So what's your Story?

There are a handful of questions that you can expect a prospective employer to ask in an interview. One is “Why did you leave your most recent job” or “Why do you want to leave your current job?” For many this is an easy response, but for some this is difficult to answer, and could sink their interview quickly.

1. AVOID Lying.

The last thing you want to do is lie about your reason for leaving your recent job. As a part of your background check employers often contact your last employer. This does not mean select “no” do not contact, because that will certainly raise a red flag. Rather explain but emphasize what you have learned and how it will result in a better outcome. By scripting your response (write it down) and preparing for this question (rehearsing) you will feel more confident and less emotional.

Take the time to contact your references to be sure that you are in sync.

2. Focus on the positive

No one likes a negative Nancy. Remember that during the interview the hiring manager is not only judging you based on your skills, but also your personality. Are you a good fit for the culture of the company/organization?

One way to stay positive is to develop a list of all of your accomplishments at your last job. Then explain how you are ready for a new challenge.

3. Focus on the company you are interviewing with

The primary reason employers ask why you left or plan to leave is to attempt to predict behavior trends. If you were fired because of tardiness, your new employer will expect an issue with timeliness from you. By focusing on them you will be able to allay their concerns.

4. Don’t be so blunt!

I was fired!

Wow…please explain more, but proceed with caution. Articulating why you were fired can be challenging, but it can be done. Using the term “let go” has a less negative vibe. Be cautious about going into the details, but avoid being blunt. This is not the place to point the fingers, but an opportunity explain how you are a different person, a stronger/better person who has learned from this experience.

“While at ABC Company it was clear that what was expected of me and what I was hired to do were not aligned. ABC Company needed someone with more experience, and I was let go. Although at that moment I was devastated, I now realize it made me aware of this opportunity where I will be able to progress in my career in a new direction while continuing my professional education.”

5. I need to make more money

Really, who doesn’t want to make more money? If you jump to a money issue, an employer will jump to conclusions that this job is just a paycheck for you. It may be more appropriate to wait for the hiring manager to be invested in you before bringing up pay.

“During my six years with ABC Company, I had many opportunities to develop my strengths in ___, ____, and _____. While this was a great learning experience and I enjoyed my time there I am ready to join XYZ Company where my skills will be valued and used fully.”

6. They have toxic leadership

There are a number of research article out there regarding retention. Employers are eager to know how to improve retention rates, and many of these research articles point to poor leadership being a contributor to low retention rates. Despite being true for so many job seekers, employers also understand that it takes two. This is a quick way to put you in danger of sinking your interview.

“At ABC Company I noticed that my leadership was going in a different direction. I am interested in working in a collaborative environment. This was a very difficult decision to make because although I felt that the mission aligned with my professional goals, but I believe that I made a good decision to pursue XYZ Company.”

7. No room for advancement

This is where doing your research is imperative. If you are leaving your current position because there is no room for advancement, be sure you are interviewing with a company with opportunities for advancement.

“I am an avid self-starter and always challenging myself. So while I enjoyed working with the people at ABC Company, I’m ready for the next challenge in my career. My role at ABC Company was no longer giving me that challenging environment. So instead of getting comfortable, I decided to pursue a position where I can continue to grow.”

8. Some additional explanations that are neutral include:

  • Relocating
  • Career changes
  • Shorter commute to work
  • I was laid off
  • It was a temporary position