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Making an Honest Assessment
You might face the question of what you like best about your job in two situations: when you are applying for a new position or you are leaving a position and in an exit interview. The query serves different purposes, depending on the environment. If you’re seeking a new position, the hiring manager wants to know about the positive experiences from your previous job. Your outlook helps them determine the kind of corporate culture and work environment that are valuable to employees. If you are asked this question when you are leaving a role, the human resources manager is trying to figure out what is making you leave the job. He or she may use the information to make operational tweaks in the future to help retention efforts.
In the Interview
One of the reasons hiring managers ask this question in an interview is that they are trying to look for commonalities. For example, if you say you loved working in a collaborative environment, he or she might offer information about how their internal teams operate. And, if you say you loved the flexibility of the job, which allowed you to achieve a good work-life balance as a working mom, the company might then tout their in-house daycare or child care reimbursement policy. Of course, if your responses demonstrate you do not have common ground, it could be a roadblock in your getting hired.
For example, if you say you loved the job-sharing availability your last employer offered and the current company doesn’t have this type of work arrangement, it could send a red flag that you aren’t a good fit. You can still use this knowledge to your advantage by educating yourself about the company in advance and providing responses that mirror the company culture or are neutral in nature. Focusing on people and learning opportunities are always good bets.
- I worked with a really dynamic team of talented people. They’re what I will miss most about the job.
- I had an opportunity to learn a lot of new skills and be exposed to varied approaches to business. It was certainly an educational experience.
- I loved working one-on-one with customers, which is, incidentally, one of the things that attracted me to this role.
In an Exit Interview
It's tricky to decide how honest to be in an exit interview. On one hand, you have already made the decision to leave, so you have nothing to lose by expressing your dissatisfaction. However, your input could be useful to your colleagues who remain or to the next person taking on your role. The exit interviewer is asking this particular question to gauge what the company is doing right, as well as what it could be doing better. Feel free to highlight what you honestly enjoyed about your role, and if pressed for what you didn’t like, use discretion and try to speak in constructive terms.
- The people were wonderful, but the company-wide disorganization was really difficult to work with.
- I enjoyed the functions of my job, but there was a lot of unchecked gossip that made it difficult to focus.
- The pay was great, but the fact that the hours were so erratic made it tough to schedule child care and family time.
What Didn’t You Like?
Just as hiring managers want to know what elements of a job excite you, they also want to know what kinds of things you don’t like. This question is asked for the same reason as the “like” query; job interviewers want to find out what will be considered deal-breakers, and an exit interviewer wants to figure out if a common thread of “dislikes” is making employees leave. While it’s appropriate to let an exit interviewer in on your work grievances, be careful to not come across as negative or demanding. Use middle-of-the-road responses instead.
- I find I work best in a positive environment where everyone is working toward the same goals.
- I think everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, and I’m respectful of that, but I don’t think heated discussions about politics and religion belong in the workplace.
- I think there is validity to all ideas, and that as professionals, we all owe it to one another to consider everyone’s viewpoints when brainstorming. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the dynamic in my last role.
Remember, this line of questioning is designed to test your discretion and your judgment as well as to identify what you consider to be key elements of professional conduct in the workplace. Preparing in advance of your interview will help ensure you present yourself in a polished and dignified way.
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Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.