The explanation of your departure from your old job during an interview with a prospective employer is a potential deal-breaker. If you offer too much information or explain your reason poorly, you may miss out on the job opportunity. How you should approach this possible minefield of a question depends on why you left your previous job. You should always try to give minimal information in a creative way and steer the interview back to more positive topics, such as your skill set.
Keeping It Simple
Try keeping it simple, honest and even a little humorous if you don't want to go into details and had a run-of-the-mill reason for leaving. For example, if you left because of a required relocation, you could say something along the lines of, "My morning commute went from 20 minutes in traffic to a cross-country flight." You're offering the reason with minimal details and giving the interviewer a light laugh, which often leaves a positive impression.
You'll need to tread carefully if you left your job because of something negative on the employer's part, such as ethical violations. You don't want to badmouth your former employer in an interview because you may get the dreaded "troublemaker" label. Look for other reasons to say why you left your job, particularly other real concerns you had. For instance, if your ex-employer was experiencing financial difficulties, you may mention a fear of layoff or concerns about the impending restructuring as reasons for your departure.
If you left because you needed to care for or spend time with an ailing loved one, say it. How much detail you're willing to go into is up to you, but you don't need to hide it. Most interviewers should relate to and understand why you'd make that decision for a family member. Prepare to give the information beforehand so you're not struggling to answer during the information. Set limits on how much information you want to disclose but adjust according to your comfort level with your interviewer.
No matter how you choose to answer the question of why you left your old job, you need to stay positive. Focus on your skills and put your personality into the interview. Prospective employers don't want to hear how horrible your old job was because they fear you'll bash them down the line if you're hired. Interviewers usually won't press for details after you've given a brief reason, so don't keep offering details once you've said your piece.