#Career101: What to say when asked you are asked why you left your last job
One of the most pertinent questions in job interviews –especially when you are looking to change jobs – is: Why did you leave your last job?
Here are a few points to help you handle this question satisfactorily;
- Why is the employer asking you this?
Well, simply because they want to understand why you left that position.
Was it was due to malicious behavior? Did you not fit into the company culture? Was there a mismatch in your skills and the role you were in? Or did you have a performance problem?
To ensure you do not kill your chances, you should answer honestly but tactfully.
How do you navigate this question? Here are some top tips:
- If it was a performance problem, you can explain that you were hired for a role that you weren’t ready for, or that the role changed into something you needed to grow in to.
- If there was a restructuring, explain the company laid off many people and changed requirements for departments. Do not throw the management under the bus and do not allocate blame.
- If you had problem with your manager, explain the situation in a diplomatic way. You could say you and your manager didn’t see eye-to-eye about how the task should be best accomplished and you felt you needed to grow elsewhere.
- If you left after 3 or more years, this should not be a red flag to the interviewer. Just explain the reason for the move – perhaps you wanted new challenges, new responsibilities, more room for growth, shift in career path from corporate to startup.
- If you left before 2 years of service, it might set off a red flag. Your new company does not want to waste resources training you only for you to leave a year later. Anticipate this challenge, knowing that you need to explain yourself. Was it a problem with management? Unclear expectations of the role? Be careful not to present yourself as someone who is jumping from job to job.
Whatever you do, don’t get defensive. Getting defensive during this question and trying to make your former supervisors or company look bad is the exact wrong move.
This question is an opportunity to assert your diplomacy. If you can navigate a difficult conversation about your past employment in an interview situation, imagine how well you will work with a difficult team member, or an angry client.
- Important things to remember –
Do not play the blame game
- Don’t say: “My manager was really incompetent.” Instead say – “My manager and I had differing views and opinions.”
- Don’t say: “I guess they didn’t appreciate what I brought to the team.” Instead say – “I am really looking forward to bringing my energy and experience to this new team.”
- Don’t say: “Expectations people had for me were crazy.” Instead say – “The way my key performance expectations set up were a bit realistic, though I did try as hard as I could to meet my targets.
Remember, it is not just your words that the employer is assessing, but your body language as well.
Don’t shift in your seat, and fold arms or cross your legs after being asked this question
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