Over the next several months, we at Everyday Interview Tips will provide you with examples of some of the toughest interview questions as well as thoughts on how to answer them. Part of interview preparation is to practice both interview questions and answers so that you can become a master at supplying the perfect response to the toughest questions. In order to view other sample difficult questions and answers, click on the category “Interview Questions and Answers” on the top of this post.
Today’s Difficult Question: “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”
Part of an interviewer’s strategy is to ask questions that are difficult to answer without giving away a part of your personality. The problem is that honest answers are going to reflect poorly on your candidacy, no matter how much the employer believes they value honesty.
Why do people leave their jobs?
- Their boss was a tool.
- Their pay was lower than they wanted.
- The job was boring.
- They got bad performance reviews.
- Their attractive coworker barely noticed them.
- They got fired.
Etc., etc. There are very reasons to leave a job that do not somehow reflect poorly on your character or your ability to do your job. However, since you are being judged on your character and your potential ability to do your job, answering this question honestly means that you could easily say something that scares the interviewer away. Instead, you need to come up with a “lie” that is based in truth in order to not damage your chances of landing the position.
The Truth is a Lie
It’s very hard to lie in an interview. If you get caught in that lie you won’t get the job, and if you are asked to elaborate you may easily find yourself rambling in a way that makes you look clueless and unprepared. The best way to answer the question is to say something that is true, but may not actually be the reason you left.
Examples (If You Quit):
- “I was hoping to commit to a company with more growth potential, but it was clear that with the way the company was currently structured, there would be very few chances to move up the corporate ladder.”
- “I wanted to work for a company whose products I could be more passionate about, and as I worked more with that business it became clear to me that where the products were headed was not in the direction I would have hoped.”
- “While I loved the company and treasured my time there, there were times where I felt that he company’s goals and my goals were not in sync. I decided it would be better to explore the job market and see if there was a company that could best benefit from my education and experience.”
As you can see, each of these examples can be true. Even if you left because your boss was a tool, chances are you were not moving up within the company. It’s not wrong. Avoid mentioning any personal problems or dissatisfaction with your work and keep your answers focused on the future and commitment.
Examples (If You Were Fired/Laid Off):
It is a little harder to come up with answers if you were laid off. In some cases it may be in your favor to be completely honest. For example “My company decided to outsource our department to cut costs.” This is a good answer that does not at all reflect poorly on your ability to do your work. However, if you were fired for a reason that is less complimentary, you can try answers like these:
- “It was clear that the company’s vision and my own had been growing apart in the months before I left. I still keep in touch with many of my coworkers though regularly and I keep myself updated on how the company is performing.”
- “When I came in the goal of my position was to do tasks X, Y, and Z. I completed those tasks effectively, and as time went on they needed someone else to with different experience to complete their newer goals.”
It may be tough to form an answer that does not mention any negative reasons for you being laid off, but if you sound as though you still care about the former company and everyone in it, even after being laid off, you should answer the question well enough to avoid any serious doubts. If you were fired it is even more important that you practice your answer as much as possible to avoid making any serious mistakes.
Overall, answering a question about why you left your last job can be difficult. That is why it is important to practice this question, as well as other interview questions and answers as often as possible to ensure that you are ready for any question the interviewer throws at you.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Remain positive, avoid any type of negativity.
- Look for a “reason for leaving” that is true, but only barely so.