In one form or another, readers often write to ask what to say about former employers. Just how far can you go to let the interviewer know it’s not you, it’s them? On that topic, I want to share a recent Q & A from a comment by Lisa on How to Answer Why You Left Your Last Job When You Actually Quit:
Dear Ronnie Ann,
I have quit my job after 7 years due to having a bad manager as a boss and a bad work environment. When the interviewer asks me why I left my job (especially without another job), is it OK to say that the work environment was negative. I want to be honest as possible. Is it a bad response to give the interviewer?
My response (with a few extra points added):
Honesty is one thing, Lisa…but you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot! Especially since you stayed there 7 years; it would only raise more questions and put the focus on you back then and not you in the future, where you want the focus to be.
When we say negative stuff about a former employer or workplace, three questions (among many others) enter a typical interviewer’s mind:
(1) Did she do something to contribute to the problem?
(2) Will she spend most of her time thinking about negatives and hurts in the new job, rather than helping solve problem?
(3) After she leaves this new job, what will she say about us?
Since you have such a nice long work history at your last job, I think it’s better for you to focus on your accomplishments and strengths where possible in your interviews. Stay away from blaming or putting them down in any way. As I say in the post:
…stay positive about the last job – never ever talk about how awful they were or how badly they treated you or how you didn’t get what you deserved. That’s all sour grapes to a potential new employer and would only brand (you) as high maintenance.
Instead, look for reasons why you wanted to move on that are about you wanting more for yourself – and be prepared to speak to why this new job is exactly what you’re looking for.
If they ask why you quit without another job (not the best idea in this market that has been especially tough on unemployed job seekers), you can simply say you realized that it was time to move on and wanted to have more time to focus on finding the right job. Reasons for your realization can include things like: you need new challenges; you want different responsibilities; or something else that makes sense for the job you’re interviewing for.
And in the meantime, if you can volunteer or take on a project quickly (they like to see that you aren’t just hanging around), you can talk about that and maybe even tie it in to the new job – and then move on with your answer, keeping the focus on the new job as best you can.
Hope that helps. Good luck, Lisa!