There are plenty of interview questions that are tough to answer. That’s kind of the point of interview questions, as potential employers want to know how well you’ve prepared and how effectively you can think on your feet. But one always tends to throw people for a loop: Why are you leaving your last job?
As U.S. News & World Reports careers editor Laura McMullen writes in a post titled, appropriately enough, “How to Answer ‘Why Are You Leaving Your Current Employer?‘ in an Interview,” this is a question you’re sure to get. Employers naturally want to know what kind of employee they might be getting, so rather than cross you fingers and hope they forget to ask, the smart move is to take some of McMullen’s expert advice.
First up, she suggests you avoid badmouthing the old employer. Even if you’re incredibly unhappy, fight the urge. According to Mary Ellen Slayter, career expert at Monster, talking smack about your last boss sends the signal you’ll probably do likewise about the next one.
That being said, Slayter is a fan of being honest. That’s tip No. 2, even if you were fired from your last gig and don’t really want to admit it. “Tell me that it happened, and be as factual and as unemotional about it as you can,” Slayter tells McMullen. The key here is not to throw blame around, but rather to talk about what you learned as result of being canned. You’re a better person for the experience — your goal here is to explain how.
While discussing termination may center around you, Acing the Interview author Tony Beshara advises you keep in mind that the overall interview itself is not simply about you. By all means, talk about how your last gig didn’t offer growth opportunities, but don’t say things like, “I need more money,” or “I’m looking for a better title.”
Finally — and this one should go without saying — McMullen urges everyone to “practice your answer.” You know it’s coming, so think about what you’re going to say. You want to appear “nondefensive and open and self-aware,” says Slayter, and if you rehearse beforehand, you’ll be that much less likely to clam up when the moment comes.