Job interviews are so much easier and more pleasant when the conversation focuses on all of the amazing accomplishments we’ve had. They’re even better when we only talk about how we’re the absolute, perfect candidate for the role because our skills and interests are directly aligned to the responsibilities of the position.
But this is usually not how job interviews go. The job search is always full of speed bumps!
Most of the time, the recruiter or hiring manager is trying to dig deeper. They want to know about how you’ve recovered from a mistake, learned from a failure, or overcome an obstacle. When these questions are handled the right way, you can actually build trust with the interviewer.
The same is true when the common job interview question of “What are work-related tasks you don’t enjoy doing?” is asked.
It’s tempting to respond by saying you love everything about work, and there’s nothing they could ask you to do that you wouldn’t be thrilled about.
But then you’d be lying. Because we all have things we don’t particularly enjoy doing. And that’s OK! In fact, it’s expected.
When you get this question in an interview, you have a great opportunity to build trust. That is…. If you handle it right ;)
We’ll make sure you respond perfectly so you can hit your career goals!
Interviewers ask about what you do not enjoy doing for a few primary reasons.
First, they want to make sure you are honest and transparent in the interview. It’s a major red flag if someone responds by saying they love every single task in the workplace.
Second, the interviewer can evaluate how you handle pressure. This question is tough and can often be stressful. They want to make sure you can keep your cool and think quickly.
In this specific instance, when the question asks for not one but two examples of the work you dislike, the interview is upping the pressure to develop multiple responses. Don’t worry - you can do this! We’re going to show you exactly what to say.
Third, they want to see if you take this as a chance to talk poorly about your previous employer or co-workers. Never talk poorly about your former employer - this is a red flag in interviews.
Finally, they genuinely want to know what you do not enjoy so they can determine if this job would be the right fit. If the work you don’t enjoy doing is a huge part of the job, it’s probably not a great fit. On the other hand, if what you do not enjoy doing is only a small part of the role or isn’t even part of the job description, it could be an excellent fit.
It’s always helpful to think through your responses to the particularly challenging interview questions before walking into the interview.
Take some time when you’re in a reflective and relaxed mood to gather your thoughts.
In the space below, answer the following questions:
What do I love doing at work?
What energizes me at work?
What elements of company culture are important to me?
What do I dread at work?
What is my biggest weakness professionally?
What types of tasks do I often procrastinate on?
What tasks are draining for me?
What takes me longer to complete than the average person?
What did I dislike in my last job or current job?
These questions intentionally get you started by thinking about what you do like. It’s always easier to start there. Oftentimes what you dislike is the antithesis of what you do enjoy!
Once you have your responses written down, take a step back and focus on the last four questions in the list. What are the themes that emerge? Are there any tasks or responsibilities that jump out at you as really not enjoying?
Write those down.
Now, the trick is to choose the tasks you don’t enjoy but know they wouldn’t be a huge part of the job you’re applying for. Of course, the goal is to avoid building a career path around things you dislike :)
Take a look at the job description for the new job you’re interviewing for. What are the primary and secondary responsibilities? Compare this list to your list of tasks you don’t particularly like. Ideally, you’ll have at least two tasks that you dislike and are not part of the job you’re applying for. Those are the examples you should provide in the interview.
If you find that all of the work you don’t enjoy is exactly what the job description is looking for it’s a pretty good sign that this job isn’t going to be a good fit. Unless you are absolutely desperate for a job and are OK with taking on a position you’re really not going to like, it might not be worth moving forward with this particular opportunity.
Once you have two examples of work-related tasks you don’t love doing AND you’ve concluded those tasks are not a big part of the job you’re interviewing for, it’s time to prepare for exactly what you say in response to the question.
Particularly for interview questions that focus on a negative or a failure, it’s essential to maintain your composure. You anticipated this question, so stay calm, cool, and collected! This is where your excellent communication skills will shine.
If you need a few seconds to think about what you’re going to say, it’s perfectly acceptable to start with, “That’s a great question, and definitely something important to be self-aware about.” Just these few words give you time to think - it’s an easy and non-obvious way to stall.
Of course, you’ll eventually have to answer the question. So here’s how you do that….
Some job seekers make the mistake of replying with just the tasks they don’t enjoy. They might say:
“I don’t particularly enjoy doing data entry and building models in Excel.”
While that’s an OK answer, it’s not great because it doesn’t provide any context for why you don’t like doing that work. The hiring manager wants to gain insight into the ‘why.’
So, explain each of the examples you share. Using the same example, a great response would be:
“That’s an interesting question. As I think about the work I’ve done at previous jobs that I didn’t find energizing, the two tasks that come to mind are data entry and building models in Excel.
While data entry is a necessary part of many jobs, I find it less inspiring than collaborating with colleagues or doing an in-depth analysis of trends because of its tedious and manual nature. The second task, building models in Excel, is also tedious when there’s a lot of complex data involved. I found in my last job that the analytical elements were less enjoyable.”
To take that answer to the next level, turn the negative work experience into a positive one. Whenever you talk about failures, mistakes, or things you don’t enjoy, you must shift the conversation to a positive note. You might even turn the conversation into a discussion about what you're passionate about or the work environment that you excel in. This prevents the interviewer from focusing on something that doesn’t position you in a positive light.
Using our example from above, add in a transition to turn the tasks you dislike into a more positive and optimistic conversation.
You might say:
“That’s an interesting question. As I think about the work I’ve done in the past that I didn’t find energizing, the two tasks that come to mind are data entry and building models in Excel.
While data entry is a necessary part of many jobs, I find it less inspiring than collaborating with colleagues or doing an in-depth analysis of trends because of its tedious and manual nature. I can certainly do it, yet I feel the unique value I bring to a team is my ability to creatively solve problems and work well with others. The second task, building models in Excel, is also tedious when there’s a lot of complex data involved.
I find that the analytical elements are less enjoyable. I have learned over the years to build these models because I know it’s important to tell a story using data. This is especially true when you're working with team members who aren't as involved in the product on a day-to-day basis. Taking a proactive approach to learning how to better do a task I dislike has made it significantly more pleasant.”
Wow! That’s a killer answer! You’ve successfully answered the question with a thoughtful and honest reply but then quickly pivoted to show your can-do attitude and ability to take initiative to learn hard skills.
Now that you've prepared for this question, you're ready to start interviewing. So get on LinkedIn and start networking and applying! You'll have a new role in no time.