Most of us have been there – sitting in a job interview, feeling like things are going well when the interviewer asks a question that makes your stomach drop. “Why did you leave your last job?” As innocent as it may sound, this question is a minefield, especially if you were fired from your last job. One wrong move can blow up your chances in seconds.
Below, we’ll break down this question, why it’s so tricky, and how to tactfully handle it without damaging your candidacy if you have a termination in your past.
Interviewers ask this for two main reasons:
In essence, it reveals your professional judgment and integrity, which are hugely important if they’re considering you for an open position.
If you were fired or let go, answering this question wrong can immediately eliminate you from the hiring process. Here are some dangerous approaches that you should avoid while interviewing:
Essentially, anything dishonest, bitter, or evasive destroys your credibility almost instantly. Interviews seek the truth – the good and the bad.
It comes down to being transparent but also discreet – leveraging emotional intelligence to navigate tricky situations. Demonstrate you can handle sensitive topics with grace and wisdom. That ability speaks volumes about your leadership abilities.
The “Why did you leave your last job?” question can be a pivotal moment in an interview. If you have a thoughtful response prepared that focuses on moving forward in a positive way, it can help demonstrate your maturity and professionalism. But if you become defensive or emotional, it may hurt your chances. Try to take accountability for any legitimate issues while also being fair to yourself. An honest, level-headed answer shows the poise and self-awareness that employers look for in strong candidates. With practice and preparation, you can handle this question in a way that represents you at your best.
Looking for work? Get connected with one of our career experts.