Job interviews represent a strange mix of past and future. Your goal is to start the next phase of your career. But to get there, you need to spend a big chunk of time talking about what you’ve done before. This can lead to uncomfortable conversations, like why you left your other jobs.
Questions about previous positions shouldn’t spark panic, however. If you’re prepared and confident, explaining why you left earlier jobs won’t significantly derail your interview. It can even open a great opportunity to describe your work experience and background.
Here are a few tips you should keep in mind if your interviewers ask you about why you left a previous job:
You might feel shy about detailing why you left a previous employer. That’s a perfectly natural response. However, you don’t want your understandable reluctance to discuss the past come off as an attempt to dodge the subject.
The last thing you want to do: create the impression that you’re hiding something. As such, attack the topic head–on. Be honest (though you don’t necessarily have to include every detail.) Most importantly, prepare answers in advance, so you aren’t improvising in the interview.
When talking about a previous position, make sure that you come off as upbeat and well-adjusted. Whatever the reason you left, focus on the positive and talk about the job as a great learning experience.
Don’t use this interview as an excuse to bad mouth your former employers. Even if you have some baggage from your previous gig, leave that at the door. Concentrate on your future and make the best impression possible.
In explaining why you left a previous position, a little goes a long way. You want to share enough to put your interviewers at ease, but you want to keep your story as short as possible.
A long-winded rant, or an epic tale of corporate intrigue, won’t help your case. If anything, it will just make you look bad. Give the minimum amount of information necessary to provide a complete answer. Then, move on to other topics.
Put the Reason in Context
Don’t let talking about your past jobs cause too much stress. Very few people hold onto the same job for decades at a time. There’s nothing unusual or embarrassing about leaving a previous position.
You just need to put those departures in context. You need to explain the circumstances that led you to make the decision. Here are a few general categories that come up often:
- It Wasn’t Your Choice – Layoffs happen. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you were let go because of financial difficulties at the firm, or corporate restructuring, don’t feel shy about discussing it with your interviewers.
- You Needed a Change – Maybe you needed a different schedule. Maybe you wanted to move to a new location. Whatever the details, some conditions of the job didn’t fit with your overall goals. It’s perfectly understandable to change positions in search of a more comfortable situation.
- You Had to Address a Personal Situation – This includes things like taking time off to raise a child or take care of a sick relative. Nothing about the job drove you away. You just needed to prioritize another responsibility.
- You Wanted to Grow – A job might be perfect for the moment, but not offer you the opportunity to advance. In these cases, you’re entirely justified in trying to find something that better fits your ambitions. This category can include things like going back to school or seeking out a position that pays more.
Feel proud of your previous work experiences. You may have left a former employer, but you take the skills with you to the next gig. It’s all part of advancing your career.
When you’re ready to find that next big break, it helps to have an expert on your side. Teaming with a reliable recruiting firm, like DHR, allows you to find the ideal assignment for the next phase of your development.
Contact DHR today to find out more.