If you remember last month’s post, I let you know that we would spend a few cycles talking about tough interview questions and drill down a bit on how best to approach them during this highly stressful process.
I polled the group and this month and we decided that talking about why you left a position or why you want to leave your current position is a tough one for a lot of you.
Question: Why did you leave your last position?
There are 3 different options below. In all cases, keep your answer to ONE SINGLE SENTENCE and then SHUT UP! The biggest mistake that candidates make here is over explaining themselves – which after 2 sentences begins to sound like you are covering something up, compensating for something, lying, getting defensive, have baggage or any number of other not very attractive scenarios. Silence is Golden………
- If you left voluntarily. The approach you want to take here is that you were going TOWARD something rather than running FROM something. “I was presented with an amazing opportunity that matched exactly where I was headed in my career.” Or “I had such an incredible tenure at XYZ company that after 10 years I reached a point where my opportunities were becoming limited…I am a pretty driven individual, so when the position with XYZ surfaced, I made the change and I’m really glad I did.”
- If you were selected for dismissal. This means you were laid off, your position relocated or was eliminated. Speak the truth – even if you don’t agree with the decision. “The company brought in a new CFO and he needed to make some organizational changes. My role, along with several others, was eliminated.” Or “My position moved to Austin, and although I was invited to move as well, I just couldn’t make it work with my family.” Or “After 3 consecutive disappointing quarters, my company unfortunately was forced to do a workforce reduction and I was part of it.”
- If you were fired. This one is always fun! Here’s the deal – don’t lie. A lot of us have been fired during our career – not our favorite day, but it happens nonetheless. My best advice is to admit if you’ve made a mistake, own it and then move on with the interview. “I was fired because I violated one of the company’s policies. I did not complete the required paperwork before letting the equipment off the premises and the company has a zero tolerance policy. I regret not taking the time to follow process and have learned a valuable lesson.”
Question: Why do you want to leave your current position?
This is similar to question 1 above but with a little finesse. If answered well, this question will have real impact.
- If a recruiter called. This is the easiest response. If a recruiter or hiring manager reached out to you directly and you weren’t actively looking then just say so. No need to fabricate a reason for wanting to leave – it actually makes you more attractive in the interviewer;s mind. “I am not looking for a new position. I’m very happy on my current team. I also keep a mental list of companies that might turn my head and XYZ is one of them, so here I am!”
- If you are actively looking. If you are in an active search then you have likely identified the characteristics of your next ideal move. Prepare your answer to this question with those characteristics that the interviewers will identify with. “I’ve been in my current role for 4 years now and I’ve taken on as much new responsibility as I can. Since my company is stable, so are the people – in order for me to take the next step professionally, I am looking internally as well as externally.”
- If you are casually looking. You are satisfied in your current role but know that you must transition to grow your career. “I’ve recently done some self-reflection and have some pretty aggressive career goals. In order to drive forward professionally, I am looking for a strong mentor who can guide the next stage of my career. I really want to become a manager and I think that under your direction I can do it.” This response really takes a healthy dose of genuine to pull off – don’t try it unless you really mean it.
Remember, interviewing is like an audition. Get through the trial with enough preparation so that you have a chance to REALLY SHINE on the job! Next month we’ll tackle “What are your salary requirements?” Stay tuned……..
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