Frequently, interviewers like to ask candidates question about your previous job and experience. This is considered as a critical question and requires preparation if you want to overcome it smoothly. So what do they really expect from your answer and how to make a great impression through interview question about your previous job?

Why do they ask this question?

When asking about your previous job, the list of questions could vary:

  • What did you like/dislike about your last job?
  • When were you most satisfied in your job?
  • What was the biggest accomplishment/failure in this position?
  • What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?

By asking these things, most recruiters aren’t really interested in knowing how your last job was. They’re rather trying to know and judge your character. Through your tone and attitude, the employers would decide if you have the qualities they’re looking for and if you really fit the position. By the way, your response also helps them know about your experience and your accomplishment. Generally, although they’re tricky, they’re also a great chance to show them your ability.


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Common mistakes

Be too negative

Even if your last job was a real-life nightmare, you shouldn’t badmouth about it. This would make a very bad impression and definitely not what a professional employee would do. For example, when being asked what you didn’t like about the previous job, you must be extra careful. Some negative aspects can even work against you, such as telling them that the breaks were restricted. The recruiters would think that you are a frequent break-taker who won’t seem to work hard.

Be too positive

Otherwise, exaggerating the good qualities is not a great idea either because your probable future employer might think that you’re not ready enough to move on another job. Neutral attitude when answering interview question about your previous job would be the best choice.

Be too confident

Appearing to be an arrogant person is not good at all. Being confident in yourself and proud of what you have done in the past is a must, but be careful, don’t make them feel you think you are the best choice in the world. For example, don’t answer the question ‘What was the biggest failure?’ by ‘I have never failed at anything.’

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Question about your previous job might be difficult (Photo from Experteer)

So how to answer interview question about your previous job exactly?

Show them your good character

As we said above, what they want to hear is how well you can fit the job. Therefore, you need to highlight your good qualities, ability, attitude and experience. Storytelling is very suitable for these questions. However, remember not to tell them a 1000-word stories, something short and brief is enough.

Be direct and honest

Good experiences don’t need extra hype. Don’t make up some interesting stories which never happened. There’s nothing worse in a job interview than being exposed that you are lying. You will always have something true and good to tell, as long as you follow the next note:

Preparation is the key

Many people don’t prepare well for these kind of question since they think those questions wouldn’t appear. Come up to a proper respond when being nervous in interview room is not easy. So we’d better prepare beforehand. Make a list of things you like/dislike and learned from the old job, then figure out what are the important ones you can put into the answer. There’s another thing you could do with this list: use the list as the basis for questions you want to ask the recruiters about the position you’re applying for. You also need to examine it since no one wants to do a job similar to the one he/she hated before.

Sample questions & answers

Before giving you some sample to answer those questions about your previous job, I just want to remind you that you can always look up and save new words or useful phrases by using eJOY eXtension. Here is the link for those who haven’t downloaded eXtension yet.

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What did you like about your last job?

– I really liked the professional environment in the workplace. However, it doesn’t make work feel too serious. The close knit between colleagues were great. I enjoyed every single person I worked with there.

– Through my experience at my last company, I learned so many things about different management styles from my senior colleagues and my ex-boss. I feel that these things would be so valuable for me in my future career. And of course, I’m willing to apply what I have learned if I have the chance to work for your company.

What did you like least about your last job?

This is not necessary why you left your last job but something making you want a new better one.

– After working for 1 year there, I found out that the company really doesn’t pay much attention to employee’s future growth. There was no more scope of career growth for me after reaching a certain level. The company had simply retained me without continuing to develop my potential.

– What I dislike most about my last job is also the main reason why I left: it was not challenging enough. My old job doesn’t bring many challenges while I want to do something to reach my full potential. I feel that my capabilities can be better utilized elsewhere, and I believe your company will be that place.

Video example

When were you most satisfied in your job?

This question is quite similar to ‘What did you like about your last job?’ above. However, this could be a little trickier, because if you were satisfied, they might ask why are you looking for a new one, right? This question should be about something more detailed.

Salesman:

– I think the best moment I had in my last job experience is last year, when I led my sales team to great success: revenue in our division was ultimately up 250% compared to the year before.

What was the biggest accomplishment/failure in this position?

  • Accomplishment

IT engineer:

My last company’s online-selling system was not so good in my opinion, so I decided to make it more engaging and valuable. After analyzing all of the evaluations over the last few years and getting to know customers’ habits, I was able to restructure the whole program. It became much more engaging and interactive. As a result, online sales increasing rapidly and I’m very proud of my work.

  • Failure

Remember that when asking this question, the interviewers want to hear what you have learned from that mistake.

I would say that my biggest failure was 2 years ago when I lost a big contract to a competitor company. Before that, I had a good relationship with the client and I made some successful projects for them. Therefore, I didn’t try as hard as I should have and opened up the opportunity for another to steal the business. After that failure, I learned a valuable lesson is never taking a client for granted. And even I can’t win that contract, I still keep in touch with that client from the lost project. We co-operated in a later project and of course, it was successful.

What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?

Storytelling is the best way to answer this type of question.

Salesman:

– The biggest challenges in my last job were hitting targets when products I needed to sell were portrayed in a poor light in the media. I came over by trying the best that I could. Firstly, I did many more researches about the product and customer insights.  Then I read every negative media and found a way to counter it in case our future customers mention it. After 2 months, things were getting better and the sales weren’t bad at all.

Video example:

Some ideas to think about

For the first and third questions, here are something you could consider when telling them about what you like:

  • Recounting a tough challenge, meeting difficult deadlines or targets (ex: the targeted sales is much higher than before but you finally made it)
  • Showing how you have benefited your ex-employer and last companies (ex: create something new and helpful, contract a big client)
  • Conveying your passion (ex: helping other people)

Some types of major challenges and problems you might think about when you meet the last question:

  • Facing a very tight or last-minute deadline
  • Managing bad interpersonal relations
  • Tackling new or different things which is hard to learn
  • Handling and solving well a seemingly impossible request

Find out more ideas to answer

Overall, interview question about your previous job is of course, tricky but yet so interesting. Don’t miss your chance to shine and show your possible new bosses your great ability.

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