logistical aspects, like the free coffee, the short/cheap commute, and other things you appreciated that aren't related to the actual work and the organization.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Don't make the mistakes that many before you have made—avoid these all-too-common pitfalls with this interview question:
- Don't share something that could paint you in a negative light (like that your previous job was so simple anyone could do it).
- Don't share something irrelevant (like that a co-worker's boyfriend was a musician so you got into his gigs for free).
- Don't over-exaggerate achievements from your last job.
- Don't be too vague with your response—be detailed in what you liked.
- Don't answer with something that isn't relatable at all to the current job that you're applying for.
Be Confident When Answering
As with all interview questions, don't be timid when responding to the question. Put your self-assuredness front and center to truly impress your interviewer.
Figuring out a response to this question is easy; follow the below examples for guidance on how to formulate a response.
- In my last job I was a member of a five-person team, and we worked together on a variety of large-scale projects where each of us was responsible for one part of the project. I really enjoyed the teamwork aspect of the job, and liked seeing how all the pieces of our projects came together in the end. The teamwork aspect of that job — and this job — is something that greatly appeals to me, because I typically end up learning a lot about what I'm capable of when working in synch with others.
- I really liked that my last company put career growth front and center throughout my tenure. Their in-house training on two software programs allowed me to advance to a senior position within a year. This same emphasis on career growth was one of the things that appealed to me most about this job, and which really excites me about the prospect.
Again (and this bears repeating!) if you're looking for an exceptional way to answer the "What did you like most about your last job?" question, tying in your admiration for your potential employer (and what they can offer you) while also highlighting your biggest like from your last job is definitely a good route to go.