UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2017: Original article published on March 10, 2016.
The first rule of interviewing is to keep it positive. Keep your attitude positive. Keep your answers positive. This rule even applies to the negative questions.
Negative questions are probing to see what kind of attitude you have and what your goals are. A few examples of negative questions include:
- Why are you leaving your present job?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What would your last employer say you need to improve?
We're going to look at how to answer the question that really backs you into a corner.
Opportunities for Advancement
This question can pose an opportunity to solidify your career goals. If your previous employer didn't offer many opportunities for promotion or career development, don't speak poorly of your employer but identify how important this is to you.
When personal or professional growth is important to you and you recognize when you aren't reaching your potential, this is your chance to speak up. Most employers are looking for ambitious, hardworking candidates. This is an opportunity to shine!
Culture fit, or how well your values and work style aligns with the company's values and environment, is a key decision factor in the hiring process. There is nothing wrong with letting an interviewer know if you didn't or don't fit in with your previous employer's corporate culture.
Maybe you're looking to work for an organization with particular values or with an association to a favorable charity. When a particular work style doesn't work for you, it may negatively affect your performance and curb your potential. Being able to identify and address these in an interview will show employers your commitment to excellence and success.
Remember that, as a candidate, this interview is for you as well. You need to stand your ground on areas of importance to you, or you will ultimately waste both yours and the interviewer's time. You need this to "fit," too. You need to be comfortable to thrive.
Playing To Your Strengths
Everyone knows that you are the most successful when you play to your strengths. Employers know this as well. If your previous employer gives or gave you tasks that don't allow you to take advantage of your strengths, let the interviewer know. It may sound like this:
"I work really well with people, and my last job required so much paperwork that I wasn't able to connect with clients. I wasn't able to really leverage my strengths in relationship building."
The key to how to answer this interview question is staying positive. Focus on the future and how your past experiences have helped you identify what you want in a career.