We’ve all had terrible jobs, horrible bosses or simply jobs that we’re not exactly proud of but are still important enough to include on our resume. So how do you explain those employment situations in interviews? A job interview is not a time to vent. You can’t say anything negative about a previous employer or boss—that reflects poorly on you and makes you seem like a negative Nancy. Here’s how to talk about your past employment opportunities in job interviews.
Focus on the Pull Factors
When you discuss your reasons for leaving your previous employer, don’t focus on the push factors—the things or people in the company that are pushing you to leave. Instead, focus on the pull factors—the things that are attracting you to another employer. It might be something like your own career growth and trajectory, or it might be something very specific to the company you’re applying with, like the possibility for professional development. Or maybe you really love their mission statement. Or you’ve heard such good things from other employees who’ve worked there. Or maybe you simply thought it’d be a better cultural fit.
Turn the Negatives into Positives
If they push you to talk about your previous employer—and they might —talk about all the positive aspects of working there. Mention how great and hard-working your team was. Or everything you learned while working there—different skills, management styles, valuable experiences in your industry. Don’t attack your previous employer or anyone you worked with at all! It makes you look bad and makes hiring managers anxious that you might eventually feel the same animosity towards them.
Mention Your Accomplishments
Even if you absolutely hated the last job, you must have had some achievements there. Talk about them! Be specific and use numbers when you can. If you brought on new clients, how many? How did you improve efficiency and by how much? How many employees did you train or manage? How did the innovative new procedure you implemented affect your department? Talking about these successes will automatically help you stay positive.
Leave the Impression You’re Still Loyal
Loyalty can be a virtue, so even if you have a previous employer who was less than joyful to work for, talk about them like you’re grateful for the opportunity and owe them a lot. Don’t go overboard—too much loyalty will make the interviewer suspicious and they’ll wonder why you ever left. But you can talk about the great relationships you built or how much you learned there in a way that hints at an appreciation for the company and a sense of dedication.
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