Your answer to “Why did you leave your job?” Or, “Why are you currently seeking new employment” is a critical component in the hiring manager’s evaluation. I’m Tammy Shoup, with Breakthrough Resumes and this week’s #breakthroughjobsearchtip centers around managing those negative emotions that sometimes rear their ugly head when you are interviewing.

Rejection. Failure. Disappointment show up regularly in life. No matter how successful we are, you and I are all searching for the same thing. Acceptance. Approval. Favorable opinion of our leadership style, the work we do, and the choices we make. And, it stings when we feel like we haven’t measured up to someone else’s expectations. When we don’t fit in on the team or when we are handed a pink slip that tells us our work is no longer needed. So, this week we are talking about how to respond to an interviewer’s question: Why did you leave your last job? OR, Why are you currently looking for a new position?

For companies, there is a cost associated with hiring new employees, so it is up to the hiring manager to determine if you will be a good match for their company; therefore, your response is a critical component in their evaluation.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with changing jobs, but your answer does needs to establish the reason why you are currently searching for a new role. Perhaps your search was triggered by an economic downturn in your industry, budget cuts within your department, or a company-wide restructuring initiative. Many companies merge with or are acquired by another  triggering staff reductions.

These are all common occurrences in today’s global marketplace.

On the personal side, you could simply be seeking a new challenge and/or more responsibilities.

Or, you were fired.

Whatever the reason, focus on the positives. Don’t Lie. Avoid being negative about your previous employer or company. And, don’t be defensive.

Some reasons definitely require more finesse than others but all require gratitude for the opportunity you’ve been given and a framing of the value you bring to the new role.

Hiring managers are looking for red flags that indicate there were personality conflicts, or a negative attitude that shines through when you share excuses as to why the role didn’t work out for you, or poor performance / attendance issues.

When asked this question, focus on objective reasons for your departure, don’t be negative about your previous employer, supervisor, or co-workers. Answer the question honestly and then emphasize why this new role is appealing to you.

An example is:

You may have heard in the news that XYZ Company is restructuring. The new structure consolidated my role as Marketing Manager with another staff position. I enjoyed my time with XYZ. I was able to really hone my marketing skills. Now, I’m looking for the next step where I can continue to use my skills to help another company and this opportunity seems to be a great fit!

In the example, the reason was stated  (The company restructured / the role was consolidated); then rather than focusing on the negative emotion (look my skills were not a great fit for the company) the answer stayed positive and stated the time at XYZ was enjoyable, providing an opportunity to hone skills, and the candidate is currently looking to continue to use those skills to assist another company reach their goals.

When answering the question, stay positive. The key is to think about how you will answer before you go into an interview and then practice your response. Research the job description or the company so you can further address how your skills and experience make you right for the position. Then, always bridge the gap between why you are looking with what you can do.