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How to Discuss Past Employers in an Interview

by Melissa Small
 

“Why did you leave your last employer?” is a common interview question. Right now, it could be because of a COVID-19 layoff, but there are many other reasons as to why you may be job searching, which are both positive and negative. If you had a positive experience in leaving your last job, this question may not propose any challenges, but otherwise it may be difficult to know how to respond when this question comes up in your interview.

Honesty is always the best policy, but it’s important to put a lens of respect and relevance on the level of honesty that you give. It may feel good in the moment to talk poorly about your previous (or current) employer, especially if you think the interviewer may be willing to listen to it. However, they may also be listening to a perceived inability to get along with others, which may backfire in terms of this new employer finding you to be a good fit.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, show what you’ve learned or accomplished since being in this role or leaving the position entirely. Doing this can be a positive reminder of the characteristic traits that you offer to an employer and show the future path that you’re trying to shape in your career. By doing this you’ll also sound as if you’re at peace with the completion of your position so you can step in to be a positive role model and face within the next company that you’re interviewing for.

As with any question, this is one to practice. It’s perfectly normal to have a job or be in a company that wasn’t the best fit for you, but you may be stuck in the same rut if you’re not able to provide details on why you weren’t a problem employee.