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How To Turn The ‘Why You Left Your Last Job’ Question Into A Selling Point At Interview


I was coaching someone this week who was going for an interview and they asked me  “What should I say about why I left my last job, because it was really negative?”

It can be tricky to navigate that question, especially if you are still harbouring some negative emotions around the whole experience. And that’s part of it – have you dealt with the emotions, learnt the lessons, seen why it came to an end (probably because you weren’t on your path, or your values no longer aligned)?  Getting it clear in your mind is the starting point, so actually seeing what wasn’t working and gaining clarity is the first step. The second step is once you’ve come up with what you’re going to say,  keep practicing that line so that it rolls off the tongue without any emotion in your voice.

Back to our example. When we spoke more about why it was really negative, she said “management was s***t” but when I asked why, they soon revealed that they had kept putting suggestions forward to management, and was always told, “that’s great, we’ll make that happen” but nothing ever did. They got disillusioned and left.

I can only see the positives here, can you?

The positive is that they were demonstrating initiative and ideas, but were in the wrong culture. They were focused on process improvements, and were working in an organisation that had a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

So how do you frame this to your advantage at interview?

Something along the lines of, “I realised that my values around continuous improvement weren’t aligned with the organisation, and so I’m seeking to work for an organisation that is open to new ideas.” At the end of the day, you want to be working in an organisation that is the right fit, and if a potential employer hears this, and once again, it isn’t how they operate, you’re saving yourself from history repeating itself. When it’s the right employer, this will be music to their ears!

The learning here is so look for what’s important to you in the next role, and frame your reason for leaving along those lines.

If you’re finding it a challenge, you might want to reach out to a career coach to help you 1) clear up any emotional baggage that you’re carrying around, and 2) reframe your reason for leaving.

You can book a call here.