How to Answer Interview Questions About Leaving a Previous Job

There’s nothing worse than a difficult interview question. It’ll catch you off-guard, leaving you blindsided and stumbling. Hiring managers will watch your response, body language, and tone. Every tiny cue is another insight. That’s hard to get past, especially when you’re being asked about leaving your previous job.

This can be a sticky subject, and your answer could make or break your interview. Don’t let your nerves and bad experiences get you down. Read on to learn how to talk about your previous positions with confidence, even if things went wrong.

Be Prepared

You won’t be able to anticipate all of the questions you’ll face in an interview, but you can be certain that they will ask you about your previous employers. Have answers ready right away. Never wait until the last second. You want to be confident when the time comes. Don’t just come up with good responses; practice that response until you get it right.

Watch yourself in the mirror. Your facial expressions and tone of voice can really make a difference. Also, check your posture and the way you move your hands. Don’t cross your arms or do anything that might make you seem closed off or hesitant. Avoid anything that might indicate that you’re lying, and try to get comfortable with eye contact. It will help you give the impression that you don’t have anything to hide.

Know the Basics of What to Say and What to Avoid

If you want to know how to answer interview questions about leaving a previous job, you have to understand what hiring managers are looking for in a candidate. There are obvious traits, like reliability and work ethic, but there are other variables involved as well. Not every company is the same.

Research your target employer’s culture before you apply. If you know someone who has worked there in the past, ask them about it. Look at what people are saying about the company online. With social media and a little bit of networking, you should be able to find something that you can use.

Find out what the atmosphere is like. Is it casual or harsh? What does the company seem to want out of a candidate? Do they want someone ambitious, or do they want someone in it for the long haul? You can build your responses around these desired traits. For example, if you quit your last job, and your potential employer is looking for a go-getter, tell them that you left your job because you wanted something more out of life.

If your hiring manager wants somebody who will stick around, tell them that you knew you’d be happier somewhere else and that you could see yourself working for them long-term. Keep things brief. You want to seem like you are answering the question fully without giving too much information. The more you talk, the more you give away, which will give your potential employer more reasons to turn you down.

If you don’t know anything about your potential employer’s culture, you can rely on one simple rule: keep things positive. Don’t admit your mistakes, no matter what. If you had marks against you, avoid them at all costs. Don’t do anything to indicate that you have flaws. Don’t complain about your previous employer or supervisors or anything else about your old company. This will sour the dynamic.

The hiring manager might think you’re hard to work with, picky, or lazy, and you’ll probably be shown the door. Instead, talk about moving forward, what you want, and how you’ve overcome challenges. A good attitude goes a long way.

Learn What Language to Use

It’s important to learn how to talk about why you left your previous employers without saying too much or implicating yourself. For example, if the company closed and there was a giant layoff, don’t say they fired everyone or give a long story about how you found the doors locked. That might show that you’re bitter about what happened.

Instead, say there was a company closure, and only use those two words. Try to avoid saying you were laid off. Some people use it as a nicer way of saying they were fired, but it tells the hiring manager that you did something wrong. That could end the interview.

If you left in a huff, you could acknowledge that you quit, but you should focus on your motivations and try to make them fit with the new company. That’s where your research into the company culture comes in handy. Say that you wanted something more out of life or a different working environment, and remember to keep it simple.

Smiling young businessman looking at manager with clipboard at job interview

Learn What to Say if You Were Fired

Things happen. Many people try to go their entire career without ever being fired from a job, but the nature of the corporate world being what it is, that’s not always possible. You’re going to come up against challenges, and let’s face it, some companies make an effort to cull the herd. So, don’t take it personally.

Even if it is your fault, you can put a positive spin on things. You don’t want to lie. You never know what information hiring managers have available to them. Sometimes they’ll call your previous employers and ask why you’re no longer working there. If you were fired outright, don’t say so. Go with an indirect, positive answer.

Nobody is going to tell their current employer that they want a better work environment or a job that satisfies them. Say that instead. If you add something extra to what your previous employer disclosed, you can make it seem like there are two sides to the story.

That will help discredit your old employer and make it seem like the hiring manager is getting the full picture, which is what they really want. This won’t always be enough, but usually, you can get through the situation if you keep things positive. Hiring managers know that you’re human and everyone has at least one blemish on their record.

Prove That You Have Something More to Offer

Sometimes hiring managers care more about a candidate’s skills than their past. Yes, they want to know what your work ethic is like and whether you can hold a job, but they also need to know that you can bring in revenue.

Subscribe to platforms like Funnel Mates and list them on the skills section of your resume to prove to the hiring manager that you know how to turn leads into sales. When it comes down to it, profits are what really matters. If you can prove that you can bring in more money, hiring managers are more likely to ignore the rest.

Final Thoughts: Changing the Focus

Your application process doesn’t have to be defined by your previous positions. Try to focus on the future of your career, both on a personal and interpersonal level. If you’re worried about the negative experiences you’ve had in the past or your performance at other companies, your hiring manager might pick up on that. Change your attitude. Keep your eyes on the road ahead, and you’ll do just fine.