Some interview questions are harder than others, but the hardest of all are the ones where you feel like there is no right answer. One of those questions is, “What do you like most/least about working in this industry?” What if you mention everything you love about the industry, only to discover that those things aren’t part of this job? Or if the things you don’t like are the main part of the job?
What do you like the most about working in this industry?
The secret to answering this question is to construct your answer around the job description. Even similar job titles within the same industry can have very different responsibilities, so you want to make sure the things you like the most are a central part of the job you’re applying for. A good trick is to try to imagine that you have already have the job and you can reformulate the question. What do you like most about your job? If the job involves a lot of customer interaction, for example, you want to make sure you mention how much you love working with customers. But make your answer specific, so the interviewer will know you aren’t just making things up:
- “I love listening to a customer’s story, figuring out what their ‘pain points’ are, and coming up with a solution.”
- “I love it when I can make a customer’s day by doing more than they expected.”
- “I love being able to change a customer’s opinion of the company. Sometimes a customer will call with a problem and expect to have a difficult time resolving it. I love hearing the change in their voice when I make it easy.”
If meeting tight deadlines is a critical part of the job, you could say something like:
- “I love the challenge of meeting an impossible deadline. I like to compare it to training for a race – how can I get the job done more quickly without sacrificing quality?”
- “I like tight deadlines because they help maintain a sense of urgency. When you have a lot more time than you need to complete a project, it’s easy to get complacent.”
No matter what industry you’re in, the best way to prepare for this question is to study the job description, pick out the parts that you like best, and construct an answer that gives examples of why you like the tasks so much.
What do you like least about working in this industry?
This part of the question is trickier. The last thing you want to do is make your interviewer worried that you’ll be unhappy in the job. There are two approaches to answering the question in a way that won’t hurt your chances. One approach is to pick something that’s universally hated by almost everyone in the industry.
If you’re interviewing for a job as a flight attendant, for instance, you could answer that your least favourite part of working in the air travel industry is when weather delays disrupt customers’ travel plans. That’s a safe answer – who would want to hire someone who enjoys seeing scores of travellers camped out in the terminal waiting for the weather to clear?
Another approach is to focus on tasks that aren’t part of the job description. If you’re applying for a job in sales, you could mention that cold calls are your least favourite thing about working in sales. If you’re applying for a job as a hospice nurse, you could say that your least favourite part of nursing is when terrified parents bring their sick or injured kids to the ER.
Like most other interview questions, the key to answering, “What do you like most/least about working in this industry?” is figuring out what the interviewer wants to hear and constructing a (truthful!) response with examples of what you least like about your job.
If the job involves a lot of phone time and you hate talking on the phone, you shouldn’t claim that you love it…but you don’t have to say you hate it, either. Just don’t mention it at all. You’re trying to convince the recruiter that you and the job are a seamless match, and you do that by playing up the tasks that are mentioned in the job description and, if you absolutely have to come up with something you don’t like, mention tasks that aren’t part of the job at all.
Have you ever had to answer this question? What answer did you give? Let us know in the comments section below…
This article was originally published in July 2014.