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Answering: “Why Did You Leave Your Job?”

Monday, November 23, 2009

By Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

This is certainly a tricky situation to manage, and I’m sure a lot of you may be faced with the same dilemma.  I hate to state the obvious, but there are a lot of bad bosses out there.

When asked why you left your last job in an interview, it may be tempting to tell the truth – management was horrible, the office was run by a confederacy of dummies, or they had me cleaning the floors everyday even though I was the VP of Finance.

In spite of the allure, you don’t always want to tell the whole story.  Even if the reasons are valid, a potential employer does not want to hear about the dirty laundry of another company or about all of your issues.  If you’re negative about a previous situation, the next employer may think that you can’t work well with others or manage a tough situation.

Here’s what you want to do.

1.  Speak in general terms.

Instead of saying that your coworkers made your job miserable or the job was so bad that words can’t describe it, discuss the overall environment.

I take great pride in my work and thrive in a positive environment.  Let’s be honest, we spend a lot of time at work!  At my former company, there was no real emphasis on the employees and our growth and development.  I just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me.

2.  Focus on personal opportunities.

It’s the old trick of taking a negative and turning it into a positive.  Think about important skills you did not have a chance to utilize and how you would be able to tap into that skill for the new employer. 

I’ve always considered myself a strong manager.  Since my former employer was small, I did not have the opportunity to manage a team. In reading the job description, I know that management skills are important here.  I feel it’s one of my strengths.

3.  Tie it back to the potential employer.

Not all companies are equal.  Mention a business area or way of operating that the company you’re interviewing with finds important, but that your former employer did not offer.

I’ve always been intrigued with the Internet and how it can help grow business.  Your company is a leader in online marketing and my former place of work consciously avoided the Internet.

Sour grapes are not something a potential employer is looking to get a taste of in an interview.  By focusing on the positive and leaving the sordid details out of the interview, you’ll be much more likely to leave a positive impression and land the job.

Good luck!

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