Prepare your answer
First of all, while you might be hoping that the dreaded ‘Why did you leave your last role?’ question isn’t going to come up, it almost certainly will. Make sure you have an answer prepared which will help keep you cool in the interview. There’s nothing worse than racking your brains for something to say in an interview while the silence grows in the room like a balloon. Get yourself ready by setting out the narrative in your head, and think about how you might answer a few related questions on the topic, like “Looking back, what would you have done differently?” or “Did you learn anything from your experiences?”
Set the context
There are many reasons for being let go from a job, and several do not reflect badly on you at all. Businesses shrink, cut costs, and focus on different markets all the time. Perhaps you fell victim to a ‘last in, first out’ policy. If the reason for your departure is not your fault, then make sure that any potential future employers know that so that they don’t simply assume the worst.
If, on the other hand, the reasons for you leaving your old job don’t flatter you, it might be tempting to bend the truth a little in your answer. It’s always better to stay honest and to stand boldly behind that honesty. Get your narrative ready, framing your exit in the right way. Then look your interviewers in the eye and set it out for them. You want to look like you’ve got nothing to hide, and employers may well be able to find out why you were let go from other sources anyway.
Don’t focus on negative relationships
Perhaps you ended up leaving your last role because you fell out with the team – and perhaps there were completely valid experiences. But now is not the time to fight that fight. If your interviewers are faced with someone complaining about their former co-workers, they may wonder if you’ll end up complaining about them.
It’s a better idea to focus on work issues, rather than on the interpersonal level. For example, it’s acceptable to say that your level of ambition wasn’t matched by the firm. You could also say that you prefer a work environment in which clear targets are set, and offer examples of how you believe this enables you to work more efficiently and productively.
Focus on what you learned
Whatever the reason for you being let go from your previous job, there’s always something you can learn from the experience, and focusing on development and improvement in a job interview is a great idea.
Think carefully about what happened in your last job, and identify anything you’d like to do differently in the future. No one gets everything right the first time, and we all have to learn things. Let your interviewer know that you’ve grown from the experience and are determined to put this learning into practice in this role, and you’ll be on the right path to framing your experiences positively.
Being let go isn’t a career-ending opportunity, but a chance to start again somewhere new. Draw the positives from the experience and don’t be afraid to let future employers know how it’ll help you succeed this time.