Tackling the "why did you leave?" question
By Carole Martin, Interview Coach
This is a question that you can almost count on being asked at your next job interview. What the interviewer wants to know is, “Why are you available?”
The answer you give could set the tone for the rest of the interview. For instance, if you were to indicate that you were bored or burned out at your last job, the interviewer would quickly become concerned about your performance at this company. The question can be especially tricky if you’ve had less than favorable conditions regarding your departure from a company. Regardless of the circumstances that have caused you to move, or are causing you to think about moving, you should be prepared to answer this question.
Below are examples of possible answers to this critical question. After reading them, try to determine which is the strongest answer.
(A) The company had a reorganization, and my department was eliminated. The work had begun to dwindle so it was not a complete surprise. I liked my job and the people I was working with so I had been hoping that it wouldn’t affect us, but unfortunately we were all let go. I would like to find a job similar to the one I lost.
(B) I am looking for a new challenge. I have been with my current company for two years now and don’t find the work as interesting as I once did. I am looking for a company where I can take on new challenges and grow. My current job is dead end for me.
(C) Since there are no advancement opportunities within the company, I have decided it would be a good time for me to look outside. I have set some career goals for myself that I could not achieve at that company. What I am looking for is a job with a bigger company where I can contribute, but also move on a career path that has more responsibility.
Have you selected the strongest answer? See if you agree with the advice below.
The strongest answer
(A) This is the strongest answer, not because of the lay off, but because it has an upbeat tone to it. You liked what you did and were hoping it wouldn’t happen. In other words, if it hadn’t been for something out of your control, you would still be there. The answer indicates a good attitude about an unfortunate incident.
The mediocre answer
(C) This is an okay answer. It is natural to want to take on more responsibility. It is also acceptable to quit a job. A skilled interviewer would follow up with a question about your career goals and why you think you can achieve them at this company. Would you have an answer prepared for that follow-up question?
The weakest answer
(B) This is the weakest answer because it is trite. One of the most common answers to this question is that you are “looking for a challenge.” An interviewer might be concerned that if you were bored at your last job, you might find this job boring as well, or at least not “challenging” enough.
There are no “right” or “wrong” answers to this type of question, but there are ways of saying the same thing in a way that will make a stronger impression. Before you head out to your next interview, consider preparing for this and other difficult questions. A little time spent preparing and scripting your answers before the interview will make a huge difference in the way you answer the question during the interview.
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About the Author
The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. Carole is using her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries. www.interviewcoach.com
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