Picture this: you are interviewing for a new job and despite the typical nerves, its going well! Just as your confidence starts to rise, the dreaded question is asked:

” Why did you leave your last job?”

Most interview questions are constructed to better understand you, your experience, and what skills you bring to the table. Any of these skills-based questions are a good opportunity for you to highlight your experience. A tricky question like this is designed to understand how you have responded to adversity and what aspects of your job left you unsatisfied.

No question there is a lot at stake when this question arises in an interview. So, where to start? Was your boss just unbearable? Did personal issues begin to affect your work or attendance? Short answer: your actual reason for leaving isn’t as important as how you handled the situation overall. The interviewer is looking at how you handle this situation now : have you moved past it? Have you accepted responsibility for a previous mistake? What will you do differently? In all cases, these three tips will help you to handle this question tactfully:

Keep it Simple

Honesty is important here, but getting bogged down with emotional detail is unnecessary. Maybe your boss was a nightmare, or the work environment was toxic. In either of these situations, it is important to remain honest but keep detail to a minimum. If your answer involves an emotionally-charged scenario, less is more. Instead, discuss what the experience taught you.

**Bonus points if you can finish by re-directing your answer to highlight why this new job is a better fit for you!

Remain Positive

Going into detail about how bored you were at your old job or how horrible your boss was will not do you any favors. The interviewer is a neutral party and this opportunity is a blank canvas. Complaining about former management or co-workers in an interview can make you seem immature or difficult to manage. Instead, discuss how the company’s overall culture and goals were not aligned with your ambitions. Use this as an opportunity to again tie your answer to the current job opening; discuss how this role is a better match for your personality and ambitions.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If the thought of answering this question gets your knees shaking, you need to prepare! Walking into an interview without a game plan to answer this question is a HUGE mistake because, like it or not, the question is inevitable. To avoid nerves, determine how you will handle this question and practice out loud or with a friend! To prepare,  have  a specific approach with your answer, be concise,  and leave your emotion outside the interview room.


Looking for more tips? Affinity Personnel is a locally-based employment agency that can help boost your job search!

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