On Fridays, I'm posting a job search question from one of our readers. This was a question posted in response to my posting on Linkedin Answers “Candidates - What's your most difficult job search question?”
(FYI, this isn't a silly question ... I just liked the picture)
C.H. shared that her toughest job search question was:
“asking about why you are leaving, left or willing to leave your current position. If you are having a difficult time with your work, workload or personalities at work, that’s not always the best thing to admit or explore. Better to talk about the things you want to do that you aren’t doing now---“
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No matter what, keep it positive. Negative answers, even if true are almost never in your favor in a job interview. Even if your current boss tortures baby seals (and you too) your future employer doesn’t want to hear it.
For example, one of my clients was trying to leave a current position where he was expected to work 60 hour weeks…something that wasn’t made clear when he first took the position. Rather than call his current boss a slave driver (which was true), we decided there was a more effective response.
We weren’t comfortable talking about looking for a better work life balance, out of concern that some employers might feel he was a slacker (he wasn’t married and didn’t have kids). Instead, we decided to turn this into a positive, by planning this response: “I want to continue my education and start a night time master’s degree program, so I’m looking for an employer that supports employee education. The time demands of my current position would not allow me to do well at both work and school.” Another way to answer this for those with a family: “I have two kids and want to be more involved with their activities. Increasing time demands at my current position are making it difficult to spend any time with them.”
As another example, I advised a client who was fired after three months on the job by a manager who was also fired the week after. It turned out that this same manager was indicted and plead guilty to fraud. My client wanted advice how to explain her short tenure… but she really wanted permission to tell the interviewer what a scumbag her prior boss had been, and how pleased she was that karma paid him back.
While explaining her side in detail might have made my client feel good temporarily, it probably wouldn’t have helped her interview. Instead we decided she should say she was last hired and first fired in a round of corporate layoffs (true statement), and that it was a positive. She didn’t feel challenged at this company, and a quick layoff gave her the opportunity to change the direction of her career into areas that gave her greater work satisfaction.
Explaining personality conflicts at work can be a little more challenging. Stating that your boss is impossible to deal with, while possibly true, has a high risk of backfiring – and making you appear as a potentially difficult employee. The interviewer doesn’t know what the situation is, but a smart interviewer realizes that there are 3 sides to the story (your side, their side, and the truth lying somewhere in the middle).
Instead of focusing on the personality conflict, it may be more effective describing the underlying situations. So rather than complain about personal conflicts, could you make it a positive and try “A new manager is still trying to convince finance to approve productivity improvements”. How about: “My company is in the process of changing its strategy in ways that I don’t see as being very smart for the organization.” Or maybe try: “I want to advance my career, but slower growth at my current organization provides very few opportunities.”
How about the readers? How would you answer the question “Why are you leaving your current position”?
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