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The Best Way to Explain Why You Left Your Last Job in an Interview

Nervous male hipster with caption of Why are You Leaving Your Current Employer.

“Why are you leaving your current employer?”

Most of us have or will experience this question at some point in our working careers. It can be difficult to express why exactly you are leaving your current position, especially if you were miserable, unhappy, or perhaps treated poorly. Potential employers love to ask this question because it allows them to gauge what your working relationship was like in other positions, and how risky of a hire you are. They want to know if you will be sticking around for a while, or if you will quit or be fired 6-months in. If you are asked this tricky question at an interview, fear not, here are some tips on how to succeed:

Practice

It is for the most part common knowledge to practice for interviews. However, it is important to practice particularly for this question as it warrants an especially challenging response. “You really want to come across as best you can as non-defensive and open and self-aware.” says Mary Ellen Slayter, Monster’s career advice expert and founder of the marketing company Reputation Capital Media Services. When answering this question, you want to feel comfortable and confident. Your answer should be positive and future oriented.

Honesty is the best policy

One of the worst things you can do is lie about being fired from a position. While I wouldn’t recommend reaching a level of honesty where you confess that you were fired because you were always late and never got any work done, but do not lie about being fired. Instead, explain what happened while keeping your emotions and judgments out of it.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all

The last thing your future employer wants to hear is how terrible you think your past employer is. According to Slayter, “Even if you were miserable, save it for happy hour – don’t dump that in the interview.” Bringing negativity into the interview can also give the false impression that you are bitter, and that you are holding a grudge. “If you bad-mouth the previous employer to me, I’ll assume you’re going to bad-mouth me to your next employer.” says Slayter.

Drop the “me, me, me” perspective

Rambling about how your current employer didn’t do a, b, and c for you will not send a good message to your future employer. “If you communicate self-oriented answers like, ‘I need more money,’ ‘I want a better title,’ or ‘I’m going nowhere in my present firm,’ you’ll be dead in the water,” writes Tony Beshara in “Acing the Interview.” Instead, try focusing on what you can do for them, rather than what your past employer didn’t do for you. This will send the message that you are looking to grow yourself and their company. For example, explaining that you did not feel there were opportunities for growth, is a fine answer, because it sends the message that you accomplished a lot at your previous position, and are looking to do the same somewhere else.

By implementing these tips, formulating a positive response to the challenging question can certainly be accomplished. Answering this question with maturity and positivity will send a big message to interviewers. Reflect on what you have learned from past experiences and work those lessons into your answer. Explain what interests you about the position for which you’re interviewing and focus on the future, rather than dwelling on the past.