Why Did You Leave Your Previous Employer?

Welcome to a new episode of interview questions and answers. Today’s topic is how to answer why did you leave your previous employer interview question.

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One of the dreaded (and inevitable) questions in a job interview is about past employers. It’s like dating – when your current squeeze starts asking about your past, you’d better have a good answer or its game over. It’s doubly scary for those with a checkered career. Let’s face it, you’re looking for a new job, which usually means you are unhappy with the current or last one. So how do you deal with questions about your past employers?

Why They Ask

Interviewers can learn a lot about you with this one question alone. It tells them what makes you stay in an organization and whether they can meet your expectations. While its their job to hire people, hiring managers usually want to do less of it, that is, they want to find people who will stay so that they don’t have to keep looking for people to fill a vacancy. At the same time, they are calculating if you are the right fit in their organization.
Aside from the foregoing reason, your answer to the question is a window to your past. Were you fired? Laid-off? How did you take the news? Did you go ballistic when you received the notice? Were you continuously passed over for promotion? By knowing the past, they get a glimpse of your future in their company too. Yes, they are being nosy, but they are nosy for a reason.

A Rule of Thumb

Each of us will have a different story to tell when this question is asked. Whatever story you tell, a good rule of thumb to remember is never disparage past employers. This question is not really about your past employers, but more about you. If you spew vitriol against them, it tells recruiters that you are unprofessional, bitter and hostile. It will also leave them wondering what you say about them to others.

If you do catch yourself being nasty about past employers, pause and reflect on what this tells you about yourself. You may not like what you see. It goes without saying that you should do this outside the interview room.

How to Answer the Question

Do you really want this job? If not, go ahead and unload on the interviewer. Tell him how you were passed over for promotion because your boss’ niece wanted the position, how your supervisor shot down every one of your suggestion you made because you refused to have dinner with him, and so on. Then step back and see how fast that gets you off the shortlist.

The lesson here is that you should always avoid being negative. It’s all about giving the story the right spin. For example, if your boss took credit for one of your joint projects, skip over the backstabbing part and instead tell the interviewer how you researched on a new design on short notice that was eventually selected by upper management. Highlight the initiative you took instead of the injustice that was done to you.

But what if your interviewer knew your boss and his love for the limelight (thus, always taking credit for his underlings’ work), should you admit it and tell him of other horror stories? As tempting as that sounds (you love a chance to gossip), don’t give in and join the bandwagon. What you can do is to give a knowing smile that speaks volumes of what you really want to say. But stay focused on your answer. It’s a small world, and if he is really as bad as you think he is, word gets around. Let him fall on his own sword. Instead, Take this opportunity to demonstrate your grace under pressure and independent style of working. He will get the hint and move on.

Possible Reasons for Leaving

Be that as it may, you will have to actually give a reason for leaving. If you have been job-hopping for a while now, interviewers will want to know why you flit about so much. The truth is, there are many reasons for leaving, but not all of them are acceptable in the eyes of interviewers. So when answering the question, focus on the positive reasons for moving over to the new one instead of staying with the old employer. Here are some of the more acceptable reasons:

1. Searching for more challenge – You have been with the company long enough that you have come to grips with your responsibilities. You are ready to take it to the next level so you moved to other companies that offered more complex challenges.
2. Looking for security – The economy forced your employers through several rounds of redundancy, and you do not want to work in a place with no stability anymore.
3. Seeking full-time employment – You were only covering for other employees then and worked part-time. You are ready to immerse yourself fully in the market.
4. Wanting more responsibility – You have been doing a good job and ready to move on. Unfortunately, the next probable position for you is filled and the person sitting in it is showing no signs of leaving.
5. Searching for ways to develop yourself – Your previous role was limited to a small portion of your dream job. You moved to learn more skills so that you can be ready for the job that you really want.

Your Final Word

Once you have set the reason for your departure, you should finish your narration by assuring the interviewers that you are ready to settle down. Point out the skills you have acquired along the way, and how they have shaped your career. Make sure they understand that this is not another way station for you, but perhaps, given the right conditions, is your final destination.

Interviews can be nerve wracking. The stress of making a good impression and the anxiety of waiting for a decision can get to you. A good way to maintain your equilibrium is to prepare, prepare, prepare. There is no such thing as being over-prepared when it comes to interviews. Anticipate the questions and draft an answer.

Since prospective employers are wont to ask why you are leaving or left your previous employers, expect the question and ready an answer that will snag you the job that you want.

References: YouTube Channel