Relationships can be awkward, and this includes those with employers. Just as in our personal lives, we may move from one employment situation to another under the full range of good or bad circumstances. Therefore, it’s always helpful to be prepared to respond appropriately to that important job interview question: “Why did you quit your last job?” Here are three tips to help you explain.
#1: Be Honest
The worst thing you can do in response to a question about why you left your last position is lie. Employers have quite a bit of freedom and ability to run background checks and to seek out information about past jobs. The reason you gave the past employer for quitting should be the same one you share during your interview.
However, you can express that reason in a way that is more conducive to getting hired. For example, let’s say you quit a job because the organization changed, and you didn’t like working there anymore. It would be fine to share with the interviewer that “The company changed, and I no longer felt like it offered me the same opportunities as when I started. Therefore, I quit to seek out new opportunities such as this job.” If you gave proper notice, mention that as well to reassure the hiring manager that you didn’t just abandon the job.
It’s not unusual for professionals and employers to part ways, so state this relationship confidently and honestly.
#2: Be Human
When answering a question about why you quit a former job, it’s also fine to be human. Potential employers can’t ask personal questions, but you can concisely offer an honest response: “I quit to move closer to my elderly parents so I could help them more.” or “My children were younger, and I needed to focus on being a good parent.”
The key is to make your response one or two direct statements. Then clarify that the issue has been resolved and that it made you better prepared for a return to the workplace. For example, did being a caregiver for your parents inspire you to the profession you’re now interviewing for? Did raising children make you better at time management or problem solving?
Directly sharing a personal reason for quitting that you connect to your professional life will not only give you the opportunity to market a skill you developed after quitting, but it will also show that you are a person worthy of becoming a part of the team.
#3: Be Positive
Both tips above lead to the best advice of all: Be positive. Even if the past employer was horrible, do not criticize or make negative statements about the organization. Present yourself as a busy, upwardly mobile professional who was smart enough to understand things weren’t working out well for either of you with the past employer, so you quit. You have no hard feelings. It was just time to take the next step in your professional growth. Give an example or two of what you learned during that stage of your career growth, or why you appreciate the time you worked for the previous employer.
Keep in mind that a hiring manager will want to feel comfortable with whomever is offered the position. By being sincere and positive, you will present yourself not only as qualified for the job, but also as a likeable person anyone would be happy to have as a co-worker.