In this video tutorial, learn how to respond to the questions why did you leave your previous company, past company or why you are seeking a position. Valerie Sutton, director Career Services at Harvard Graduate School of Education, explains how to address negative situations and show how they can bring value to the company.
- When asking the question why you want to leave your current company, past company, or why you are seeking a position now, an employer just wants to see that you have sound reasoning for your decisions, and if it was a negative situation, that you handled it well. They want to know that you're career-focused and not just a job hopper. This is not the time to go into your negative work history but instead focus on the value you can bring and support it with specific examples of your work. There are many reasons a person may leave a position, and there are many ways you can potentially answer this question.
The ideal situation is that you are leaving your current company for a better opportunity with them. So first, focus on what you like about the company you're interviewing with, and the potential career opportunities they may offer. This is similar approach as to why you are interested in this company. However, there might be times when talking about a negative situation is unavoidable, particularly if you quit, or you were fired from a job. You might also have to address a gap on your resume, or why you don't have a reference from your last employer.
Don't come across just too general or as if you're trying to avoid the question. Although you'll have to address the situation, you want to focus on the positive outcomes. A good strategy is to think about what was missing in your last position, and focus on that as part of the new position. For instance, if you couldn't stand your boss, you might say something like, my past company was great and gave me the opportunity to develop a lot of research skills, but I wanted to grow in my management skills. My boss didn't have the time to offer the support I needed in this area, what I like most about this position is the professional development opportunities it offers.
I've also spoken to Sarah, and she mentioned what a supportive research team this would be. Because of the professional development and supportive team, I think this is a great position for me. As you can see, it addresses the issue, but in a positive light. If you were fired, this can be a bit more difficult. Remember, the interviewer is not your critic, but they are trying to gauge if the situation was because you had a bad attitude, or you were negligent in getting the work done. Putting a positive spin on it and letting them know what you learned from a situation is important.
An example might look like, it was an unfortunate situation that ended in my dismissal. In hindsight, I should have expressed my concerns about the job earlier. I would have been able to seek out training earlier. Since the dismissal, I have focused my attention on learning Excel and become quite proficient at it. The bottom line is to focus on your career growth and the value you bring to the new organization while de-emphasizing the negative aspects. Practicing a well-composed response will make even the worst situation seem reasonable.
- Tell me about your strengths
- Tell me about your weaknesses
- Why are you interested in our company?
- Why did you leave your previous company?
- Tell me how you handled a difficult situation
- What questions do you have?