job interview

Interview Questions:

Why did you leave your last job?

Refrain from blaming others; do not blame the organisation or your superiors. If you feel anger and frustration due to your resignation / redundancy avoid displaying it in the interview. The interview room is not the place to release anger. If you expose anger or resentment you are 'inviting' embarrassing questions that are likely to lead to a 'dead end'.

Present concrete reasons for leaving your last workplace, such as:

  • Applying for a more challenging position.
  • Having a chance to work in a larger and more robust organisation.
  • Opportunity to work in a more technologically advanced environment.
  • Salary increase.
  • Applying for a more senior position.
  • Termination of contract (date).
  • Change of profession or area of expertise.
  • Further education.
  • Travel.

There is no hidden agenda behind this question. The purpose is straight forward, to understand the reasons behind your resignations (or redundancies) in your past. The reason(s) for leaving a job is important.

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Example A:

Interviewer: "Why did you leave your last position / job?"

Interviewee: "My salary was insufficient. They didn't live up to their promises. My manager was an incompetent person that consistently failed to deliver."

The interviewee could have settled for saying that he/she wanted an opportunity to improve their salary. Instead, they decided to disclose additional information regarding their relationship with their superior which is irrelevant to the question asked and only compromises their chances of passing the interview.

Example B:

Interviewer: "Why did you leave your last position / job?"

Interviewee: "I stopped enjoying the work I did. I lost motivation and decided it was time to move on."

The interviewee portrays himself as someone who did a job that was not interesting. The interviewer is more likely to search for a candidate that regards their work with respect (even if they indeed wanted a new challenge or a change of atmosphere).

Example C:

Interviewer: "Why did you leave your last position / job?"

Interviewee: "I had an opportunity to advance to a senior role in a company with a larger portfolio."

This attitude is positive. The interviewee is portrayed as a person that is confident and is valued; someone who is fit for a challenge.

if a person resigned due to a disagreement with their manager, this may imply that he / she has problems accepting authority or working within a bound framework. In a lot of cases the reasons for leaving are quite simple – such as a promotion or salary increase. Applicants that resigned because of a promotion leave a positive impression. Leaving a job because of a salary increase also has a positive aspect to it since it implies the person is valued. If these are the reasons for leaving your job – then be confident and sincere in your response.

However, there are instances when people resigned due to disagreement with their superiors or the organisation, or perhaps were even made redundant due to incompatibility or low performance at work. When the reasons for leaving your last position are complex and sensitive you may feel anxious or apprehensive, knowing that the answer to this question may be problematic and even detrimental.

In these cases it is important that you try and minimise the negative aspects of your resignation. Try to be vague if possible. You can always state that you wanted to move up in the career ladder or that you wanted to challenge your self by working in a new environment. Such a response portrays a confident person who is willing to face challenges.

Some applicants choose to lie outright about their circumstances for resignation, especially when the resignation or redundancy was not a pleasant one; this is your choice and occasionally this may be your only chance at passing the interview. As in real life situations, it is not always wise or feasible to be one hundred percent honest. However, you must take into account that if your lie is revealed you will fail.

Keep in mind that most organisations require references from past employers. At times, these may be references from anyone you choose at other times these may be references from your last workplace. If this is the case and you lied about your reasons for resignation it may be at the cost of this opportunity (yet pending the situation, if you left your last work place on really 'bad terms', this may be a risk worth taking as otherwise you may not stand a chance to begin with).

If the termination of work relations in your last workplace was problematic, if at all possible, try to find acceptable reasons which you could suggest for your resignation such as, willingness to advance in your career, a better salary, a more challenging work environment, change of profession, change of residence, engaging in higher/vocational education, taking a year off to travel, etc.

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