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Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Dec 7, 2017 9:00:00 AM

In Interview Tips, Job Search Tips

At some point in your career, someone will ask you why you left your previous job. This could be an easy question to answer for you or a minefield. There are a million reasons, and they usually fall into four categories: You got fired, you quit, you got laid-off, or you had personal reasons as to why you left. Each category requires a different response, and you'll want to tailor your answer to your situation. 

Here are your strategies for the next time you get asked that dreaded question:

If you got fired...

The most important part of this strategy is honesty. Don't ever lie about being fired because it will backfire on you. A company will never hire someone who lied to them in an interview. You don't have to be so graphic in what actually took place, but be honest if they ask you further questions. Try to frame the entire experience as an opportunity for you to learn and grow. It helps to stay calm and objective when talking about this because emotion will only make this worse. Be as brief as possible and move on from the subject. Above all, don't speak ill of your previous employer. Any negativity will not go unnoticed

If you quit your job...

The most important part of this strategy will be not to turn into a long list of complaints. You're going to have to reframe negatives into positives again. For example, if you were bored in your last position, don't complain about how they never gave you anything to do. Instead, say you are looking for a more challenging environment where achievements are acknowledged. Hated your cut-throat work environment? Tell them you are looking for a company that values teamwork. There is always a way to reframe your negative experience into a positive one. 

If you got laid-off...

Usually, if you get laid-off, it shouldn't be a reflection of your performance at that company. Normally, it's due to lack of work or decrease of demand. If you didn't get a letter of recommendation from your boss before you left, you should inquire about getting one. Even if your boss is no longer with the company, his or her word will count for something. This letter can confirm that you were a good worker and explain why you were let go. Your future employer may need more than just your word to believe your story. Again, just be transparent and honest when explaining what happened and you should be fine. 

If you left for personal reasons...

Depending on your reason, you may want to strategize your response. Something like leaving for a sick family member, starting a family, or recovering from your own injury or illness are all common and understandable reasons for why you would leave your job. They have no negative impact on you or your work ethic. However, if you left because you had a nervous breakdown or had to go to rehab, you must remember to reframe this situation. You don't want to lie, but don't go too into detail about your reason for leaving. If you left because of mental health reasons, say you took off time to come back fully refreshed, or you wanted to reconsider your career path. If you left because of addiction, tell them you left because you needed to find a healthier way to cope with the stress of the job. The main part of this strategy is to show that you have learned from the experience and you are better for it. Stress that it won't happen again and move on from the unfortunate event. 

Stay Positive

Through every explanation, it is essential to stay positive and honest. If you can master that, you have redeemed yourself in the eyes of the employer. Any negative experience can be reframed to your advantage, so change your perspective to claim your new job. Don't let anything from your past dictate your future. If you want to reclaim your professional future, click below to find jobs that are suited for your career path. 

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