By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC, www.redincllc.com

This is one of those job interview questions that will be asked by the savviest of interviewers. Although it’s positively heart-stopping to be on the answering end of this question, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you want to know how this seemingly fabulous person ended up on the job market? It’s similar to finding a used car that’s only got 1000 miles on it and is 3 years old; just a little too good to be true, and you can’t believe that no one else has discovered this amazing find.

Your challenge is to not give the interviewer any ammunition to rule you out of the game.

  1. Never, ever, ever give the appearance of a grievance against a former employer. Most people know that they shouldn’t say anything, but body language and awkward pauses will give it away. Practice your cover story with a friend to provide a seamless, brief explanation. Then shift the conversation to what interests you about the job you’re interviewing for.
  2. Never speak ill of any of the tasks you performed at your current or a previous job. ANY tasks. You might think that this new job would provide a blissful escape from the tedium of your last one, and so you gleefully explain to an interviewer all of the mind-numbing things you previously did. However, your interviewer is thinking about the similar (but different) mind-numbing tasks of this position and decides that you would quit after the first month. There’s no reason to hire you if you’ve already given them a reason for you to quit.
  3. Also, you don’t want to speak ill of your co-workers. This world is too small, and good jobs are too few to take the chance.

So what CAN you say?

  1. That you wanted a new opportunity, and you’ve taken your current or past position as far as you could. You’re proud of accomplishing X, Y and Z, and now feel that it’s time for you to learn a different aspect of the business, or to work for a bigger (or smaller) company. The key here is to focus on the future.
  2. If you are applying for a job that touts flexible hours, work from home or excellent benefits, you can mention those qualities as a reason to look into this new position.
  3. That you weren’t really looking, but this job caught your eye so you thought you’d find out more about it.
  4. If you were terminated from a previous job you can say that you were laid off as a result of a company-wide restructuring or budget cut, if it’s the truth. In many cases you can simply say that and let it go.

However, if the company is going to call a previous employer to verify that you worked there, they can ask them if you are eligible for rehire. If you were let go for a disciplinary action, then the answer would be no. If you suspect that this scenario could happen to you, the best course when asked this question in an interview is to very briefly admit what you did wrong and what you would have done differently.

I’ll hire a candidate who shows genuine remorse for doing something wrong over one who gives me the impression that they’re hiding something when I ask about their termination. This answer absolutely must be practiced, but if it’s handled correctly, it’s not a problem for an employer.

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

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