So how do you respond when asked about your previous position and the reason you’re looking for new opportunities? How does the answer differ when you’ve had a bad experience versus a good experience, or in a case where you were asked to leave the position? The answer might surprise you in that in all of these cases the approach is the same – focus on you, your accomplishments, what you learned from the opportunity and don’t let any negativity enter into the conversation. In the article below, Hallie Crawford provides tips on responding to questions about your previous position.
How to Talk About Your Previous Job in an Interview
You may feel that the job interview is going well, you responded well to all of the questions so far and things seem to be wrapping up to move on to the next round. However, before you know it, the hiring manager asks the dreaded question about your previous position, why you’re leaving, and you cringe. “Tell me about your last job.” Bad memories run through your mind and you find it hard to form a sentence. You force a smile and say, “It’s a long story.” The hiring manager thanks you for your time and says she will be in touch. As you leave, you mentally kick yourself for not thinking of a better response and feel you may not receive a call for a second interview.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation or a similar one when you were asked about your previous position and you didn’t know what to say? Whether you didn’t get along with your boss or you didn’t mesh with your team, you just didn’t love your previous job. So how can you put a positive spin on it to keep moving forward in your career path?
Focus on yourself. If you did have a negative previous work experience, your reasons for leaving or looking for a new job should focus on you, not the company. For example, you could explain that you are focusing on your career growth or that you want a new challenge. While you will want to avoid coming across as a problem employee, you should never bash your former job or manager. It is OK to say that a company culture or management style wasn’t an ideal fit for you, but then just leave it at that.
Action tip: You want to be truthful when speaking about your past work experience so take some time to think about how leaving your previous position helped you grow as a business professional. Are there new opportunities open to you that weren’t before? Is there a particular part of the job you are interviewing for that you feel would challenge you in a positive way? Try something like: “I didn’t feel challenged enough in my career at my last position. Reading the job description for this position, I feel excited about X tasks.”
Stay positive. No matter what your reasons for leaving a previous position, even if it wasn’t voluntary, avoid being bitter about it. Try to find the positive spin, focusing on the future. Did you learn something from your experience at your previous position that you could use to help you make better decisions? Could your experience help you be a mentor? Have you learned how to deal with different personality types? Take a few minutes to think about something you got out of the experience that can make you a better business professional and use it to think about your previous job more positively.
Action tip: Once you have come up with a few lessons you learned in your previous job, focus on making sure they are positive. Maybe you learned that you don’t work well under a micromanager. But how can you word that in a positive way? Try: “My previous job provided some valuable lessons for my career path. While the management style wasn’t a perfect fit for me, I learned how to accomplish my tasks while working under pressure.”
Talk about your accomplishments. Even if you hated your last job, you surely had accomplishments that brought good results. No matter what your position, you should keep a running list of accomplishments with results you can quantify. This will help you to focus on the work you did at your previous position, not on the people.
Action tip: Use your running list of accomplishments and pick two to three with tangible results. For example, if you brought on new clients, how did that positively impact company sales? Or if you implemented a new way of organization or a new program for your team to use, how did that impact productivity for your department? If you don’t have a list of accomplishments, look to see if you have any records of your performance reviews to help refresh your memory.
By putting these tips into practice, you will find that you will actually have a lot of good things to talk about when you are asked about your previous position!
About the Author:
Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach, speaker and author. HallieCrawford.com is a boutique career coaching firm known for their personal attention and commitment to their clients. Their holistic approach to coaching is effective for career seekers wanting to find their passion and career path for life. Their hands on approach to career coaching is tried and tested with a 98% approval rating. To schedule a complimentary consultation visit www.halliecrawford.com.