“My boss was a butthead.”
No, no, no – it may have been true, but you cannot answer this way! We have all wanted to at one time or another, but no – I strongly suggest against it.
If your position was eliminated, were laid off, or anything that was truly out of your control then this question should be fairly easy to answer. Just a word of caution, remember to put it in a way that does not show disdain or disgust for that company. A simple way of answering would be, “Unfortunately, due to the current climate in the automotive industry, XYX Company had lost many contracts and it was necessary to cut personnel across the board for their survival.” Stating across the board infers that they were not cutting deadwood. Make sure you are honest in your answer. IF they only cut you then you should not state it was across the board, it was simply cutting costs by eliminating positions.
If you quit a position, that can be a little trickier. Ask yourself why you quit. Was the boss such a bonehead that he drove you out? But why, were you not receiving opportunities and challenges to grow? If you were being challenged and given opportunities you probably could have put up with a bonehead boss, right?
If you were fired, this is difficult indeed. To be honest but tactful, especially if you are applying for work in the same line. This is where you need to be honest with yourself in order that you can develop an appropriate answer. Was it an agreed upon separation? Are your strengths in client development and your position evolved into data entry only? Were you let go because you could not keep up with the requirements? In that situation I would state, “When I began with ABA Company I was heavily involved in client development, in which I excelled. Over time the position evolved into data entry, which I am competent but was not at the level that they would have preferred. It was mutually agreed upon that it was not the best fit for me or ABA. That is why I am looking to get back into client development and relationships where I can really bring value to your company.” You are letting them know what happened but ending in a positive emphasizing what you can bring to their company.
Most important in answering this question: be honest, end in a positive of what you can bring to this company and do not speak ill of your former employer. It will take practice and you must have this prepared before the interview. Do not wing this, trust me. You should have this prepared at anytime just in case you meet a contact at the grocery store you have a good, positive answer that will hopefully lead you to an interview.
Have a question on how to answer in your specific situation? Post a comment or go to our website and email me – I will give some suggestions on how to answer tactfully and in a positive manner. It is a tough thing to answer, you do not have to try it alone!
Lisa K McDonald