Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Whenever you're looking for a new job, the first question anyone--whether it's a potential employer, or a headhunter, or even just an interested friend--asks is what happened to your old job. There's not really a good answer for that--

1) If you got laid off due to budget cutbacks, it implies that your employer wasn't doing their job. After all, you had been hired to benefit the company, and the company should have been able to pay you, right? If you're a good employee and they have to let you go, then they must have screwed something up in the way they ran their business.

2) If you got laid off because you're no longer worth more to them than you're costing them (in salary, benefits, office space, extra coffee, frustration) then it implies you're not that good a bargain for the next employer, unless they pay you less, or give you less office space, cut back on your coffee, or somehow get you to work harder. Even though the previous employer hadn't been able to do these things.

3) If you got let go because you were running a cockfighting ring in the breakroom, then your new employer has to wonder about animal rights laws, laws against gambling, and the large number of Guatemalans who keep wandering past reception.

It's sort of a pointless question, since it really doesn't matter if you got laid off for a "positive" reason (such as budgetary cutbacks), and if you got laid off for a "negative" reason (like washing your socks in the coffee maker) you're certainly not going to say so in the interview (this could be found out by examining a police record, or asking the former employer when checking references. Anyone who doesn't provide a former employer as a reference, well that you have to watch out for.).

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