Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? Discussing Previous Employment during an Interview.
There are some questions that you can expect in a job interview, so you should be prepared when the interviewer asks you, “Why do you want to leave your current company”, or if you are unemployed, “Why did you leave your last job”. Your response should inform the interviewer of the reason you are seeking a position at their company, and how you will handle situations within their company should they hire you. They are aware that your previous work experience left something to be desired, or you wouldn’t be talking with them about their company’s opportunity; however, they are not looking for you to tell them about all of the negative aspects of the job you are leaving behind. No matter how negative you feel about your previous job, your goal during the interview should be to focus on presenting yourself in a positive light rather than presenting a former employer in a negative light.
If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it in an interview:
Like many of my peers, I grew up hearing my mother say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all”. I had no idea that as an adult I would still be using my mom’s advice, but it turns out that she was right. In fact, talking negatively about your previous employer or company is a huge red flag to any company that you hope to work for. Choosing to badmouth a previous employer during an interviewer speaks more to your own character, and less about your previous employer. Realistically, the interviewer doesn’t care about your employer; they asked the question to see why you are seeking a new position and how you have handled difficult situations in the past. If you focus your answer on speaking negatively about the companies and employers you have worked for, you will be remembered as the applicant who had a negative attitude and someone who will most likely badmouth their company in the future.
Highlight the tools you gained, not the frustrations:
Rather than venting about the frustrations of your last job, highlight the tools that you gained. This will demonstrate that you are the type of candidate who takes difficult situations and turns them into opportunities to further your career. Instead of rambling on about how unorganized your boss was, spin your answer to include how you were given opportunities to step into organizational roles. Similarly, you can spin a situation where you didn’t feel supported into an opportunity to problem solve. Using the interviewer’s question as a platform to highlight the tools that you gained will impress them, and show them that you take initiative in difficult situations.
Focus on where their company can take your career:
In the spirit of turning their question from a potential venting session into an opportunity to make yourself look like the ideal candidate, conclude your response by talking about where their company could take your career. You can do this by using your previous work experience to explain why you want to work for their company. For example, you may want to state that that you are looking for more of a challenge in your next position. Through saying this, you are acknowledging that your previous job wasn’t challenging you enough (without actually saying it) and that you are excited at the prospect of a position that will keep you on your toes. This ensures that you conclude your answer by focusing on a potential future with their company rather than your former employer’s shortcomings.
The next time a potential employer asks you about your previous work experience during an interview, remember that how you answer will impact their impression of you. When in doubt, focus on the positive and leave the negativity behind.