One common interview question that tends to catch even the most prepared interviewee off guard is, “Why did you leave your last job?”
Although you may not be sure how to answer this question without hurting your chances of landing the job, it’s important to remain confident when telling interviewers what you can bring to their company. So, here are some tips on how to answer this critical question without working up a sweat.
Keep it simple.
As a general rule, interviews aren’t the place to air your dirty laundry. While honesty and open communication are necessary and respected elements of any interview, there are a number of creative responses to answering this age-old question without disclosing too much.
If the reason you left your previous job would take 30 minutes to explain, don’t go that route. Your interviewer has a busy schedule and doesn’t need a lengthy explanation. Instead of ranting, raving, or adopting a style of full disclosure, try to hone your reason down into a shorter, truthful answer.
Don’t badmouth your previous boss.
You won’t get along with every boss you’ll ever have, and interviewers know that. But, telling them how awful your boss was will only make them concerned that you’ll talk the same way about their company if you left. Instead, try something like:
“After speaking in length with my manager, we decided that my vision for my role wasn’t the same as their overall goals. I decided it was best to part ways so they could find someone better suited to their vision.”
You don’t have to say, “I was fired.”
There are a number of reasons why employees are terminated from their jobs, and if you’ve experienced one of them, you aren’t obligated to simply say so. Instead, dig deeper into why you were let go. Did you lack the skills necessary for the job? Were you desperate for work that wasn’t right for you? If so, try some of these phrases:
“I really needed to find a job, and I made the mistake of accepting one that wasn’t the right match for me. It was a mistake I’ve learned from and won’t make again.”
“Under new leadership, my company let some employees go. This cleared the way for me to have the opportunity to apply with your company.”
Or, if you weren’t a good fit for your old job, go a step further and research the company culture of the place where you’re interviewing. List some of their well-known traits, like corporate giving or community involvement, when using this response:
“I’d prefer to work in an environment whose company’s culture is more suited to my own.”
If you were let go because of downsizing, make that clear.
Interviewers understand that businesses go through ups and downs. If you were let go due to downsizing or economic turmoil, be honest about it. Try using one of the following answers:
“Unfortunately, my position was eliminated when the company decided to scale back.”
“I knew the company was downsizing, so I decided to seek another job before my position was eliminated.”
Show your strengths.
Though talking about previous jobs can be a tough subject, it can also show the interviewer the skills you can bring to their position. If your old job was wearing you down or wasn’t right for you, try some of these answers to show that you’re focused on your career:
“When I decided to take my career down a different path, my previous employer didn’t have the opportunities I needed.”
“I believed I’d learned everything I could in that position, and I wanted to find a new challenge that would help me better utilize my skills on a daily basis.”
“I was ready for a change, but it didn’t seem ethical to take company time to go on interviews. I left so they could find someone more suited for the position while I looked to better my career path.”
“I didn’t believe there was any room to grow with my former company.”
If your reasons for leaving your previous job were unavoidable, like moving, personal issues, or illness, explain those reasons and be honest. Your interviewer will understand, and you’ll show that you’re personally committed to your life as well as your career.
Try not to dwell on this question for long. Your interview shouldn’t be about past jobs, but rather about the job you’re trying to get. Always use any opportunity you can to remind the interviewer what a great asset you’d be to their company.
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