During job interviews, you want to keep things as positive as possible. However, the reason for leaving past employers can sometimes make that challenging. Whether it is getting fired or an extended gap in employment, you need to be ready to address questions that could lead to negative misconceptions by the interviewer. The good news is that there is a right way to handle these issues, and it will make your interview a lot easier.
The key to explaining a gap, termination or resignation is to be confident and optimistic in your answer. Perfect a 30-second elevator speech highlighting your positive outlook and productivity in between. Don’t apologize and don’t dwell. Don’t leave your answer at “I was not being challenged” or “I am looking for more challenging work” as it could mean that you will leave your next job too quickly. Bring your explanation back around to why you would be a great fit for the job you are interviewing for. Change the subject immediately back to the interview by asking a question. The specific question is not the point, but rather, asking a question redirects the focus of the interviewer. For example:
In the event of a termination:
“There were some differences in opinion between me and my boss and I was let go. I accept responsibility for my part in not resolving them and I learned a lot from that experience. I still respect my past employer and I am ready to move on to an opportunity where I can excel. What is your first focus for the position you have?”
In the event of a resignation:
“I knew that I was ready for a change, but I didn’t want to take my focus off the job if I was going to keep working there. So I did what I believe was the right thing and left the job, to allow them to get someone who was in it for the long haul and to allow myself some time to ponder my next steps. What are some of the department’s best team attributes?”
In the event of a gap between jobs:
“Well, my time away from traditional work has brought even more value to future positions for me as you can see. I understand this position needs someone to hit the ground running. What is the most immediate challenge I would be able to focus on and solve in the first few months?”
By perfecting your elevator speech for each instance, you can give a satisfactory answer WHILE subtly changing the subject. Typically, if you don’t dwell, they won’t either. By handling this question correctly, you’ll be able to move onto the next subject quickly.