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Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job?

So today I am trying to help you answer this frequently asked question during interviews: Why did you leave your previous job?

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Be prepared, you will be asked

It is almost funny how many people (even senior executives) will freak out by this question. One thing you should keep in mind, though, is that you are lucky to be in transition nowadays. Given what has happened with the economy in the past 2 years, it is NORMAL to have to quit your previous position, willingly or unwillingly. It is also NORMAL when an interviewer asks this question because he/she wants to understand your background and previous circumstances better, NOT to sabotage your interview, so please do not freak out.

Make sure you practice your answers as much as you can, in front of the mirror, with your peers, on the telephone, while you’re showering…until you are perfectly comfortable and not defensive at all when addressing this issue.

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Answers to Avoid

I don’t like my boss. Keep your mouth shut no matter how badly you may think of your previous boss, because it does not look good on you. One major skill, as a junior employee, is the ability to manage up. There might be initial difficulties, and it definitely takes time to build trust, and of course you don’t NEED to like your boss to do a good job, but you should have the ability to manage his/her expectations, and the ability to work with and even impress those who are tough to deal with.

There is no room for growth. People frequently use this and I agree it is very reasonable. But is this the best you can do? Is it the job itself that gets stagnant or is it you who are simply bored and lost motivation? Very few jobs in this world are fun, well-paid, and constantly provide new opportunities. Whether you enjoy a position or not, to a large extent, depends on how much you want to challenge yourself, how much you are creative with your own value-added ideas, and how much initiatives you take with new responsibilities. Many firms are now looking for longer-term hires, so be prepared to convince them that you are not a jumper or who knows you won’t leave this one again soon?!

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Good Answers

The job was not what I expected. You go into a position thinking you will learn XXX skills and take on XXX responsibilities, but the actual day-to-day work entails something completely different from what you expected, and this is not a direction you want your career headed. Employers value those who know what they want (believe me there are not many people in that category), and if you have a passion for something it is a waste that you cannot pursue it. You might also want to mention that your current/previous employer has no opportunities in the direction I’d like to head.

Note here, many people would have tried to transfer internally within the previous firm. My suggestion about this is that unless you are 100% certain you don’t want your current job, be patient with this process, and don’t openly publicize you want to transfer group BEFORE getting the offer from another department or another firm. All the people I know, who were too open about their intention to switch groups too soon, were let go by the firm and are prohibited to even stay in touch with the groups they intended to be transferred to. This is the harsh reality and I don’t want you to be the last one to know.

Other good answers include: A new manager came in and cleaned house in order to bring in members of his old team. That was his right but it also helped me to make the decision that I’d like to look for better opportunities elsewhere.

Relocation/job outsource/too much traveling can also be very honest and solid reasons of leaving a previous job. You don’t want to leave your current city, your department is outsourced to India, or you think after 3 years of intensive traveling as a consultant, it’s time for you to change your lifestyle and settle down in one city are all practical and perfectly understandable reasons.

Do you have similar experiences and do you have any good reasons you give that you care to share?

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  1. May 22, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    hi wats your myspace page

    • May 25, 2010 at 11:27 am

      I don’t really use myspace, but you’re very welcome to check out About page for more information.

  1. November 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm
  2. January 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm
  3. January 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm
  4. January 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm
  5. February 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm

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