Career Calling

March 21, 2012

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

This is a difficult question to answer at a job interview.  Be sure that the answer you give doesn’t indicate that you would be a problem employee.

One of my clients recently left a job because she was not getting support from her manager.  It was a hostile work environment.  When she told her story at an interview, she said that the interview looked at her like she was crazy.  Why?  The expectation is that we should never say anything negative about a former employer.  This kind of answer indicates that you could be the problem, and most companies will not bring you back for a second interview.

What should my client have done?  First be positive.  She should say that she enjoyed working at the company and learned a lot working there.  The next move is to pivot.  Find something about the employer you are interviewing with that your previous employer did not offer.  Say that you are looking for a job that would provide whatever that quality/benefit is. 

The prospective employer could still press as to why you would leave a job before you had a new one.  In that case, your best strategy would be to say something general such as, “It was time to leave that job.”  This answer could still wave a red flag, but it’s better than being openly negative.  Bring your focus back to what you can do for the employer, and take the focus off why you left the last job.  It is a very tricky question.


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