There’s a very simple framework you can use when preparing for the "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” interview question, and it’s particularly powerful when explaining a layoff!
In a nutshell you want to spend 20% of your answer addressing the question head on with the facts, then pivot and spend the remaining 80% of the time focusing on the role you’re applying for - the future.
Diving into an example that shows why you want to lead with the facts, imagine you start off your answer with:
So the reason I was let go was pretty unfair, I was one of the high performers, and let me give you an example why this decision didn’t make any sense…
The interviewer will see you’re letting emotions cloud your judgment, you’re bad mouthing your previous employer, which is a huge red flag, and by going into details on what happened at your old job, you’re losing the opportunity to sell yourself on this new one!
Instead, imagine if you started off with something like this:
As you may have heard, the entire tech sector was affected by layoffs this time around. Leadership decided to de-prioritize the product area I was part of, and many high performers across a range of functions - from finance to business development - were impacted
And as you can see, the facts part is short on purpose so you can spend more time on why you’re a great fit for this NEW role.
Not going to lie, I was pretty hurt when I first found out I was promoted from an employee to just a regular customer at my company but in the two weeks that followed, I reflected on my time there and I listed out the skills I learned and the tasks I enjoyed doing in my previous role
In this pivot, I first transition AWAY from answering “why I left my previous job”, then I lay the foundation for “why I’m applying for this new role” by talking about the skills I have and the tasks I enjoy doing.
Funnily enough, the future portion is very simple because you can just use your answer to the “why do you want to work here” interview question. I have a whole separate video on that but here are three pro tips I can share right now:
Putting all this together, here’s how a full sample answer might look like:
So Jeff, could you talk about why you left your previous company?
Sure! As you may have heard, the entire tech sector was affected by layoffs this time around. Leadership decided to de-prioritize the product area I was part of, and many high performers across a range of functions - from finance to business development - were all impacted
Not going to lie, I was pretty hurt when I first found out I was promoted from an employee to just a regular customer at my company but in the two weeks that followed, I took some time, reflected on my time there, and I listed out the skills I learned and the tasks I enjoyed doing in my previous role
And I realized product marketing is an area I’m extremely passionate about and want to continue working in. I enjoy working with product teams on breaking down the technical aspects of B2B products and coming up with an easy-to-understand, consumer-friendly narrative
Which brings me to this conversation right now. Based on what I learned from some basic research and speaking with a few of your team members, I understand that Apple is expanding aggressively in the Search Ads space.
Not only is my B2B marketing experience immediately applicable here, hopefully resulting in a quick ramp up, my experience in user acquisition campaigns is also very relevant since Apple is still in the early stages of monetizing search
And to put your mind at ease and to give you an idea of how I performed in my last role, I’m more than happy to connect you with my previous manager
And there you have it, the facts-to-future framework for the “why did you leave your last job” interview question.
Check out my common interview questions and answers playlist!