The do's and dont's of answering 'why did you leave your job' in an interview?

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As a job seeker, one question you are bound to be asked in an interview, if you have previously been employed, is “why did you leave or intend to leave your previous or current job?” 

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They say if you want to be referred to as a mediocre interviewee, go to an interview without being prepared. As always the best way to answer any interview question is to be prepared by doing your research, going over what possible questions you might be asked and how to respond to them.

As a job seeker, one question you are bound to be asked in an interview, if you have previously been employed, is “why did you leave or intend to leave your previous or current job?” According to an article on the Monster, when an interviewer asks why you want to leave or why you left your previous job he or she wants to try to “understand your motives and gain insight as to how [you] handle work relationships.”

I once had an opportunity to conduct interviews where a candidate spent the better part of the interview speaking negatively about his former employer, yet he himself admitted that he had gained a lot of exposure and experience. It is not entirely wrong or unusual to have disagreements with your employer. It is inappropriate to talk negatively about a former employer at an interview. It doesn't project you as a positive person.

As a potential employer, one would be left wondering what would happen if you are hired and any misunderstanding arises. The possibility of the potential candidate in such a case speaking ill of the employer's brand to the next employer certainly becomes a concern. It is very important to always think of what to say to your potential employer. Sometimes, we miss out on opportunities based on what we say in the interviews. Here are a few pointers on how best to go about answering the question “why you left your job”:

1. Organize your thoughts and plan your words

It is important to think of what you are going to say to a potential employer. No one wants to miss out on an opportunity because of what they said or did not say. I was once interviewed for a job opportunity and after the interview, I replayed the whole session in my head and felt that I had missed out on emphasizing why I was the ideal candidate for the job. But this would not have happened if I had planned my thoughts. If it means inviting your friends to act as a panel of interviewers and asking potential questions then so be it.

2. Speaking NEGATIVELY about your former employer

An interview opportunity is not a place you go to vent about why it did not work between you and your former employer. It is a place you got to tell a potential employer why you are what they are looking for. If it did not work out leave that in the past and focus on what you were able to achieve during your time there. Don't dwell too long on your former employer. Remember, the interview is about you and what you can bring to the table for the new employer.

3. Career growth

If you are moving jobs because you are seeking new & fresh challenges, a shift in your career or growth, do not fail to tell the interviewers so. It also presents an opportunity for you as the interviewee to say why the company would be an ideal place for you to grow career wise. You can only manage to talk about that if you have done enough research about the company. Most importantly, if you were fired, it would be good to tell the truth but talk about it positively as employers can always make inquiries.


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    Rachael | November 22, 2016 10:15

    Hello Nelson. Thank you for your question. Some employers will usually give a salary range of what they are offering in order to eliminate applicants. In instances where they haven't mentioned we would recommend that you do research on what the position you are looking at getting offers in the industry. Just ensure that you do not undersell or oversell yourself. You can read more on how to answer salary questions in job interviews here:

    Nelson | July 26, 2016 05:28

    What of a question on salary expectations.

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