You have done a great job in preparing your resume, cover letter and applying for the right positions, and now you have landed the interview! The interview is where you and the employer ask questions to determine if the job and employer will be a fit for you. Most questions in an interview pertain to your past job performance, skills, values and competencies. However, you quite likely will also be asked about your previous job (or jobs) and employers, and why you left past positions. This can be an easy question for those who left positions after longer service for advancement opportunities. However, this can be a trickier question for those who left previous employers due to lay-off, termination, bad feelings, etc. So, what is the best way to address these questions of past employers?
What you say about previous employment speaks volumes about you, not the boss, which is why interviewers pose the questions. Interviewers are looking for a few things when they ask about your previous job, such as:
- How well you deal with being put on the spot
- How well you work with others
- How you like to be managed
- How you grow and learn from experiences
Here are some tips on answering these questions about a previous job:
1. Plan ahead. Know what you are going to say about each previous employer before the interview. Practice what you will say ahead of time and use the next few points to craft a solid answer.
2. Be positive, even if it is difficult. Most experts agree that saying something positive about your former boss is the only way to answer the questions, regardless of your true feelings. If you rant negatively about a previous manager, the interviewer often assumes the employee was the problem and will be hesitant to hire them. Highlight the positive aspects of your manager’s leadership style and what you learned from them. You could acknowledge that you had different styles but that you found a way to work together to achieve goals.
3. Bring your answer around to your strengths. By highlighting what you learned from a previous manager, you can focus on how this experience allowed you to develop certain skills and competencies.
4. Know what you should leave out. Like I said above, stay positive and don’t share details that can cast you in an unflattering light.
Interviews can be very stressful experiences! The best way to alleviate some stress is to be prepared, and that includes preparing answers to potentially difficult questions. Keep your answers positive and focused on your strengths!
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