Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

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Among the toughest interview questions is why you are no longer employed.  Let’s dive into ways of addressing that question.

First of all, notice the wording.  There’s a major difference between being unemployed and looking while being employed.  The latter – looking while being employed – is pretty easy.  You’re seeking professional growth, challenge, perhaps a career change, etcetra.  Focus on the positives of the new position for which you’re interviewing.

But what if you’re unemployed?  Most people don’t walk away from a job without another job lined up unless they’re relocating for family reasons.  Otherwise, if they do walk away,  it may be because the job was not a fit for their skills or workplace culture preferences.

If you did walk away, you may not want to divulge that information.  Instead, acknowledge it’s somewhat rare to step aside from a job without something waiting for you.

Once you’ve done that, let them know it was a difficult decision, but you felt it wasn’t fair to your previous employer or to yourself to remain there.  You decided to step aside to evaluate where you want to be next.  Job searching is a full time job, and you didn’t want to do it while being employed full time.

If you didn’t quit and your employer pulled the plug, how do you spin that?

I’m no employment attorney, so this isn’t legal advice.  If you were terminated for cause, I believe you need to briefly mention it when asked.  Admit your mistake, indicate you’ve learned from it, and let them know you’ve taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But what about those awkward times when you didn’t  get along with your boss?  You don’t want to admit you can’t seem to play well with others.  So how do you explain that sort of termination?

Two answers may work.  If you weren’t the only person terminated, then let them know that the company had a reorganization that included your job ending.

If relatively new management has come aboard, share that information. New managers often surround themselves with their own team; this can mean releasing or reassigning employees working under the previous manager.

No matter what happened, never bad mouth your past employer.  Indicate you’ve learned a lot and welcomed the chance to contribute.  Then turn your focus toward what you like about the position for which you’re interviewing.

These days, very few people stay with one company their entire career.  Sooner or later, most of us will face that “why did you leave” or “why are you looking to leave” question.  I hope this post has given you some tips on how to answer.  Good luck!

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