By Justin Thompson
Many people have had a job that sucked. So while the person interviewing you for a new position can probably relate, you shouldn't vent to her about why you hated your last job. Things may have gone bust at your last place, and whether you left or they asked you to leave, there are ways to package a miserable job experience into lessons for the future.
In the interview process, most employers will ask why you are looking for a new job if you're currently employed. Or they'll want to know about your last job and whether you left on good terms. The first key to success in answering these questions is to have prepared, practiced answers.
Bruce Hurwitz, CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, says that if you were fired from a previous job, it's best to be upfront and answer directly.
"Look the interviewer straight in the eyes [and say] I was fired," Hurwitz says, recommending that you explain what you learned from the experience, giving examples of how you will address the issues at hand in your new role.
Hurwitz provides an example answer that a job seeker could use: "The boss was a micromanager. His company; his right. But I need freedom to be imaginative [and] to try new things. I've been successful with that in the past. And, to be frank, I explained that to him when I interviewed. Just as I am telling you now that I have to feel creative, that all my talents are being used, so I ask you, what is the culture here? Will I be allowed, within reason and company policy, to act to meet goals and targets?"
Depending on your scenario, there are many ways to spin the conversation to your advantage, regardless of the situation leading up to your job search. Here are some easy rules to follow when discussing a previous job that you loathed:
- Tell the truth. If the job is or was a bad fit, just say so. A lie will be obvious to the person interviewing you. Or even worse, you'll land yourself back in the same position.
- Talk about your strengths. Remember to focus on what you are good at and what kind of job you want to be doing in the new role. Being able to discuss how you shifted your focus from the previous job to the new one will show your aptitude for change.
- Be passionate. If the last job just didn't do it for you, talk about wanting to find that passion and what you think the new position offers that will be satisfying to you.
- Trash talk. Don't talk badly about your boss, co-workers or anybody else, because you never know with whom you are speaking. Also, if you're speaking badly about a former job or boss, the interviewer will assume you'll do the same about the new company or new boss.
- Complain. Even if your current job is the worst thing ever, don't let that get the best of you. Remember to check your tone and body language when describing your current position. The fact that you are looking for a job is evidence enough that you want a change, so you don't need to spell it out. If you're looking to vent, tell a friend.
- Let desperation get the best of you. When you are in a job that you hate, nothing can feel worse. The negativity you feel for at least eight hours each day can seep into your personal life and make you miserable to be with. Don't let this feeling of hopelessness pervade your interview, because employers want confident, strong, determined and resilient workers.
Overall, your best bet is to stay objective. Leave your emotions at the door, and spell out facts as they are. Even if you're in a job that makes you miserable, identify the parts you enjoy so that when you are searching for the next opportunity, you already have a clearly defined list of activities or skills in which you want to expand your knowledge or experience.
Justin Thompson is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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