A finance executive recently contacted me for some coaching on how to answer the inevitable interview question regarding why he left his last job. He struggled to put those unpleasant details and experience into an answer that was both positive and truthful.
The tendency is usually toward bitterness when you’ve been let go … for any reason. After all, you gave them 60+ hours a week, the best years of your life, kept them solvent … whatever. You did your best and what thanks did you get? It comes through in your words, tone, and even body language.
The result is usually going negative in your answer. So keep your answer short, don’t blame anyone, and then deflect with a question to move the conversation to more neutral territory.
Never. Ever. Ever. lie! First of all, you have to remember the lie you told. You don’t need to respond in gory detail, but your response must be honest. Second, the Internet has made it very, very easy to uncover the truth. You should regularly Google your name to see what a potential company might find if they searched your name … and they most likely will. That way, you can go on the offensive and be prepared to answer those hard questions.
Be sure to prep your references, particularly if they work(ed) for the same company, in the event the “why you let” question is posed to them.
If iPhones, Blackberries, and Twitter have taught us anything, it is that brevity is king. The surest way to sabotage your interview is to let a pregnant pause loosen your tongue. Prepare. Practice. Answer. And then, unless you are deflecting with a question, be quiet.
As a brilliant finance executive or CFO, working yourself out of a job is much different than losing a job. There is much power in the former, very little in the latter.