Interview Questions: Work History


Describe the circumstances surrounding the separation from your last job.

This could be a polite way to ask "Why were you fired from your job?" which is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people.  Unsure of how to answer this question in an interview? Some suggested potential responses are listed below:

  • Being let go was a blessing in disguise. I can now explore opportunities that better suit my qualifications and interests. From my research, this opportunity with your organization may a be a good fit for my skill set.  Would you like to hear more about my experience with working with new technology?
  • Although my strengths were not the best fit for my previous employer's needs, it looks like they'd be a good fit in your organization. In addition to customer service, would skills in statistical analysis be valued here?
  • I was very successful in school and got along well with both students and faculty despite the circumstances causing me to leave my first job.  Maybe I didn't fully understand the expectations of my manager or why she released me so quickly before I had a chance to prove myself.
  • The job wasn't working out so my manager and I mutually agreed that it was time for me to move on to a position that would better serve both of us. So, I am excited to move on to the next opportunity.
  • After having some time to reflect, I realize I should have done some things differently in my last position. It was a learning experience and I think I'm better for it. I'd like the chance to prove that to you.
  • A new manager was hired and made a lot of changes in order to bring in members of her old team. It was her right but it allowed me to come to the realization that there are better opportunities out there.
  • Unfortunately certain personal problems, which I have resolved, had upset my work life. These problems no longer exist and I'm excited to be a strong performer at a new job.
  • I wanted my career to move in a different direction and I assume this drive created the conditions that led to my departure. The opportunity we're currently discussing seems to be made for me and is in line with my long term goals.  I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility here.
  • I normally get along quite well with my managers, but this was the exception that disproved my rule of good relationships. We just didn't seem to mesh. I'm not sure of the reason.
  • My job function was outsourced to India. It was too bad because people familiar with my work say I am a superior performer.
  • I was able to outlast many rounds of layoffs but the last one included me. It must just be a sign of the times.
  • I was in need of a job and took the wrong opportunity rather than waiting for a better fit. It's a mistake I won't make again. My skill set can be most effective and make a substantial contribution in an environment that is congenial, structured and centered around teamwork.

Advanced preparation can make a huge difference in your confidence and how you respond to this question. Be honest in your response and keep it concise.  Having a short, but effective answer to this difficult question will allow you to get past this issue and move to what's important, your qualifications and why you're an excellent match for this job.