How To Answer: Why Did You Leave That Job?

Martin Yate CPC
NY Times Best-Seller
35 Years in Career Management
Questions like “Why did you leave that job?” or “Walk me through your job changes please,” help an interviewer understand the reasoning behind your career moves and are revealing about your motivators and professional commitment.

It is easy to get into trouble with too much information, so to avoid follow-up questions your answer should be both concise and comprehensive. You achieve this by making two statements about each job:

         1.     The skills you developed in that job that apply to this job.
   2.     Why you left.
Under no circumstances should you criticize a past manager, it will only raise a question in the interviewer’s mind: “Will he be complaining about me like this in a few months?”
As an example, a salesperson might say, “XYZ Corporation was where I developed my [closing] skills and the record demonstrates solidly improving performance. But it was a family owned company and all sizable accounts were off limits to me.”
There are six for leaving a job, that are considered  so acceptable that they rarely lead to follow-up questions:
·      Challenge: You weren’t able to grow professionally in that position, or you were using existing skills but not developing new ones.
·      Location: The commute was unreasonably long.
·      Lay-off: Workforce reduction due to economic climate.
·      Advancement: There was nowhere for you to grow professionally, or that advancement was based on tenure and there were too many people ahead of you.
·      Money: You were underpaid for your skills and contributions.
·      Pride or prestige: You wanted to be with a better company.
·      Recruitment: You were recruited to join another company.
·      Security: The company was experiencing problems.
A person with three jobs might answer this question, including details of skills developed in each job:
 “My first job gave me good experience in (skills detail), but it was a very long commute. I was there three years and got recruited.
XYZ Corporation was were I developed my  (skills detail) skills and the record demonstrates solidly improving performance. But it was a family owned company and all sizable accounts were off limits to me.
I was with my current company for ___ years, where I developed (skills detail) until I got laid off in the recession.”
Answers like this deliver information about skill development relevant to the target job and acceptable but non-specific reasons for your career path.
          

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