When applying for an entry-level position, you might encounter a job interview question about what college subjects you liked the least and why. It's an important question because, of course, you don't have a lot of real work experience or job history under your belt yet.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
This question is designed to do more than just help the hiring manager learn more about your interests in school. The interviewer is also hoping to see how you handle yourself—do you make valid, cogent points, or do you inadvertently say something offensive or negative.
Another reason for asking is to make sure that the subjects you don't like aren't important to the role you're being considered for.
Sample Interview Answers About Subjects You Disliked
- The college subjects I liked least were the ones that didn't pertain to my major. Once I got rolling on my path to becoming an elementary school teacher, it was hard to study for a French exam knowing I had projects to work on that were not only essential to complete my major requirements but were also a lot more appealing to me.
- As much as I would love to be an artist, unfortunately I was not blessed with the talent. Even with the best drawing and painting professors, I was not able to perfect my ability to do either. So, I would have to say, my least favorite subjects were introduction to drawing and introduction to painting.
- My least favorite college subject was math. As an English literature major, all I wanted to do was read the work of great authors and perfect my writing. I found math, more specifically linear algebra, to be a difficult class for me to participate in and prepare for, but it was a requirement, so I put my nose to the grindstone and completed the course.
Answering difficult interview questions can be stressful, but this dos and don'ts snapshot makes it easier for you to decide how to tactfully answer this interview question.
Name a specific class and share a reason that makes sense
Consider using your chosen class to tell a personal story about beating a challenge
Insult the class or teacher, or give negative comments about the class
Mention a class that's related to the job you're interviewing for
Dos and Don'ts for Answering the Question
- Do: Give an answer. Avoid "I really enjoyed all of my classes," which is just a cop-out. (Not to mention that it’s probably untrue—even the most well-rounded student will have a class or two that they didn’t quite engage with.) Similarly, answering that an 8 a.m. class was your least favorite because of its early time could make you seem lazy or unprofessional.
- Don't: Be negative. Even when a question is posed with a negative slant, you want to stay positive in your answer. That means you should not insult the professor or their teaching style. For interviewers, the professor is a stand-in for managers, and you wouldn't want to be negative about a supervisor. It's fine to have preferences and mention that compared to other classes, this one wasn't as interesting or didn't touch on your talents.
- Do: Consider sharing a journey. If there's a class you struggled with at first—maybe it was not relevant to your interests or felt disconnected from your major—but then enjoyed more as the semester continued, that could be a compelling story to share in your response.
- Don't: Mention a class that's core to the job at hand. If you're interested in becoming a journalist, for example, and your least favorite class was writing-focused, think carefully about your answer. If you're applying to be a bookkeeper and disliked your bookkeeping class, this isn't the time to mention it. It might not reflect well on you if you say these are your least favorite classes.
A More Strategic Approach
While it’s important to emphasize your passion for subjects related to the job, don’t be so quick to dismiss “unrelated” areas of study. Research has shown, for example, that arts education is beneficial for STEM students, helping them develop into better, more creative scientists.
For instance, in a New York Times article titled "To Write Better Code, Read Virginia Woolf," the author notes that when his team, comprised mostly of people with engineering degrees, was assigned to a difficult coding project, they were stymied. But one of the first solutions came from a music major. Instead of freezing up over the combinations and permutations of code, she saw the symbols in her mind as musical notes. As such, she could determine how they could work in concert—how they could be orchestrated.
Another major problem was solved by a philosophy major who had the abstract thinking skills to work with coding "pointers"—how a named thing could stand in for another unseen thing. All he had to do was draw on Nietzsche.
When speaking to hiring managers, demonstrate your understanding of how disparate subjects are interconnected and show that while you might not have enjoyed a particular subject, you gleaned a deeper sense of how it can be applied to your field of interest.
The subject itself might not have jazzed you, but you learned how to translate the related thinking and analysis to your field.
Be Honest Don’t claim that you loved every class or that you engaged with a subject that left you cold.
Be Strategic Avoid mentioning a class that directly relates to the job for which you’re interviewing.
Be Positive Don’t disparage a class, teacher, or subject. Remember that one of the purposes of the question is to see how you conduct yourself in an interview.