The Job Interview: When Your Last Job Done You Wrong

P47A by Symic
P47A, a photo by Symic on Flickr.

Now we’re going to talk about a most important rule for job interviews: never ever criticize your former employer.

I don’t care if the organization lurched around like a ship of doom with no rudder. I don’t care if your boss teased small caged animals.

Never let me hear that you’ve badmouthed an employer.

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people slip into this when they’re feeling nervous. Especially if you were let go, you want people to think that the other party was to blame, not you.

You may well have had to quit to keep your sanity, your health or your integrity, and you hate to think that a job interviewer would see you as a flake.

You can get around whatever happened in your last job and come out looking like a mature person if you speak respectfully about your former employer. Talk about how you came to realize that you and the organization were not a good fit. Talk about how you’ll be a better employee now because of what you learned from the experience. Just be careful not to say too much.

Your interviewer is not stupid; he or she will read between the lines. They know that organizational weirdness happens a lot.

They’ll also be impressed by your composure and know that if they give you a job, you won’t go around someday telling everybody that you work for a bunch of losers.

If you did play a big part in the conflict between yourself and your former employer, you need to figure out what happened and take responsibility for changing. We usually have some role in a relationship that ends badly. Figure out where and why your behavior was less than optimal. You’ll then be able to authentically speak in a balanced way about why you left or were let go.

Kvetch about your former employer with your friends, unless they’re already sick of hearing about it. Then let it go. Walk into the job interview fresh, feeling optimistic about the potential for good things to happen. And if I see that former boss of yours, I’ll blow a raspberry at ‘em and let them see how it feels.

Comments, please: How have you gotten past a bad experience with an employer?


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