I struggle with the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” In my previous role as a partner-funded business development representative, I was let go because the company said I violated company policy. At the time, many of my peers in similar roles were let go because funding was going away, including the partner that funded my role. Their reasoning for letting me go was that I shared information about another partner’s plans. I was unaware that this was happening and was offered no formal training or probation. In my 33 years of sales and work experience, this was a first for me and shocking, to say the least. So, what is the best way to answer why I left my last position?
Advice from Dana
Script a short answer to this question forevery one of the positions on your résumé, not just the tough ones.
- Disclose all of the details about your departure.
- Blame your departure on the economy, Obamacare or “tough times.”
- Bash the prior company, management team or boss.
- Say “Off the record, my boss was a jerk” or something similar.
DO select from the following types of answers: (NOTE: you are not lying). Create an answer that summarizes your reason for departure at a very high level, realizing they may probe for more details.
- Company-wide downsizing
- Reduction in force
- Reorganization, realignment of departments
- Funding ran out
- I want to pursue a career change to work for a (larger company, different industry, etc.) and I am devoting full-time energy to it. I’m very excited about this position and am eager to demonstrate why I am a great fit for your requirements.
Once you get through the interview stage, and sometimes even after an offer, the hiring company will do their due diligence. When they call your prior company, that company is required to confirm you worked there and the start and end date. However, you never know who knows whom and they may find out more details.
I am a senior executive, currently employed but actively seeking a new career position. I am 60 years old. I know that prospective employers cannot ask my age, but is there a way I can verbally signal them that I am not winding down toward retirement? When asked why I am seeking a new position, I have said: “I intend for the next 8-10 years to be the most creative, energetic, and influential years of my career, and I want to find a great place to maximize my impact.” Have you got a suggestion for me?
Advice from Dana
I love this question since you can replace this topic with ANY other objection you expect. Here are four recommendations:
- As early on in the interview as possible (or on your cover letter), address this head on. “Mr. Swanson, before the interview begins, may I say two things? First, thank you for considering me for this important position. Second, I have hired executives during my career, and if I were you I might be thinking this candidate may not want to very work hard or for a long time. I’d like to share that I am committed to working hard for many years and my energy level is higher than it’s ever been. I really want to exceed your expectations in this role.”
- Don’t give a number of years. Setting a limit (“8-10” years) could hurt you and it may not be believable.
- Avoid the use of “I, me, my” in your answers — all answers. This is not about YOU but about them, so shift to “you, them, your.”
- Most importantly, dress to match your words. If you say you are energetic, they need to see that from the minute you walk in and shake hands. Are you in shape physically? Smiling? Sitting up straight? Is your suit fairly new and well-tailored so it fits? If you have a low-key personality, you need to practice dialing up your energy. Role-play an interview with someone you trust and ask for the honest truth about the first impression you generate.