Q&A: Problem Answering “Why did you leave your last job?”

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Q:  im starting to look for a new job and im having a problem with the “why did you leave your last job?” question. 
the reason i gave my last employer is that i was moving to a town about an hour away and the what they were paying me (7.50/hr) just wasnt worth it to drive back and forth every day. the real reason i left is that i had been so stressed that i was starting to get sick (temp. loss of vision, nausea, migraines, loss of balance, decreased immunal response {i was sick with a runny nose and dull head ache for almost a month}) the stress being brought on from starting the job at the beginning of their remodel, and unvoiced dissagreements in how the new (only) manager was handling things. how should i answer the question?
-Wild

A:  Wild, you are right to spend some time considering your response to this question.  What you say will be relevant to the interviewer for any number of reasons.  For example, your answer may provide clues to a would-be employer about whether or not you are mature, professional, and responsible; if you have performance or integrity issues, or are likely to be disloyal; and if your relationship skills and work values are healthy.

My advice:

  • Avoid bath-mouthing your former employer.  You do not know what relationships exist beyond the workplace, or how someone else would handle a situation you found unbearable.  
  • Accentuate the positive.  Use this and every other question as an opportunity to shine.  Talk about your accomplishments and the length of your tenure in your last position – if these are worthy of bragging about.
  • Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future.
  • Be consistent with your reasoning between job applications and interviews.

Some good examples of responses to “Why are you leaving?” would include:  to seek new challenges to expand myself professionally(link to the functions/challenges of the new job), to pursue new experiences (be specific, i.e. with XYZ software, working with non-profits, etc), to pursue my dream of (insert your passion here), to take on new responsibilities (be specific, i.e. supervising, traveling, etc.). A small amount of research on the job you are applying for should provide you with some examples of the challenges you will face, responsibilities you will have, and skills you will learn.

For more suggestions, see:
Reasons for Leaving a Job” and Job Interview Question: Why Are You Leaving Your Job? by Alison Doyle

How to Answer: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job” by Pamela Skillings

Hope it works out!

 

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