This is one of those job interview questions that will be asked by the savviest of interviewers. Although it’s positively heart-stopping to be on the answering end of this question, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you want to know how this seemingly fabulous person ended up on the job market? It’s similar to meeting an interesting, attractive person of the opposite sex, or finding a used car that’s only got 1000 miles on it and is 3 years old. Just a little too good to be true, and you can’t believe that no one else has discovered this amazing find.
Basically they’re trying to figure out what is wrong with you, and suspect they will get a clue by looking at your relationship with your last job.
So your task is to not give them any ammunition to rule you out of the game.
1. Never, ever, ever speak ill of your current employer, or any former employers for that matter. Everyone knows that one reason for this is because your interviewer will envision you badmouthing them when you decide to leave, and nobody wants to think about bad rumors about themselves traveling through the industry. Another reason to avoid dissing your past employer is that in this very small world, they could be a friend, relative or even your potential client at this new job. No person works on an island and you must always be conscious of the seemingly invisible threads that connect so many people.
2. Another never is to speak ill of the tasks you were asked to perform at your past or current job. ANY tasks. You may think that this new job would provide a blissful escape from the tedium of your last one, and so gleefully explain to an interviewer all of the mind-numbing things you were asked to do. However, your interviewer is thinking about the similar (but different) mind-numbing tasks of this position, and decides that you would quit after the first month. There’s no reason to hire you if you’ve already given them a reason for you to quit.
3. Also, you don’t want to speak ill of your co-workers. Those were or are your teammates, and the same rule holds true as reason #1. This world is too small, and good jobs are too few to take the chance.
So what CAN you say?
1. You can say that you wanted a new opportunity. That you felt that you had taken your current or past position as far as you could within the company, you had achieved X, Y and Z, and now feel that it’s time for you to learn a different aspect of the business, or to work for a bigger (or smaller) company. The key here is to focus on the future. Focus on the opportunities you see in this new position, how it will help you grow and learn and not what was wrong with the last company you worked for.
2. If you are applying for a job that touts flexible hours, work from home or excellent benefits in the job posting, you can mention those qualities as a reason to look into this new position. Again you don’t want to speak ill of your current employer, but say that you understand why they need to run their business as they do, but if the working arrangements at this new company are better suited to your lifestyle at the moment then it might be a good fit. You are showing the employer that there is a natural fit between their needs and your needs.
In the cases where you were let go from a position, all of the above rules apply. If it’s the truth, you can say that you were laid off as a result of a company-wide restructuring or budgetary cuts. If it was due to a disciplinary action you can say that at the time you were having some time management issues (if you were fired for being consistently late), but you have learned your lesson, that you take an employer’s requirements a lot more seriously and have taken proactive measures (which you can briefly describe) to prevent yourself from getting in that situation again. Show that you have made your mistake with your past employer and have absolutely no intention of making the same mistake twice. Sincerity, an action plan and great references are necessary to counteract any remaining issues.