If you encounter a job application that requires you to disclose why you left your last job, proceed carefully. Employers consider your attitude toward your previous company, so don’t criticize your last job or appear petty. You also don’t want to dwell on the past. Instead, offer a succinct reply that illustrates that your sole concern is moving forward.
It’s usually not necessary to offer a detailed explanation regarding your departure from your previous job. In fact, this can often hurt your chances because the more information you provide, the more scrutiny you face. You don’t know how employers will interpret what you say so it’s best to save the specifics for a face-to-face interview. Instead, include a short, neutral statement such as “personal reasons” or “interested in exploring other opportunities within the industry.”
While tact is important, honesty is as well. It’s acceptable to be vague but not to dramatically alter the facts, especially if the reason you left is easily verifiable. For example, if were embroiled in frequent disputes with colleagues, this might come out if prospective employers contact your prior supervisor for a reference. Even if you were in the right for leaving, employers might wonder what else you hid from them. Instead, offer a diplomatic explanation such as “Seeking a more collaborative work environment.”
Never criticize your former employer, regardless of why you exited. Unless you left because of inappropriate behavior on your part, there’s no point in elaborating to prospective employers. Don’t come across as bitter or holding a grudge. Focus on yourself by stating what you hope to achieve by moving on. For example, state that you’re seeking opportunities for advancement or that you want to focus more on a specific aspect of your occupation. This portrays you as someone who’s enthusiastic about your future and about the position.
Don’t Reveal Compromising Information
Be selective about what you disclose regarding your previous company. Don’t discuss anything that could jeopardize the company’s reputation or reveal proprietary information. If you left because of unethical or illegal practices or behavior, for example, only discuss this with the authorities or governing bodies within the industry. Otherwise, you earn a reputation for gossiping or ignoring confidentiality agreements. You also don’t want to compromise your own reputation. If you complain about your former supervisor or colleagues, employers might see you as a disgruntled employee.
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