3 Ways to Talk About Previous Jobs in an Interview

Table of contents:

3 Ways to Talk About Previous Jobs in an Interview
3 Ways to Talk About Previous Jobs in an Interview

There are few certainties in life. One is that they will ask you about your work history at a job interview. It can be difficult to talk about your previous job. In fact, these questions are always listed as the most “boring” in interviews. However, by following a few golden rules, it is possible to turn the worst of experiences into an interview strength.


Method 1 of 3: Accentuating the Positive Side

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 1

Step 1. Sell your fish

The questions about past employment are more about your performance than the employer. The interviewer is trying to assess your skills and professionalism, not your other boss's virtues or vices. The goal of any answer about past work should be to convey a good image of yourself and not to speak ill of the other company.

  • Answer questions about past jobs by discussing your achievements in each of them. Consider the idea of ​​using keywords given in the job description you are targeting, such as "high supervisory ability" and think about how you can fit past experience into the demands of the new job, highlighting those qualities.
  • Whenever possible, go beyond clichés and give concrete, real examples. Start with a generalization such as "motivated" by saying something like, "I know you've probably heard this before, so I'll give you an example." Then tell a brief anecdote (two to four sentences long) from the previous job that demonstrates the alleged motivation.
Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 2

Step 2. Don't be critical

It's not a good idea to be negative in a job interview and this is especially true if the negativity refers to the previous employer. Criticizing a former employee on such an occasion is already a red alert in most Human Resources departments. It is necessary to speak positively about even the worst of professional experiences.

  • The negativity raises questions about you, not about your previous job. When you say bad things about your ex-boss, the interviewer will wonder: 1) what the other side of the story is, 2) whether you will be a "grumbler" or "whiner" in the new job if you get hired, and 3) if you're going to talk bad about them if you leave your job one day. In any case, badmouthing your previous employer just makes you sound unprofessional.
  • Even if you hated the other job, find something positive to say. Think about the work environment, training, coffee room, flexible hours, or anything else that has been interesting to you. Make the positives the focus of the answer.
Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 3

Step 3. Aim for the present

The only time saying something that is not very positive about the previous job is not a problem is in comparison to the current position and how much more you fit into it than before.

  • For example, if the promise of the old job was an exciting and challenging position and it was actually tedious and repetitive office work, it might be a good idea to mention this fact. Don't forget that you need to highlight the differences between your previous job description and the job you want now.
  • In general, you can tell the interviewer that the previous job was not right for you because you wanted more challenges, more (or other) responsibilities, or more opportunities for promotion. The key is to choose the phrase that best describes the position you are applying for.
  • Conclude the comment with a sentence like, “I'm excited about this opportunity because…” so you can talk more about opportunities in this position that didn't exist in your previous job and explain why you're excited about the new challenge.
Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 4

Step 4. Simplify

The best way to avoid negative or unprofessional-sounding responses is to keep it brief. Answer the question asked, being careful not to give out excessive information. This tip should apply to all aspects of the interview, but especially to references to the former employer. The shortest answer is usually the best.

Leave emotion out of the answers. Even though the interview has a very informal and pleasant tone, it is still a professional interaction and your words should reflect that fact

Method 2 of 3: Fixing a Mishap

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 5

Step 1. Don't be a defeatist

Instead, use more neutral language and emphasize the positive side of leaving the other job.

For example, when describing the transition from one job to another, just say, "I started working at another company." Never give unnecessary details unless asked. Talking too much can encourage the person to ask other uncomfortable questions that aren't worth it

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 6

Step 2. Use generalizations strategically

If they ask for more details, explain your departure from a previous job in general terms that do not convey a negative impression of the former boss.

  • For example, saying you left a job to spend more time with your family or re-evaluating your priorities before taking the next career move is an acceptable justification in the eyes of most employers.
  • Only offer more details if something good can be said. For example, it might be a good idea to say how a change in the company's culture or management has moved you out of there if this information helps to highlight how well you fit into the new position. You can say, "After some changes in management, it was clear to me that the company was moving in a direction that didn't align with my capabilities and goals." Keep telling us what your capabilities and goals are and how they align with your intended job.
Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 7

Step 3. Don't get involved in office gossip

If personal conflicts in the workplace were responsible for your departure, don't talk about them. The new employer wants to make sure you are capable of being professional.

The interviewer doesn't want to hear why you don't get along with the other boss or co-workers. Instead, just say that you had "different professional attitudes" if your main reason for leaving was a conflict with your boss

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 8

Step 4. Don't be afraid of being fired

People are laid off every day and employers understand this is part of it. Be honest and try to explain the reason in the most positive terms you can if you were fired from your previous job.

  • If the reason was force majeure - such as a reorganization, change in administration, merger, cut, crisis, etc. – be sure to explain it as simply and directly as possible.
  • Don't talk too much if you were fired for performance. Unless it was for good reason, you can't tell from his background. When in doubt, say that you “didn't fit in” at the previous job and then explain why you are suitable for the new position.
  • Always emphasize your positive attitude in reaction to the setback. In many cases, it is even possible to turn the reason for dismissal into a discussion about the skills developed. You must be the focus, not the previous employer.
  • For example, if you couldn't meet their incompatible schedule, tell the truth. Then say that the situation helped you manage your time better, and explain how what you've learned helps you succeed in the position in question.

Method 3 of 3: Planning ahead

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 9

Step 1. Prepare the answers

Always plan exactly what you are going to say about each of the previous jobs if you have this question. Never allow yourself to be caught off guard, which can generate a possible inadequate or insufficient response.

Start by making notes about each of the jobs you've had. Remember them and review them carefully. Think about the responsibilities and skills you've developed, along with the awards, praise, or recognition you've received

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 10

Step 2. Write a script

Use the notes you made earlier to develop an answer for each assignment. The goal of the script should be to convey a message in a few sentences telling clearly and concisely what you learned and achieved at each opportunity. Practice the lines until you memorize them.

If possible, ask a friend or family member to play the role of the interviewer to rehearse the script with them and ask for their opinion. If no one is available, it is possible to record the responses. Try to put yourself in the interviewer's position by listening to them. what can be improved?

Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 11

Step 3. Choose references strategically

Don't name someone who might say bad things about you. If you don't know what a former boss might say, ask. It's better to have a weird conversation with a former boss than to give a bad reference.

  • Choose the boss you liked the most. In most companies, there are several supervisors who can be considered as “boss”. Whenever possible, select someone with whom you had a good relationship.
  • Even if you're forced to name a boss you've had a fight with, rest assured that your former employer isn't always eager to criticize you. He is not only afraid of libel suits, but he also wants to keep the interaction at a professional level so as not to damage his reputation among his peers in the industry.
Discuss a Former Employer in an Interview Step 12

Step 4. Contact references

You always need to let a former employer know that you have referred them. Quick contact during the job application process can avoid delays in responding and give references time to think about what to say if company HR contacts you.

Popular by topic