Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

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There are few interview questions that strike fear into the heart of an interviewee as much as the dreaded “why did you leave your last job”? Whether you were fired because of incompetence or had a boss that made Cruella de Vil look like a sweetheart, the only job that matters now is putting your prospective employer’s mind at ease.

Why do employers ask this question?

Primarily employers are trying to find out more about you and what you might be like if they hire you. They want to know whether you’re one of those difficult employees whom are hard to manage, or whether you’re a flake that can’t stick to a job for more than two minutes. They need to know whether your demise was due to your bad attitude or whether your reasons for leaving are more positive, such as for personal development or a new challenge. Whatever your reasons; preparing an answer that shows you in the best light is going to be essential.

So, what if you were made redundant?

Redundancy is one of the easier reasons to deal with in an interview. Firstly it’s important to remember that your position was made redundant, not you. You weren’t made redundant for personal reasons. Redundancy was purely a business decision and one that is being made more frequently due to the ongoing economic crisis.

Secondly, discussing your redundancy and showing how you’ve dealt with it is a great opportunity to show that you have a positive outlook and a solution focused approach. If you can show to an employer that you’ve seen redundancy as an opportunity to move on, develop and grow as an employee, you’ll be well on your way to landing your next job.

What if you were fired?

First and foremost you’re going to need to be honest. Most prospective employers will want to hear from your previous boss and lying about your situation won’t do you any favours. Rather than hiding your head in the sand, talk to your previous boss to agree what they will say when approached for a reference. This will help you to plan your answer and overcome any sticking points.

The key to coming out on top is going to involve explaining what you’ve learnt from the experience and to showcase how you’ve dealt with it in a positive manner. Whatever you do, avoid bad mouthing your previous employer as that is a certain road to nowhere. Remain positive and explain how and why the position wasn’t a good fit for you. Give some concrete examples and show how you are working on those shortcomings. If you’re lucky you may even impress the potential employer with your self-awareness and commitment to professional development.

Why are you thinking of leaving your current job?

If you’re employed and are considering leaving your current employer the important thing is that you explain why in a positive way. Essentially an employer wants to know that:

  • You’re not a serial job hopper (loyalty is important to employers)
  • You’re not the type to badmouth your previous employer
  • You have a clear career vision

If you’re leaving your current job because you hate your boss, remain positive and show why your previous job wasn’t a good fit. Keep your answer short and sweet and if you feel yourself waffling, stop! The longer you talk, the more chance you have of digging a hole that you can’t get out of.

If on the other hand you’ll be leaving your previous employer on good terms for purely positive reasons, show what they are and leave it at that. If the employer wants you to elaborate any further they’ll ask.

To ensure you finish your answer on a high, tell them why you want to work for them. An employer wants to know why you are interested in their role, why you think you’ll be a good fit and more importantly why they should you hire you over someone else. Give them concrete examples of why you think you’ll be the best candidate for the job and back those reasons up with some evidence from previous roles.

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