How to Discuss Your Past Employment During an Interview

Job interview questions regarding your past employment can be tricky to deal with as a candidate. Discussing the details behind why you left a previous job, whether voluntarily or not, can make you feel uncomfortable or even defensive. Hiring managers generally use this question to gain insight into the type of employee you’re likely to be, as well as your career ambitions. Learn how to handle the question with grace to present yourself as a top candidate with these tips:

Be Honest

While you want to present your previous employment information in a manner that paints you as the best choice for the job for which you’re interviewing, don’t provide any explanations that could be misinterpreted. Answer the question directly and don’t alter any details of your work history in order to cover up what you perceive as a red flag (such as unemployment or a very short stint at a company) – it’s better to tackle the issue head-on than to come across as dishonest to a potential employer if they find out the truth.

Keep it Positive

A job interview is quite obviously a sign that you want a new opportunity, one that your past employment was not able to provide. Even if you had a terrible experience and were treated poorly or dismissed unfairly, don’t talk negatively about your previous employer. It can ultimately backfire and make you look bitter and petty. Use phrasing that conveys the situation in an objective way, such as it not being a good fit or not aligning with your long-term career goals.

Show Your Improvement

If you have “red flags” with your past employment that were your own personal responsibility, such as being fired for poor performance or having several gaps in your job history, use the interview to show the steps you’ve taken to improve and how you will be an asset in this position. Focus on additional training or certifications you earned, volunteer work you performed, or other self-improvement measures you’ve taken. Treat it as an opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic and motivation.

Redirect the Topic

Finish your answers regarding past employment by redirecting it to your future employment that is hopefully with the company for which you’re interviewing. Once you’ve touched on your previous work history, complete your answer by discussing how it has prepared you to be the best candidate for this new opportunity.

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