DEAR READERS: When someone leaves a job without having a new job, how should they explain that to potential employers during a job interview?
There are several ways someone in that position could approach the situation, according to the business owner and HR expert I contacted. The “must” is to prepare an answer.
The following tips can help make sure you know what to say if and when the question “Why did you leave before you got another job?” appear:
- Highlight what you did during your down time. Don’t focus on the fact that you left before looking for another job; highlight what you do to stay productive during your downtime, suggests Thomas Villalpando, co-founder and editor at IPet Guides.
- Mention any volunteer, freelance or consulting work completed, or any education or certification earned during that period. “Emphasizing the transferable skills acquired and the proactive approach taken to stay engaged in their field demonstrates resilience and commitment to personal and professional growth,” notes Villalpando.
- Be positive and confident. Make it clear that you are taking the time to carefully assess your career goals and to explore new opportunities – and don’t forget to express your enthusiasm and readiness to re-enter the workforce and contribute your skills and experience to prospective employers’ organizations, says Villalpando.
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Exactly what you reveal about your decision during the interview will depend on why you left your previous position.
Angela Champ, C-suite HR executive and author of “The Squiggly Line Career: How Changing Professions Can Advance a Career in Unexpected Ways,” offers feedback based on your reasons for leaving your role.
- Toxic culture. “I left because there was a mismatch in our values.”
- Poor work-home balance. “I worked a lot of overtime and decided to pursue a career that gave me a little more flexibility to enjoy life holistically — not just work but also my hobbies, friends and family.”
- Bad boss. “I learned a lot and know I did my best work with a manager whose leadership style was X. I left so I could look for that leadership style in my next role.”
- Lack of promotion. “I have so much to offer the organization, and the opportunities for me to contribute and grow professionally are non-existent.”
Debra Boggs, co-founder of executive career management firm D&S Professional Coaching, agrees responses will vary depending on the reason for leaving, and she offers her advice on how to respond if it’s because the job is different from what was described during the hiring process.
“You could say you’re leaving to focus your search on roles where your unique skills are needed and where you can do your best work—but be sure to incorporate what you learned from that experience and stay positive and high level,” Boggs says. .
The bottom line, says Villalpando, is that it is very important to frame the job gap as a strategic decision that allows for personal and professional development rather than periods of unemployment.
“By displaying the proactive steps taken during the hiatus and aligning them with the desired role requirements, individuals can position themselves as a motivated and dedicated candidate,” he said.
Kathleen Furore is a writer and editor based in Chicago. You can send your career inquiries via email to [email protected].