Master an Interview After Leaving a Job on Bad Terms

November 13, 2018
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Leaving a job on less-than favorable terms sometimes results in feeling defeated, depleted and awkward. Worse yet, it’s difficult to discern how to discuss why we left a previous employer once we land an interview. Whether you were let-go, resigned with less than two weeks’ notice, or got burned out and quit, have faith—you can rebound and interview with confidence. It just takes some sound judgement and the following three steps.

Check what’s personal at the door and focus only on the professional details. Regardless of the extent to which you can justify leaving your previous employer over a personal disagreement or issue, don’t mention it during an interview. Dale Carnegie’s 14th Human Relations principle, ‘Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately,’ is practically impossible should you reveal your personal issues with a previous role because most Human Resource and hiring managers perceive them as a red flag. Instead, focus on how your experience and skills make you an ideal candidate based on the job description. If there are additional ways you can support the organization outside of the role, definitely discuss how in the interview.

Stay on a positive track. The interviewer may ask questions which require you to disclose some negative former employment experiences. Instead of dwelling on the negative, be ready to share what you learned from it. Better yet, express gratitude for how the experience enabled you to grow. Applying Dale Carnegie’s 2nd principle, ‘Give honest, sincere appreciation,’ is an opportunity for you to shine.

It’s easy for former employees to be disgruntled and complain about how horrible an employer/boss/situation was. It’s the exception, rather than the norm, to find a candidate who is actually grateful for encountering a specific challenge because she was able to ultimately grow from it. For example, if you quit because your former boss micro-managed you beyond belief, you could say, “I’m grateful for that experience because I learned how important it is to give employees the tools they need and space to thrive.”

If you were let-go, share it diplomatically. This is the time to apply Dale Carnegie’s 19th principle, ‘Appeal to nobler motives.’ Truth be told—HR departments do not have legal access to your performance records unless the grounds for dismissal were criminal. You can bet, however, that the interviewer will ask why you left, or were fired.

Be prepared with a diplomatic response which exemplifies your positive attitude. Saying something like, “I outperformed a majority of people who were retained, but I was let go,” demonstrates resentment and may cause confusion on behalf of the interviewer, e.g. he will wonder why you were let go if you were a top performer. Punch up the positive by stating instead, “While I survived previous rounds of downsizing, my particular role was cut in the latest round. It was actually a blessing because I want to invest my time in a company with strong growth potential and amazing opportunities—like this one.”

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