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Frequently Asked Interview Questions

Always among the frequently asked interview questions is...

 Why did you leave your last Job? 

Or...

Why do you want to leave your current job?

If you've thought this through... and have a sound non-emotional reason for leaving, you should be able to navigate around thorny problems and issues without sounding negative or fumbling for words.

There are several good reasons to leave a company that you can openly share with your interviewer:

  • Your employer is losing money
  • Company sold to an investment group
  • Your group is relocating and the timing is bad for you
  • No advancement opportunities
  • Your industry is in a long term decline
  • Layoffs and downsizing

As a general rule, it's OK to share a negative if it is business related and beyond your control. No one will blame you for wanting to move on.

If you are leaving for personal reasons, you want to avoid bringing this up in the interview. Look for other business reasons to share.

Most people don't leave their jobs for just one reason.

If you were fired or laid off, don't panic or despair. You just need to think this through and come up with the best way to explain your situation...like in the true story below.


Check Out: My Mock Job Interview Quiz. Do you know your fatal interview flaws?

True Story

In a prior life I worked for a boss who was a complete jerk. If you look up jerk in the dictionary you'll find his picture there.

Despite his executive level position with the company, when he got upset about something, he would sometimes erupt into a fit of rage and actually throw things across the room.

People were fired at the drop of a hat for no good cause.

There were rumors and complaints about him throughout the company for sexual harassment along with other unprofessional, dishonest, and unethical behavior. In short, this guy was a serious liability to the company.

It eventually caught up with him and he was fired. But during the interim he caused a lot of stress and heartache--not to mention all the damage he did to the reputation of the company.

A lot of good people were burned, and then had the added stress of explaining in an interview why they were fired. I was one of the unfortunate managers who was "let go" by this guy.

During every job interview one of the frequently asked interview questions was:

Why did you leave your last company?

If you were in my shoes, how would you respond?

What do you think my interviewers would think if I unloaded this story on them, along with all the juicy details?

They might think a lot of things about me, like:

  • I'm a whiner
  • I exaggerate--no one really acts like that today in the workplace!
  • I probably brought this upon myself
  • I'm not loyal to my boss
  • I expect things to go perfectly in the workplace
  • I'm thin skinned
  • I'm a back stabber
  • I don't handle conflict very well
  • ...and you fill in the rest of the blanks.

Fortunately for me, my termination came at a time when our company was reorganized into 2 independent divisions. Believe it or not, my boss was put in charge of the division I was apart of. My position at the time was national sales manager.

During my termination interview my boss told me he wanted to put his own people in place in HIS division, and so he was letting me go.

Although this was a very stressful experience for me, it actually worked out for the best. I was given a very generous severance package and was able to eventually start my own business--something I always dreamed of.

I guess I should have sent my ex-boss a thank you card and a box of chocolates!

Anyway, you now are probably asking yourself: How did I answer that question?

Well, I told my interviewers the truth...but not the entire story.

I shared with my interviewers that our company had split into 2 independent divisions, and my division VP wanted to put his own people into the key management slots.

As a result, I was let go.

I then quickly added that I harbored no ill will towards this company and was grateful for the generous severance package they provided.

My termination was not performance related, and I was proud of my accomplishments. I left the organization with a clear conscience.

Everything I told them was true, even though my boss was a poor manager, and not a leader at all. I didn't share this with my interviewers because this was my personal view--and it is always best to avoid personal issues.

In reality my boss wanted someone just like himself--an autocratic manager with a take no prisoners attitude. I think he also saw me as a threat and used this window of opportunity to get rid of me.

All of this was confirmed after he was finally terminated 18 months later, but I certainly couldn't reveal any of this in my interview--no matter how true it was.

About half the time, my interviewers would move on to other frequently asked interview questions. But the other half of the time they would drill deeper to try and uncover the real reason I was let go.

A good follow up question would often be, Why would your boss let you go if you were doing such a good job?

I would then release a little more information without blaming my prior boss for my job loss. In this case I shared with them that my management style was democratic/free rein, and my boss wanted someone who was more autocratic and demanding.

I would then use the pause in our conversation to try and get off the defensive, and see if I could change the subject.

I shared with them my greatest strengths, participative leadership style, and how I enjoyed building a cohesive effective team. This would often lead to other frequently asked interview questions about my management skills, or situational interview questions, which were much easier to answer.

Sometimes an interviewer just wouldn't it let go and continued to press me for more details.

In this case, I just trusted my instincts and tried to answer these kinds of frequently asked interview questions as best I could without being too negative.

In 1 or 2 cases I finally was forced to reveal that my boss was difficult to work for and I did my best to work with him.

Then, I just let the chips fall where they may.

But you can best navigate through these kinds of stressful questions if you've thought out ahead of time what you are going to say.

There are no perfect answers to tough questions like this on the long list of frequently asked interview questions.

Every interview takes on a life of its own. Be yourself, but be well prepared. Most of the time if will work out well.

Knowing what kinds of frequently asked interview questions you might face, and having well thought out answers before hand, will build self confidence and make you shine in your interview.



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