When they stopped paying me, that was bad enough. But, when they had the security guard escort me from the building and dumped my few personal belongings on the sidewalk, I decided enough was enough. I just wasn’t going back to work at THAT place anymore.
If you have a sense of humor and think you might be able to carry it off, the use of humor to explain why you were “booted out,” terminated, down sized, or just plain fired, please feel free to use my opening paragraph. That said, I doubt that it will work for most people.
I get the sense from most of the folks I have heard explain why they left their former employer that they have a sense of guilt about it. In part this comes from our own sense of failure. If only we had done this or that, perhaps the axe would have fallen on someone else or not at all.
Another place where this misplaced sense of guilt comes from is your former employer. As my father-in-law used to say, “If you can’t fix the problem, at least fix the blame.” In much the same way, employers do their best to make sure you think it was your fault that they had to let you go. Even if it was your fault, they will go to extremes to make you feel even worse if they possibly can. It is all part of their efforts to make sure you don’t sue them.
Even if we all subscribe to the “evil empire” thing, we still have to come up with an explanation. Inquiring minds want to know, and when they ask during your interview, you have to answer.
My primary suggestion is to go first. If you think why you left your last job is going to be a topic of conversation, you might want to consider addressing it before they ask. As they say on court TV, question asked, question answered. Once the topic has been covered, most folks will be hard pressed to ask the question again in a different way. In this way, you can get the story out as you want it told.
What is the right answer you might ask? Well, I would start with the truth. I am not telling you it has to be the whole truth, but it has to be complete enough so as to avoid follow up questions and it has to be honest enough that if anyone asks someone you might give as a reference, that your golden job opportunity won’t hear a totally different answer.
Short is also an important part of the right answer. Yes, I know you are into “primarily due to, partially offset by,” but try to restrain yourself. Most of humanity is nowhere near as detail oriented as us financial types and they are easily satisfied by most answers.
For the most part, “Why did you leave your last job?” isn’t a grand jury investigation kind of question. It is for the most part a point of curiosity. If you were caught with your hand in the till and you are that kind of person, it is unlikely that you are going to tell them anyway.
Let me be clear, you don’t want to fill your explanation with any whining or sour grapes. People get terminated from their employment for good reasons and bad, and most folks who do recruiting have heard it all. Keep in mind that it is just a question.
Expect that it will be asked because it is an obvious question. Be prepared to be factual and at peace with your explanation. And, most importantly, don’t confess to something that is going to prevent you from getting an offer on this opportunity you have worked so hard to get interviewed for.
For those who would like to add to the discussion, please send your thoughts to Leads@TheFENG.org with the subject “Why you left your last job” and Leslie will put it in our Notes From Members section.