How do you answer why you left your previous job?

You are sitting in an interview and the meeting is proceeding very well. You are dressed up and feeling on top of your game. You have established rapport. You have asked all of those good interview questions that you prepared. And then the dreaded question: why did you leave XYZ Company? And now you aren’t prepared. But you should be.

First, analyze why you left each job listed on your resume (if it’s on your resume, it’s subject to discussion!).
Consider the reason; then craft an explanation that sounds positive (without distorting the truth, of course). And no matter how tempting, never blame. Blame is very negative, no matter how you phrase it.

Fired. Can we find anything positive to say about this one? We have heard and read many suggestions on how to deal with this question, but our favorite is to simply say: “Unfortunately, I was let go.” No drama. No over-explanation. Just clean and simple. Now, here is the positive part: “However, it’s clear to me now that I need to better communicate to my boss about workload vs. expectations.”

Laid off. This used to be as bad as being fired, but these days, it’s considered almost normal. “I was laid off after the merger. However, those 3 years with XYZ, Inc. provided me with excellent mentors to advance my experience in (fill in the skill).”

I’m leaving, I left. This is the catch all for: I hate my boss, my team, my work, my company and etc. However, it is better phrased: “After 5 years at XYZ I gained exceptional knowledge in (fill in a skill set). I can now bring this skill of mine to your company.”

Now, ready, set, go! Start with a blank document and write why you left. Now, take out the emotion and distill it down to simple terms, state what you learned/can bring to the new company and practice till it sounds natural coming out of your mouth.

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