How To Talk About Your Previous Job in a Job Interview

How To Talk About Your Previous Job in a Job Interview

One of the most awkward parts of a job interview tends to be discussing a previous employer or position. If you speak poorly of a former employer, you could come across as difficult or uncooperative. Meanwhile, speaking too highly of a former employer makes it seem as if you aren't eager for a new position. Talking about your prior job is a balancing act, and it could directly affect your future. Find out how you should discuss the subject, and you may be able to ace your interview.

What Questions Will They Ask?

During a job interview, you can expect the hiring manager to ask a few questions about your former place of employment. One of the most common questions is this:

What Didn't You Like About Your Prior Position?

As you might expect, this question is a trap. An employer wants you to answer honestly, but they will hold it against you if you rant about your previous boss or manager. If you can avoid speaking negatively when you answer the question, you can appeal to the interviewer.

Before you go into an interview, prepare yourself to ask the question. You need to make sure you don't answer in a way that makes the interviewer feel that you will face the same struggles with them. For instance, you may not have been challenged in the workplace. Is there any reason to believe that you won't face the same challenges with this employer?

If you talk about a lack of stability, you could also harm yourself. No position is 100% guaranteed, and all companies go through tough times. Leaving one company for instability makes it seem as if you're not loyal or committed.

Similarly, speaking ill about a manager will paint a bad picture of yourself. The hiring manager doesn't know you or your former employer. If you complain about the management, the interviewer might side with your former boss. They could see you as a risky hire.

Tips For Preparing Your Answer

So, how should you answer questions about your former employer? With a few easy tips, you can craft an answer that will make the most discerning of hiring managers a believer in you.

Don't Be a Negative Person

If you don't want to make a bad impression, stay away from the negativity. You can twist your answer around in a way that makes you come across as a positive person. Every hiring manager hopes to hire someone with a positive outlook.

Instead of being negative, mention something good about your previous position. You might be able to talk about a valuable experience or discuss your satisfaction. If you do mention something negative, balance it out with something more uplifting.

Although you might let negative emotions overwhelm you, there are ways to push your thoughts away. When you have your interview, make extra effort not to focus on negativity. Think about all the reasons you make a quality job candidate, and let those thoughts fuel your answers.

Focus on One Element, and Not the Overall Picture

When you think about how to answer this question, try to focus on one task. It's easy to say, "My manager was disorganized." But saying that can hurt you, and it would be better to discuss an example that shows how your manager was disorganized. You might explain, "I received too many contradicting instructions at one time."

As part of your planning, make a list of all the tasks that made you dissatisfied at your last position. You don't need to mention each detail. However, you should pick one or two tasks to mention during your interview. Consider how the new position will keep you from needing to perform these tasks. You shouldn't mention anything that could be an issue in your new job.

It's also important to only discuss one element. Even if you disliked ten things about your previous job, you aren't obligated to bring them all up. Doing so is too negative and makes it seem as if you are the problem. Pick and focus on one element and make sure that element doesn't involve company politics or other issues an interviewer might find take issue with.

Finish Off with a Strength

Regardless of what you choose as your element, finish off the explanation with a strength. Talk about how the negative experience taught you a lesson or improved your other skills. For instance, your complaint might be receiving too many tasks at once. Despite the overload of tasks, you were able to improve your own organizational skills.

Your complaint could be needing to fill out too much paperwork. After you mention the excess paperwork, explain how this made you a better employee. You can discuss how filling out so much paperwork made you more attentive to details.

The hiring manager is more likely to remember the last thing you said. Therefore, finishing off your response with this bit of positivity can help you immensely. If you can take something good from an otherwise negative situation, you can be a major asset in the workplace.

Practice Over and Over Again

If you want to ease your mind and have the perfect answer, you need to practice. Writing down your answer is a great start, but you need to do more than that. Look in the mirror and ask yourself interview questions about your former position. Then, deliver the answer. Record yourself and play back the exchange, and do so with a critical eye.

If you have any friends or family members who are willing to help, ask them to host a mock interview. Have them focus on asking questions about your past employer. You don't need to know every question in advance; you should be ready for a few unexpected questions.

When it comes to preparing for an interview, practice makes perfect. If you spend your time practicing, you can answer any question about your previous job.

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