"So, why did you leave your last job?”
Job interviews are nerve-wracking, to begin with, but if you are planning to quit your job (or if you already have), you are likely to be twice as anxious. Quitting your job is bound to bring a few more uncomfortable questions, and rightfully so. Your answers will reveal a lot about your character and your values.
Navigating that line between honesty and diplomacy is tough, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you head into your next interview.
Don’t badmouth your employer
“You thought Regina George was bad?”
This might seem a little obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough! Being negative about your old workplace is detrimental to no one but yourself. Your answers here will reflect on your loyalty and integrity. Be respectful of your former colleagues, and try to remain as neutral and objective as possible.
Instead, emphasise the good parts
“I enjoyed my time at my old firm and am proud of the projects I have worked on.”
Bonus points if you can sell yourself in the process! Talk about the platform your company provided for your growth or your achievements and accomplishments during your tenure there. Highlighting the positive aspects of your workplace and your learnings will show that you also have a great attitude!
Don’t fixate on the disappointments
“Honestly, the dog and the free coffee were the best parts of the job.”
The most dangerous recruiters are those who can get you comfortable with them. No matter how chummy you might get, avoid complaining about the unrewarding or tedious parts of your old job. Even if you really would prefer to watch paint dry over finishing your assignments, there’s no need to let them know that.
Instead, reframe the setting
“My company is trying to do their best with the given circumstances, but I think it’s time to look for better opportunities to grow and challenge myself.”
Use this as an opportunity to express why you are eager to work with the new company. Maybe the position would offer more exciting prospects, or perhaps you would have the chance to explore a different role. It shows that you’ve done your research beforehand (and if you haven’t yet, you really should!) and that you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job. Circle back to how this job would fuel your ambitions in a way that your old one could not.
Don’t victimise yourself
“They didn’t appreciate my work, AND they didn’t pay me enough!”
We’ve all been there. You’ve feel undervalued, overworked and underpaid. Even though those are valid reasons to leave, don’t bemoan about it during your interview. It’s a subject that should be handled with care and tact, or you might come across as someone challenging to manage.
Instead, sell your skills
“There was a change in the direction my company was heading in, so I was looking for opportunities that align more with my goals.”
Your prospective employer is going to hire you based on what you can do for the company. While you might think that this job is perfect for you, you will have to convince your employer. Focus on your results and deliverables, and what you can do for them.
Don’t lie, or be blatantly honest
“So basically, what happened was…”
It happens to the best of us. A small slip or a little cover-up can be unavoidable, but you’ll dig yourself a hole if you keep it going. Censoring yourself is important. You cannot provide a detailed and unfiltered response – the more complicated your story is, the more doubt you create.
Instead, keep it simple
“I wanted to advance my career.”
So goes the famous KISS Principle. Tough questions can get more robust when you start to elaborate. The more detail you go into, the more likely you are to be questioned and cornered. While it’s essential to be sincere, you’re allowed to gloss over a few aspects. When in doubt, don’t be vague. Just keep it direct and to the point. You can provide further information when a follow-up question is asked, but you can’t take back what you’ve already said.
It all boils down to confidence. Remember to focus on your past accomplishments and your future goals. If you stay calm and collected and frame your answers with clarity, the job is in the bag.
PS: Practice makes perfect, so don’t forget to rehearse in front of a mirror!