Tag Archives: interview

Nailing the interview process, part 7: following up

Some job seekers believe the interview is over once they’ve shaken the interviewer’s hand and left the room. “That went well,” they think. “Now, it’s time to wait for the decision.”

Thank You

Perhaps it did go well, but perhaps one or two other candidates also had stellar interviews. Perhaps those other candidates followed up on their interviews with thoughtful thank-you notes.

So when is the interview really over? Not until you’ve sent a follow-up note.

If you don’t believe sending a follow-up note is important, you should know that:

– 22 percent of employers are less likely to hire you if you don’t send a follow-up note;
– 86 percent of employers will take your lack of a note to mean you don’t follow through on things;
– and 56 percent of employers will assume you aren’t that serious about the job.

If you’re wondering how to go about following up, start by considering to whom you’ll send your note and how you’ll send it.

Who Gets a Thank-You Note?

If you’re interviewed by five people, how many unique follow-up notes should you send? “Five” is the correct answer here. Take the time to write a unique follow-up to everyone with whom you interview.

How Do You Send Your Note?

You can send your follow-up note via email or hard copy. This depends on your preference and the industry. For example, someone in tech may prefer an email, whereas someone in marketing may prefer a thank-you card.

According to the article linked above, 89 percent of interviewers say it’s acceptable to send a thank-you note via email. My suggestion is to send two notes: an email immediately following the interview and a professional card a week later.

What Goes in Your Note?

1. Show Your Gratitude

Start by thanking the interviewers for the time they took to meet with you. After all, they’re busy folks, and they probably don’t enjoy interviewing people.

2. Reiterate You’re the Right Person for the Job

Explain again how your skills, experience, and accomplishments are relevant to the role and make you a good fit.

3. Cite Some Interesting Points Made During the Interview

Each person with whom you spoke mentioned something of interest or asked a pertinent question. Impress them with your listening skills by revisiting those interesting points.

4. Do Some Damage Control

How many candidates wish they could elaborate more on an answer or fix some mistake they made? Now’s your chance. Sure, your belated corrective action may be of little consequence, but what do you have to lose? Besides, interviewers understand you were under a great deal of pressure at the time.

5. Suggest a Solution to a Problem

During the course of the interview, you likely learned about a problem the company is facing. If you have a possible solution to this problem, mention it in your follow-up note or in a more extensive proposal sent along with the note. One of my clients is convinced she landed a previous job because she sent a four-page proposal on how to solve a problem the company had mentioned during the course of the interview.

6. Assert You Want the Job

You told the interviewer(s) you want the job. Reiterate this sentiment by stating it in you follow-up note. This can be as simple as asking about next steps, which shows your enthusiasm for and sincere interest in the position.


You’ve made it this far in the process. You’ve:

  1. mentally prepared yourself;
  2. come to know yourself;
  3. done your research;
  4. practiced;
  5. made a good first impression;
  6. and answered the difficult questions.

It would be a shame to blow it now by not following up.

Photo: Flickr, Christie Spad

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Nailing the interview process; part 5. First impressions matter

I’m sure you were told, as a child, to look the person with whom you were talking in the eyes. You were also instructed to deliver a firm, yet gentle, handshake; not a limp one. I bet you were told to smile, as well. Your guardians wanted you to come across as likable, because being likable would get you far in this world.

Handshake

Guess what; all of the lessons you were taught as a child apply today. Now that you’re an adult, you still need to maintain consistent eye contact, deliver a great handshake, smile, and more. And if you’re interviewing, your first impressions count more than ever.

It’s believed that 33% of employers will make a decision to not hire you within 90 seconds based on the first impressions you make.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But this is how important first impressions count, so don’t take them lightly. Let’s look at some interviewers’ pet peeves to make sure you don’t commit them in the interview.

1. Poor Eye Contact. Mentioned earlier, making the appropriate amount of eye contact is important. Which means that you don’t have to stare at the person for many minutes; that’s just creepy. You can look away occasionally, as this shows you’re reflecting.

Good eye contact shows engagement and implies trust. Poor eye contact may imply that you’re avoiding a question, you’re disinterested, or you’re lying. People who are shy need to make a concerted effort to make eye contact with the interviewers.

2. Not Knowing Enough About the Company. This is considered a first impression, because it shows you didn’t prepare for the interview. If you are asked what you know about the company, and you answer, “I was hoping to learn about the company in the interview,” you’ve failed at this very first important first impression.

Employers want to know that you have done your research on their company, as well as the position and even the competition. Will you come across as prepared, or do you appear to not care? It should be the latter.

3. A Lousy Handshake. To me the handshake is one of the most important first impressions you can make. It says something about your character. Your handshake should be firm, yet gentle. Don’t crush the hand of the person you’re greeting.

On the flip side, do not deliver a limp handshake, as this indicates indifference. The sweaty palm handshake is an immediate turnoff. Also annoying is the early grab, where you grab the interviewer’s fingers. The crooks of your hands should nicely fit together.

4. Fidgeting, Crossing Your Arms, Playing with Facial Hair. All of these are signs of body language that imply nervousness. You may not know you’re committing any of these faux pas, but interviewers can see you do them and be distracted.

Fidgeting and playing with your facial hair can easily be corrected by holding a pen or interlocking you fingers and placing them on the table. Crossing your arms can imply defensiveness or aloofness. You may simply feel comfortable talking with your arms crossed, but interviewers may see it as a negative stance.

5. Monotone Voice. The worst thing you want to do is talk in a monotone voice, as it implies indifference or boredom or even pretentiousness. You sound robotic when there’s no inflection or pitch in your voice. You lack enthusiasm.

This is particularly important during a telephone interview when the interviewer can’t see the enthusiasm on your face. So, you need to “show” your excitement through your voice. Occasionally you’ll  want to raise your voice or even lower it to make important points.

6. Not Smiling. This is what job candidates often forget to do during an interview, even people who have killer smiles. We are so intent on delivering the best answers that sometimes we forget to smile. Try to remember to smile, at least occasionally.

Smiling shows interviewers that you are friendly, welcoming, and happy to be in their presence. This is important, because interviewers want to know that you are enthusiastic about working for their company.

7. Poorly dressed. There is much debate as to how job candidates should dress for an interview. The general rule is one or two notches above the company’s dress code. What is the company’s dress code, you may wonder? Following are some suggestions for various occupations.

Sales/Finance/Banking. You’ll want to look formal and contemporary, which may include a grey or black suit for men with a color tie. Woman may want to wear a silk blouse beneath a suite jacket, as well as a skirt.

For education, IT, and public sectors; no suit, but a pressed shirt and nice slacks for men. For women, a skirt or trousers and a silk blouse.

Engineers, construction workers, warehouse workers may go with a simple shirt, maybe a tie for men. Women may wear a button-down shirt and slacks.

In all cases, refrain from heavy perfume and cologne. Women should not wear a lot of bling (jewelry). What’s most important is showing respect for the interviewer. There are no situations when you should wear jeans,  unless you’re specifically told to.


The first impressions you make can be your last ones, so make sure your start of on the right track. Enter the room and shake each persons’ hand, make eye contact, and smile. Show the interviewers that you’re happy to be there.

Next week we’ll look at how to answer the difficult questions.

Photo: Flickr, Flazingo Photos

Nailing the interview process, part 3: research, research, research

You’ve heard it over and over again: you need to do your research before an interview. Why? Because:

  • When you do your research, you’re more prepared.
  • When you’re more prepared, you’ll be more confident.
  • When you’re more confident, you’ll do better.

Research

The last thing you want to do is wing it in an interview. You’ll fail, especially if the interviewer is good at their job.

What, exactly, should you research before your interview? Here are four areas the interview will likely cover:

1. The Position

This should go without saying. Most of the questions an interviewer poses will address the position, so you’d better know your stuff.

The most obvious resource here is the job description. A well-written job description should provide valuable information like the skills and experience required for the position. Descriptions will often list these things in order of priority.

Go to the “Required Experience” section of the job description first. Note the list of skills and experience and the order of priority.

You can take your research on the position further by talking with someone who works in the company to which you’re applying. Ask if there are any additional requirements not listed in the job description. You may uncover key requirements that were not mentioned in the listing.

2. The Company

One of the top pet peeves of interviewers is when candidates do not know much about the company. Interviewers want to know you’ve taken the time to research the company, and they want to know you’re truly interested in working for the organization.

The very least you can do is visit the company website. Most company websites will feature an “About Us” page. Read this first. The site will also likely have a “Products” and/or “Services” page. Read these, too. If the company is global, it may list its locations and the functions each performs.

The problem with company websites, however, is that the content they feature is all marketing content, engineered to paint the organization in the most positive light possible.

You’ll never get the whole truth about a company through its website, unless the company is publicly traded. In this case, the website will have annual reports that will reveal more objective information on financials, shareholder information, etc.

It’s a good idea to reach out to people you know in the company for more information about it, particularly the culture.

3. The Industry and Competition

Top candidates will know about the industry in which the company operates. This is information you can gather from labor market research websites, such as Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and O*Net OnLine. You can always turn to Google, too.

With sites like these, you can gather information on occupations, salaries, the skills employers are looking for, and available positions in your area. Glassdoor is a particular favorite among job seekers, as it features employees’ reviews of their own employers.

You can also check out SpyFu to learn about how an employer advertises and its intended audience. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are also useful as well.

As mentioned earlier, public companies are required to share press releases and annual reports. Read the documents of your potential employer’s competitors. If you can cite your desired company’s competition’s statistics, you will impress the interviewer very much.

Once again, it’s important to reach out to people who work in the company to which you’re applying. They will probably have a good sense of who the relevant competitors are based on the department you’re targeting.

4. The Interviewers

Finally, you’ll want to research the people who will be interviewing you.

If you have the names of said people ahead of time, the best tool is LinkedIn. Even if you don’t know the names of the people who will interview you, you can use the site’s “Companies” feature to find people in various departments.

For example, if you are applying for an accountant position, search the company using the keywords “accountant, manager.” You will see the company’s accountant managers.

Read through their profiles to see what you have in common with them. It could be that you attended the same school, you enjoy the same activities, you volunteered at similar organizations, or something else. During the interview, try to talk about what you learned about the interviewers when given the opportunity.

Not to sound like a broken record, but you really should reach out to someone you might know in the company to ask about the person or people who will be interviewing you. They may be able to give you great information about your interviewer’s likes and dislikes.


Researching the mentioned areas will put you an advantage over the other candidates. to show off your research, mention it explicitly. Begin sentences by saying, “While I was researching the competition, I learned …”.

Remember, when you’re prepared, you’ll do well in the interview.

Check back next week, when I’ll be talking about the importance of practicing for your interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com
Photo: Flickr, Rahul Panja

Nailing the Interview Process, Know Thyself: Part 2

Interviewing for a job is tough, whether you’re actively or passively seeking. If it were so easy, people like me wouldn’t have to provide advice on how to interview. One of the challenges of the interview process is knowing yourself, really knowing yourself.

reflection

Before you even start the interview process, I’d like you to do a very simple exercise. Take it seriously, as it will give you a better sense of yourself and how you need to approach the interview process.

Some of you have done SWOT analysis at work, so you’re familiar with the concept. The acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Below is a brief explanation of how a SWOT analysis is used in the work setting.

“SWOT analyses can serve as a precursor to any sort of company action, such as exploring new initiatives, making decisions about new policies, identifying possible areas for change, or refining and redirecting efforts midplan.” BusinessNewsDaily.com

SWOT

From the diagram above, you can see how to handle the four components of a SWOT analysis. Let’s go through all four components.

Strengths

When you analyze your strengths, think about the those that will help you for the position for which you’re applying. Try to address as many of them in the job posting you can. Further, think about how you can achieve at each one.

Here is a list of skills for a specific marketing specialist position:

1. Innovation. You have demonstrated innovative approaches to create marketing campaigns. You introduced one company for which you worked to paperless marketing, social media to another, and virtual tradeshows to your previous company.

2. Business to business marketing. You’ve done this successfully for many years. Included among many of your business partner are seven blue-chip companies.

3. Strategic Thinking. You’ve demonstrated the “ability to think strategically and analytically to ensure successful marketing campaign execution” and can come up with numerous times you’ve done this.

4. Cross-Functional Work. You’ve worked across multiple organizations, including engineering, sales, fiance, webdesign. You’ve demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills.

5. Understanding Customer Behavior. At your previous position, this was a large part of what you did. You worked with business development to determine the best way to target marketing efforts.

6. Strong written and verbal communication skills. You can prove this with the experience you’ve had communicating through written and verbal communications with the press, trade magazines, partners, and customers.

7. The Required Soft Skills. “Solid organizational and project management skills” and “attention to detail and demonstrated ability to multi-task.”

Try to think of at least 10 strengths that you can apply to this position and others.

Weaknesses

Be honest about listing your weaknesses. Determine how you can overcome these weaknesses, as it is important to demonstrate in an interview not only that you have weaknesses but also how you can overcome them.

1. Business to Customer. You have limited experience to this type of marketing, but you’ve shown the ability to interact well with consumers as a retail associate and, therefore understand their needs.

2. Working with Certain Departments. You have limited experience working closely with internal marketing analytics teams to define requirements for product test plans and campaign analysis.

Be honest with yourself and try to think of three or more weaknesses. 

Opportunities 

Opportunities can be anything that makes a job appealing, such as work-life balance, commute, increased income, opportunity for advancement, landing a job quickly.

Great Working Environment. From talking with people you know at the company, you know the company offers team unity, opportunity for advancement.

Work with Previous Colleague. Your previous boss and you got on very well when you were at Company X. You look forward to working with her again.

Your network is strong. This will provide you with many opportunities for a position like this one. You know people in management, as well as others who work there. Companies prefer to hire those they known, e.g., referrals.

The more examples of opportunities you can think of, the more positive you’ll feel about any jobs for which you apply.

Threats

Threats are factors that are difficult, if not possible, to overcome. These can be sticking points during an interview.

Education Requirement. You lack a Bachelor’s degree in what the company desires (Business, Economics, Marketing, Mathematics) and have no resources to acquire one. There is a loophole that says “or a related one.” Your degree in English has served you well in the past.

Experience. “Previous marketing internship experience” is a red flag. It appears that the company is looking for younger, less expensive candidates. Perhaps the company will consider a more experienced employee for the position, or they might develop a position more senior for you.

Some threats can be overcome with a little imagination. 


In the next post we look at the importance of research, research, research before the interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Torkel Pettersson

Nailing the interview process, Part 1: Be Mentally prepared

Succeeding at the interview begins before you sit in the hot seat. The first step is being mentally prepared. This means overcoming the negative feelings that came with losing your previous job.

Despondent

To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to your self-esteem. Even if you were let go simply because the company had to cut costs, you may feel like you’ve failed. Some of my clients feel responsible for being laid off, even though it wasn’t their fault.

It can be particularly devastating if you’re let go because of performance issues or because you didn’t see eye-to-eye with your manager. You may feel that you’re incapable of becoming again the productive employee you once were.

The same applies to having to quit under pressure. Your boss was constantly harping on you for small mistakes or accused you of missteps that you know were the correct actions. Because they’re the boss, though, they hold the power.

Many unemployed can’t let go of what went wrong. They lose sight of what they did well at work. Negative thoughts swim through their minds. What can a person do to get back on track?

1. Don’t deny your despondency

You may be experiencing feelings you’ve never had before: bouts of crying for no apparent reason, a short temper with family members and friends, a lack of motivation. These feelings are symptoms of unemployment. You’re not going crazy.

When I was out of work, I tried to recognize the feelings I was experiencing. It wasn’t always easy, but I realized my unemployment was temporary. You should also realize your situation is temporary.

2. Take a hiatus

You’ve heard the saying, “Get back on the horse.” This is always a good idea, but you don’t have to do it immediately. I’ve known job seekers who have taken a week off to regroup and get their bearings again. While some might believe that you should begin your job search the day after you lose your job, it would be better to clear your mind first.

This said, don’t take a full-on vacation, as many job seekers do. Even during the seemingly slow summer months, employers are hiring. Take a hiatus, but don’t waste long periods of time.

3. Evaluate the situation; be able to explain why you’re out of work

Given three reasons why you are unemployed – you were laid off, let go, or quit – determine which applies in your situation. To be able to explain to others why you lost your job, particularly in an interview, you must be able to explain it to yourself.

If you were at fault, own up to it. Then, determine how you will act differently next time so as not to repeat the same mistake. Most likely you’ll have to explain, albeit briefly, your situation in an interview. Show self-awareness. This is a big step that you’ll need to make.

4. Tell people you’re out of work

walkingThere’s no shame in being out of work. Whenever I say this, I’m sure many job seekers mutter under their breath, “What would you know?”

Plenty. When I was unemployed, it wasn’t easy for me to tell others I had been laid off, even though it wasn’t my fault.

In order for others to help you, they need to know you’re looking for work. The people you tell shouldn’t be limited to your former colleagues and supervisors. They should include family, friends, and acquaintances. Even your brother who lives thousands of miles away might hear or read of an opportunity local to you.

5. Be willing to ask for and accept help

I find this to be one of the most challenging roadblocks for many people; they just can’t bring themselves to ask for help.

There are two things to remember here: One, your job search will be shorter if you have help; two, most people like to help those in need.

Helping others gives people a feeling of achievement. As someone out of work, you will experience the same, so pay it forward.

This isn’t to say you should approach everyone in you community and ask, “Do you know of any jobs for me?” To tell people you’re out of work and explain the kind of job you’re seeking should be enough.

For safe measure, you may want to ping people to stay top of mind. An occasional request like “Please keep your ear to the pavement for me” should suffice.

6. Don’t sleep the day away

As difficult it may be, you need to develop a routine. You don’t have to rise at 5 a.m. so you can go to the gym before work, but getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to take a walk, eat breakfast, and get out of the house would be much more productive than sleeping until 10 every morning.

You’ll feel much better if you are productive than you would if you rose late and watched television all day. I honestly believe that developing a routine is essential to your mental health – and to finding a job.

7. Seek professional help if necessary

You’ll probably experience many feelings, such as anger, fear, and self-doubt. If you become consumed with these feelings, it might be best to seek the help of a therapist. This is not unusual – trust me. I went through a plethora of feelings and, yes, I did talk with a professional. It allowed me to clear my mind.

If it gets to the point where you can’t see the future – where all you can think about are the past and present – this may indicate you’re experiencing depression. It’s worth talking to a therapist when you reach this stage.


It’s hard for some people to understand how difficult unemployment can be. It hurts your self-esteem, destroys your familiar routine, and can even cause embarrassment. Following the above steps can help you mitigate this negative experience.

Look for part 2, Know Thyself, next week.

Photo: Flickr, Silja
Photo: Flickr, David

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com

10 ways that test your courage in the job search

Although I understand my workshop attendees’ reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get in an interview.

courage

They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.

“Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it.

You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other job seekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees.

I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most. But networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other job seekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.”

I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in mock interviews. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service.

But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. I remember being asked to participate in a mock interview years ago. I flatly refused. I lacked courage then.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your LinkedIn connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee.

Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.”

This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market.

Contact those companies with a networking email  to ask for networking meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of networking meetings. Otherwise known as informational interviews, networking meetings have been the reason for many of my job seekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them.

Once you’ve secured a networking meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional- and behavioral-based. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect.

How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.


Readers, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews.

To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.

“Why did you leave your last company?” How to answer this question

And three possible scenarios. 

Why did you leave your last company?” is an interview question that can be a cinch for job candidates to answer or difficult, depending on the reason for leaving your position.

interview with womanAlways expect this question in an interview. It only makes sense that the interviewer would like to know why you left your last company. Were you laid off, let go, or did you quit. Those are the three possible scenarios.

How you answer this question—most likely the first one asked—will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Many people interviewing for the first time are surprised when they get this question. It’s as though they didn’t expect it.

Not only should you expect this question; you should have the answer to this question already formulated. It should not take you by surprise. Expect it. Be prepared. If you get it wrong, shame on you.

Also, be aware of a zinger like, “Steve, tell us why you want to leave (company X) and come to work with us?” To answer this two-part question successfully requires an in depth knowledge of the company and position. Both of which are topics for another article.

What are employers looking for?

Is there a wrong answer? Not really. It’s how you answer it, for the most part. There’s no way to change the past, so your calm response is the best policy. They want transparency, not lies. They also don’t want a drawn-out story; your answer should be brief.

If you become emotional, it will send a negative message to interviewers. If you hesitate, they may distrust you or question your resolve.

Three possible scenarios

Let’s look at the reasons why people lose their job and how to address them.

1. You were laid off

This is easiest way to answer the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” As mentioned above, your answer should be short and sweet. You may say, “The company had to cut cost and restructure after a poor second quarter.”

To beat them to the punch, you might add, “I was among 15 people in my group who were laid off. I was told by my manager that she was sad to see me go.” The reason for doing this is because you might get a follow-up question about how many people were laid off.

Caveat: some people think being laid off is the same as being let go or fired. It is not. Being laid off is do to company failure.

2. You were let go

This is harder to explain, but not impossible to come up with a viable answer. This especially needs a short answer. It’s important that you are transparent and self-aware with your answer. In other words, if you were at fault, be honest about it.

You must also explain what you learned from the experience and state that it will not be repeated. Perhaps it was a conflict of personality between you and your manager, poor performance, or a “mutual departure.”

Conflict of personality. “A new manager took over our department. I was used to the way the previous person managed us. The new manager had a different style, which I didn’t adapt to quick enough. I now understand I need to be more adaptable to other types of management.”

Poor or inadequate performance. “As the project manager of my department, I was responsible for delivering a release of a new data storage software. We failed to meet the deadline by a week. My VP saw this as unexceptionable.  I see where I could have done a better job of managing the team.”

Caveat: the interviewer might want to dig deeper into the situation. Be prepared to answer the questions directly with little emotion. Always keep a cool head. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about your previous boss.

3. You quit or resigned

To quit a position—especially without a job in hand—means there was an existing problem. One common reason I hear for quitting is a conflict of personality with the employee’s supervisor. Another one is a toxic work environment. And a lame reason I hear is because advancement was not possible.

Regardless, a red flag will go up with interviewers if you quit your position. What some people don’t realize is that you give up your right to collect unemployment, if you quit; another reason why this is not a great scenario.

Conflict of personality. “My previous boss and I didn’t see things eye-to-eye on certain decisions he made, and tension was high, so I decided the best move for me was to resign. I realize I could done a better job of accepting his ideas.”

Unsafe environment. “I felt the work environment was not as safe as I was comfortable with. For example, there were many fire hazards in the warehouse. Additionally, the air quality was tested, and it failed. I feel fortunate that my wife brings in a substantial income; otherwise I might have stuck it out longer. My only regret is that I miss the people with whom I worked.”

Caveat: again, it is important to be transparent and honest when answering this question. To simply say you quit or resigned is not good enough. Do not be bitter when you answer this question; just state facts.


Always expect the question, “Why did you leave your last job.” Any interviewer who doesn’t ask this question isn’t doing his job. The reason for departure is essential information. I find this traditional question to be one of the most important ones for job candidates to able to answer.