During your interview, focus your discussion on your work history and accomplishments. Refrain from giving lengthy explanations about why you left each job. Instead, talk about your responsibilities and job duties for each position in chronological order. State your position or title, give a brief description of your job duties and provide one or two examples of your achievements during your previous job. Take the attention off why you left and direct it toward what you did while you were there.
Use simple phrases such as “I left” and “I joined another company” to explain your transition from one job to the next. For example, say: “From 1996 until 2000, I was the lead technician for ABC Parts, a computer parts manufacturer. While there, I developed a system for recalling defective parts. In 2000, I left ABC to join XYZ Systems as a parts supervisor, where I supervised 12 employees. During that time, my department had zero turnover between 2000 and 2004.”
If the interviewer asks if you’ve ever been fired or asked to resign in lieu of being fired, give an honest answer and don’t try to justify why you shouldn’t have been fired. If you’re eligible for rehire, say that. Recruiters understand why terminations happen; however, they could be more interested in whether your former employer will rehire you. For example, say: “I was asked to resign from XYZ Systems eight years ago in lieu of being terminated. It was based on violating a policy that resulted in sales being charged back to the company. When I started this job search, I called XYZ to confirm that I am eligible for rehire.”
Refrain from criticizing your former boss if you resigned because you didn’t get along with her. Recruiters and hiring managers who ask questions about an employee’s departure generally can read between the lines. They’ll be able to tell that you might have had differences with your former employer based on your reason for leaving. Explain that you left the company because you felt there were philosophical differences between you and the company that couldn’t be resolved. In this case, consider providing a reference from the company who can substantiate your performance and work ethic.
When you’re interviewing for a higher level position with another company while you’re employed, you can explain that you’re seeking professional growth and challenges with a new company. The fact that you’re seeking a position that would be a promotion from the job you currently have justifies a candid response about your career aspirations. However, don’t focus on what your current employer doesn’t offer you; stick to what you can offer a new employer.