Help! How do I explain why I left my previous employer

Dear Aunty,

I recently attended an interview and felt really interrogated. The interviewer kept trying to find out why I left my previous employer. I only said in the interview that we parted ways but he kept on coming with more and more questions and I didn’t know what to tell him.

So to prevent this in the future, could you please advice me on how to go about such questions on why have you left your former workplace?

Aunty says,

It is important to be aware that this is a very common interview question and a legitimate question for the interviewer to ask. The interview provides an opportunity for the employer to find out more about you and whether you are suitable for their organisation. The reason why you left an employer will be of interest to them in terms of understanding more about you.

Understanding that this is a legitimate question that might be asked means that you can prepare an answer that will improve your chances of being offered the job. There is no need to be defensive – it is actually a good questions for you! The questions provides an excellent opportunity for you to explain why you are suitable for this role.

The key to answering this question is to ensure that you always talk positively about your experiences. Never talk negatively about your former employer. Focus on the skills and experience that you gained and your key achievements. You can then use this to create an answer that demonstrates why you would be suitable for this opportunity.

Below is an example of how to answer this interview question:

  • “I worked at X company for X years and learned in-depth accountancy skills and acquired some amazing experience. For example, I completed my full ZICA qualification and learned the fundamentals of accountancy. I was able to utilise my qualification and skills to successfully manage the accounts team and to produce annual accounts, budgets, etc… I left as I wanted to find an organisation that inspired me in terms of its mission/culture/management/potential for growth. When I was advised about this opportunity I instantly thought I would be able to use my skills and experience to contribute to the success of this organisation.”

If you are able to provide an answer such as this then you will be able to use this type of question to demonstrate your suitability for the role and improve your chances of interview success.

I hope that this information will be of use to you and others in Zambia and wish you all the best for the future.


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