Interview Questions – Why did you Leave Your Last Job?

So you’re sitting there in your interview and things are going well. But then you’re asked a common question, one that you know the answer to – why are you leaving your current job (or why did you leave your last job). But how do you answer it? Truthfully? What they want to hear?

For some people, why they left their last job is pretty straightforward while for others, it’s a more sensitive issue. In either case, you want to be careful as to how you answer it. Saying you hated your job raises issues about how good an employee you are. Complaining about the commute and lack of family time may make your potential employer wonder if you’ll be able to put in the extra time when needed.

If you were downsized:

Although many people who have had this happen to them (myself included) are embarrassed about this, it makes it a lot easier to answer the question. Telling the interviewer that you liked your job, but the company was struggling financially is a perfectly acceptable answer. Sometimes, the person interviewing you can relate and you might find a bond there.

If you don’t like your current job:

Whatever you do, don’t complain about your job no matter how bad it is. I’m not suggesting that you make something up, but you’ll want to word it so that it comes out that there’s no room for growth but not sounding like a textbook answer. Don’t complain about the hours, commute, benefits, travel, workload, stress or your coworkers as each one could be a potential issue at other companies. Instead, you’ll want to talk about how your current job just doesn’t allow for you to grow in the foreseeable future. Maybe the company is too small, not growing or focused in another area.

If you were fired:

There are two things you’ll want to do here. First, you’ll want to have a conversation with the employer that fired you to discuss how they will answer this question when they’re asked it. You may be able to work with them, especially if you’re showing signs of correcting the behavior, so that the reasoning isn’t quite so bad.

The second thing is that you should check with your state’s unemployment office for laws about how to answer this question – especially if what got you fired was a crime such as stealing or sexual harassment. You may want to even get legal help.

The key here is that you don’t lie about it and show you’ve learned from your mistake. If it’s a less serious cause (as minor as an infraction could be that results in termination), you may be able to word it as a learning experience. Of course, getting fired for cause is never a good thing so the best you can do is down play it.

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