When you’re interviewing for a job you probably don’t want to dwell on the reasons for leaving your previous position. However, many employers include this question as a standard part of the interviewing process. Keep your answer brief, use diplomacy and focus on why you want the job you’re applying for.
Don’t Disparage Former Employers
Use caution when explaining why you left your last job. Disclosing too much information about why you didn’t like it there can raise concerns about confidentiality. Employers don’t want to hire someone who will publicly criticize the company if they leave on bad terms. Don’t blame the company or your former boss or coworkers, because employers might think you don’t take responsibility when things go wrong and that you’ll do the same if they hire you.
Focus on the Future
Shift the employer’s attention to why you want to work for his company. For example, mention that you’ve always admired the company’s reputation for customer service or its history of developing creative and innovative products. Tell him that you were excited when you saw an opportunity to work with one of the industry’s leading companies. Explain why the job you’re interviewing for is a smart career move for you. For example, note that after several years in support roles, you have the experience to tackle a leadership position, something you can’t do at your old company.
Some employers worry you’ll leave their company for the same reason you left your last. They may also fear you’re not looking for a long-term gig or that you’re frequently dissatisfied. Assure them you’re not a flight risk. For example, explain that your last job required frequent travel, so you’re looking for a position that allows you to be available more for your spouse and children. Or, say that your last position didn’t offer room to grow, but that the position you’re interviewing for will allow you to fully utilize and refine your skills.
Keep It Simple
While you should not lie about your reasons for leaving, you also don’t want to give too much detail. The more you elaborate, the more employers will read into what you say. Offer an honest but brief answer and only give a more thorough answer if the interviewer presses for specifics. For example, if you were laid off, tell the interviewer your prior employer had to eliminate jobs to cut expenses. If your previous boss fired you, say that your skills were not a good match for your last job but seem to be a perfect fit for the job you’re interviewing for. If you left, simply say you wanted a different challenge or something closer to home.