I’m a Career Coach — This is the No. 1 Way to Talk About a Job You Hated in an Interview

Two women talking during an interview.

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Lee Beaser50
May 18, 2024 at 5:3PM UTC

I was sitting on an interview committee and was impressed with the candidate in front of me. She was professional, courteous, and had nailed every single question the committee had thrown her way.

But then we asked her why she left her last job. Her response went something like: 

“My boss was a total jerk. He treated everyone so disrespectfully and talked down to his subordinates. I could not wait to get out of that place!”

The mood shifted in the room. Looking around at my fellow committee members, I could tell that they were all thinking the same thing: Do we still want to hire this person?

You’ve likely been in the same boat in terms of having a boss you’ve disliked or a job you’ve hated. The tricky part becomes: how do you frame and talk about it in a positive way?

The number one way to talk about a job you hated in an interview is to always stress the positive and/or what you learned from the situation. If you have negative feelings, you want to try and not let them show during the interview. Even if you were wronged or treated unfairly in a previous job, the reality is that if you start bad-mouthing the company or a former boss, it will unfortunately only hurt your chances of making a positive impression in an interview.

Here is an example of how you can answer a question related to why you left your last job:

“The reason I left my previous role at ABC company is because I realized there was not a long-term fit between me and the organization. The company was small and there was little opportunity for upward mobility.

“However, I learned a lot in my two years of experience in the XYZ role, like how to collaborate with and effectively lead cross-functional teams. I also learned being a good leader means being humble and always staying open to learning and growing. I’m excited at the prospect of applying these skills to making a valuable contribution at your organization.”

If you’ve had a job you hated, you are not alone! Millions of other candidates are in the same boat. But if you want to set yourself apart in a positive way, it’s important to stay positive and always stress what you learned and how it is relevant to the job for which you are applying.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Lee Cristina Beaser is a career coach and found of The Career Counter, where she empowers women to find more fulfillment and joy in their careers. Need help updating your resume or taking the next step in your career? Check out The Career Counter’s resume writing and career coaching services here.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for talking about a job you hated in an interview? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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