How To Respond: Before your interview, try to envision how, in an ideal case scenario, you would be able to enjoy longevity with the company you are applying to. What would you like to be doing in five years? Ten? Think about how best to align your career goals to the opportunities offered by the employer. Then, in your answer, “sell” your candidacy by enthusiastically postulating how you would be able to contribute to their operations and, steadily, assume positions of increasing responsibility.
This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you'll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you're eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.
OK, if you get the admittedly much tougher follow-up question as to why you were let go (and the truth isn't exactly pretty), your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. If you can position the learning experience as an advantage for this next job, even better.
Even so, if you're asked, provide a sharp, on-point answer. Be clear and precise. If you're a great problem solver, don't just say that: Provide a few examples, pertinent to the opening, that prove you're a great problem solver. If you're an emotionally intelligent leader, don't just say that: Provide a few examples that prove you know how to answer the unasked question.
I was very fortunate to be hired by ABC Company right out of college. They taught me a lot about digital marketing, and it’s been stimulating to work as a contributor to their creative teams. However, I’m ready for the next step. I’ve always been a leader—I was captain of the crew team in college, student body vice president, and I’ve served as team lead for most of our projects in FY 2019. I think I’m ready to move into management, but ABC Company already has very talented managers in place, and they won’t be leaving such a great employer anytime soon. I’ve completed supplemental management training courses during my time there, and I know I can hit the ground running as your next digital marketing manager.
I think the most difficult situation I face as a production manager is when I have to lay off staff, either because they aren’t doing their job properly or, even worse, because sales are down. When I can, I try to work with underperforming personnel to see if we can’t improve their efficiency. If not, then I hand them their pink slip and give them straightforward reasons for why they are being laid off. No one wants to be fired without an explanation. When this happens, I keep my tone polite and avoid using too many “you” statements; I absolutely do not want to cast shame on them.
This is a common one at startups (and one of our personal favorites here at The Muse). Hiring managers want to know that you not only have some background on the company, but that you're able to think critically about it and come to the table with new ideas. So, come with new ideas! What new features would you love to see? How could the company increase conversions? How could customer service be improved? You don’t need to have the company’s four-year strategy figured out, but do share your thoughts, and more importantly, show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job.
Example: “As an experienced, service-oriented professional with more than a decade of experience working in boutique salons, I thrive on creating a welcoming environment for all clients and providing the highest quality skincare services. My specialized training and strong interpersonal skills have helped me become adept at developing long-term, trusted relationships that help to build a loyal client base. Some of my clients have been with me since the beginning—more than ten years now. These relationships are the reason I’m excited to go to work every day.”
Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn and on Twitter (@JLipschultz).