How Do You Discuss Negative Work Experience in an Interview?

Discussing work history during an interview can sometimes seem like a rather complicated dance – or a walk through a field of landmines. You want to be careful to avoid saying anything negative about your previous employers.

Find a way to truthfully talk about past experiences without bad-mouthing anyone involved – speaking negatively actually reflects poorly on you and can make you come off as a complainer or a poor team player. So how do you manage it?

  • Prepare beforehand. You know they’ll ask about your previous employers in the interview, so you need to do some strategizing before even walking in the door. Look at your entire experience and write down your duties, any accomplishments and responsibilities. Figure out a good response for the question, “Why did you leave/are you leaving your most recent position?” by using the strategies outlined below.
  • Accentuate the positive. See if you can think of any good points from that employer. Did you work with talented colleagues? Did your responsibilities give you the opportunity to learn new skills? Did you learn something about the profession that you hadn’t known before? You want to frame it such that you’re moving toward something, not away: “I worked with terrific colleagues but found that I wanted more of a challenge. This position seems much more in line with what I’d like to accomplish.” Putting it this way also allows you to compliment the interviewer’s company.
  • Keep emotion out of it. If you have to, explain the experience briefly in impartial terms that lack emotional punch. For example, if your last manager constantly berated employees to get results, you could say his management style left you wanting a more collaborative atmosphere. Take responsibility for your part in the experience, especially if it involved any strife with your employer – state your errors and how you’ve learned from them so you won’t repeat them.

Discussing a negative work experience takes some practice and a great deal of tact, but you can manage it so you give a potential employer the impression that you know how to deal skillfully with difficult situations. If you want advice on how to talk about challenging work experiences, get help from the staffing professionals at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks.