The reason when you decide to leave that job

As a career coach I am often asked by clients if I think they should take a job offer. Just because you get a job offer doesn’t mean that you have to accept it.

To help you make your decision, create a list of important criteria for taking or turning down a job. Your list might include salary, benefits, commuteHow do you answer the interview question, “Why did you leave that job?”

This post is the third in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, to be published January 4, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now or get the softcover in January.

Does your departure indicate a problem that could derail your interview?

If you left and immediately started a new job, it’s no problem: you left for a better opportunity (or what you thought was a better opportunity, even if it didn’t work out).
On the other hand, leaving without a new job lined up is generally a red flag, so this question is tricky.

The key is this: although one reason may dominate in your mind – probably the most emotional one, such as a personality conflict or issue with the boss – usually there are more reasons. List them all on a piece of paper. Then see which of these reasons makes the best impression.

Here’s an example.

Joe quit his job for the following reasons: (1) his boss was a micromanager, (2) the company, a hospital, had toxic office politics, (3) the circumstances made it difficult or impossible to move up into a better department, (4) he couldn’t stay until he found a new job because the job left him no time or energy for job search, and (5) he also had an itch to move into the pharmaceutical industry.

Reasons 1 and 2 are a minefield that would be hard to discuss without presenting himself as a complainer who badmouths his former employer. But he doesn’t need to go there; he can build a truthful answer out of reasons 3-5:

“While Bayworth Hospital is a great institution in terms of patient care, and I had three excellent years there, with strong accomplishments like the ones we’ve discussed, there really wasn’t a path upward for me there any more (reason #3). It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies (#5) like this one. The job was intensely demanding and it didn’t leave me the energy to conduct a search. (#4) So I gave notice, helped the department make a smooth transition, and then left to devote myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Why does this answer work? Because it’s true, tactful, brief (30 seconds) and focused on the positive. It’s also a great example of the “sandwich technique”: surrounding a negative (the fact that he left) with positives (his respect for the hospital in certain ways, his accomplishments and his passion for the current opportunity).

What if Joe had been fired? In a past chapter I said “Never volunteer a negative.” Joe doesn’t need to say he was fired, unless specifically asked. His answer could be the same as above, with a slightly different ending:

“…It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies like this one. Since then I’ve devoted myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.” time, do you like the people you will be working with, is the new job challenging, is the company stable, does the mission of the company resonate with your values, is there opportunity for growth, etc. Your list will be unique to you as we all have different criteria that are important to us. For example, it might be important to someone who has the responsibility of a mortgage and children to work for a stable organization whereas someone without those responsibilities might be open to more risk. Or conversely, a person who has a home and family might love the challenge of working for a start-up whereas a person just starting out in his or her career might be drawn to a company that offers security. Make your list based on what is most important to you.

After you have your list of important criteria, put two columns beside each of your criteria. Above column one write “Yes, this criteria will be met in the job” and above column two write “No, this criteria will not be met in the job”.

If the job offer meets most or all of your criteria, dig a little deeper. If anything concerned you during the interview process – the interviewer complained about the company, the job responsibilities were not clear, no one could answer your questions about benefits – ask follow up questions. Find out as much as you can about the company, its future prospects and what it is like to work there. If the answers that you get are good, ask for the offer in writing.

Don’t say yes to a job offer you really don’t want unless you feel that you do not have any other options. Remember, just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it.  Make your decision based on what is best for you and follow your instincts.