In my tireless efforts to look for work as a HVAC technician, I was happy to receive two excellent job offers in my field. After much deliberation, I chose the company that offered me a better compensation package. This was a big mistake. After four months of hard work, I had to quit to save my sanity because the workplace I selected was chaotic, the supervisor was a bully and the project was doomed to fail.
Help me figure out how to respond to the interview question that is always asked: “What happened at your last job?”
Signed: Quit Before Fired (QBF)
To help me answer this question, I spoke to Career Transition Consultant, Karen Hoffman, of the outplacement and human resources firm, Feldman Daxon Partners. She recommended that you should take a forward focus when dealing with this issue, and suggested that you should consider these options:
1. Consider removing the job from your resume.
This is worth consideration if you were at this company for a brief time or if it was a short-term contract. If you decide to remove the position from the resume, you will want to speak to the gap in time with confidence and transparency. Give consideration to highlighting other notable activities that would support your personal and professional growth: did you enrol in a course? engage in a self-study? attend conferences or relevant trade-shows? volunteer? travel? learn a new language?
The key is to make the gap relevant, valuable and active in both cyberspace and during the interview. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate how you continue to develop.
2. Or, add the job to your resume and prepare to talk about it…
If you do decide to acknowledge this four-month experience on your resume, then be prepared to speak about it in concrete terms. First and foremost, it is important that your reason for leaving matches what your previous employer will say. (This might be a worth quick phone call to HR which can help you craft your story – it’s also an opportunity to ask HR if they will support your leaving story, within reason.)
3. Prepare for the interview.
Do your homework in order to avoid a potentially awkward interview. Keep the response specific, short and transparent. Talk about things such as a change in management, restructuring of roles, changed career path, or skills that were not being fully utilized.
Prepare (and practice) a strategic and positive response that can be discussed with ease. Don’t end with the leaving story. Emphasize your key learning and contributions in the four months while taking the reader to what is next for your career. Forward focus! Do not try to hide from talking about the experience.
4. Beware of your language.
Do not say anything negative about your last employer. This is a red flag for interviewers. Emphasize that the last job was an important learning opportunity for you.
Best wishes for success your next interview,