Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: despedina on November 06, 2013, 01:30:00 PM

Title: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: despedina on November 06, 2013, 01:30:00 PM
Recently I had to resign from my position with a company that I was with for almost 7 years.  I decided to just cut ties and focus on finding a new career path.
I have a new interview coming up on the 22nd with a well known company.  I'm wondering how to word my explanation of my resignation when asked.  Here are the details why I left:
 
BG: I worked for a graphics company where I was an account manager. We had dedicated accounts. We were responsible for helping clients figure out what graphics and hardware to purchase that met their needs, quoting, help them place the orders, manage the projects, make sure all was shipped on time and follow up as needed.

Good points about the job: I loved most of my clients. The remainder I still worked well with. I was highly reviewed among my clients (many offered to be references) and all my reviews with my supervisor were very good.  I got along with all of my co workers.

Bad points:
Pay really didn't seem high enough for the stress of what we were doing.
Many co workers left in the last 2 years (for higher paying jobs) and the rest of us got their accounts, causing me to be overworked and unable to focus on client's needs. This caused complaining on response time and I'm sure the company lost some business because of it.
My employer did not hire enough to take into consideration our high turnover - many people who were hired quit before getting out of training, or were so incompetent that it caused more work for the rest of us until they had enough evidence to let them go.
My employer did not hire enough order entry reps ( to enter all the orders in the system), so after finishing our own work, we had to do 1-3 hours more of order entry, causing some days to be 10-12 hours long. You had no idea when you would leave.
My employer would assign extra projects on top of our already too high workload with no extra compensation.
My employer, stated they were now hiring at a hire rate, however the rest of us would see no more compensation, so I, at 7 years experience, was only making $1 more per hour than a new hire. 
Our inventory system, and machinery had major issues, which we were not kept up to date on, and we would have to call clients and lie why a project could not get out the door.

Due to the overtime, I could not schedule anything after work as we were expected to stay. Leaving on time or a particular time (not early) had to be approved 4 days in advance. My kids were not getting to their activities (my husband tried, but is only 1 man).
The last week I was there I had to physically leave the building as it was getting to me too much. I've never had to do that before.  In the last few months, I begged my supervisor to do something, as the load was too much and the company would lose clients. Nothing was done.  I finally realized nothing would change and I handed in my resignation to focus on a new job with better life/work balance.

So based on all of this, what is the best way to explain why I left? Of course you don't want to bad talk your previous employer, and I know there is nothing to gain in doing so.   The last time I interviewed (while I was working), I simply explained that there were changes with my employer and that I felt it was time to move on. They wanted details.
I just don't want to ruin this interview.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: Tsaiko on November 06, 2013, 01:45:50 PM
The most standard way to put this would be:

"Unfortunately, the goals and priorities at [OLD COMPANY] changed over time, and I felt the job was no longer a good fit for me."

Then focus on what you were good at. Tell them you really enjoyed working with clients, helping them figure out what they needed, managing projects, etc. Talk up your strengths. You're not bad mouthing your company at all, and instead focusing on what you liked and were good at. They can then read between the lines if they want.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: turnip on November 06, 2013, 02:19:49 PM
>and focus on finding a new career path

That's it.  You realized that your goals were incompatible with the old company's, and so you decided to look for an opportunity where you could use and expand your skills in a way that helps both your employer and yourself.

Don't say "changes", don't even imply that you were anything other than a happy contributor at your old place.   "Everything was going great but I wanted to learn new skills and/or wasn't taking good advantage of my current skills."
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: despedina on November 06, 2013, 02:25:20 PM
Well obviously I didn't like something since I resigned, so I'm not sure I can get away with sounding like I was nothing but a happy contributor when I up and left. I'm sure that will be questioned.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: Zizi-K on November 06, 2013, 02:28:09 PM
>and focus on finding a new career path

That's it.  You realized that your goals were incompatible with the old company's, and so you decided to look for an opportunity where you could use and expand your skills in a way that helps both your employer and yourself.

Don't say "changes", don't even imply that you were anything other than a happy contributor at your old place.
   "Everything was going great but I wanted to learn new skills and/or wasn't taking good advantage of my current skills."

I agree with this completely. Any complaint you make can be turned around to make you look bad. There were changes? You weren't adaptable, you weren't a team players, etc.

I would emphasize what you liked about the last job, but say that you were looking for X (whatever this new company is offering).

If pressed, you could say something vague like, "Well, as much as I loved the job, in the last year or so, the company had trouble managing personnel levels, making the behind-the-scenes mechanics a bit chaotic." I would not say anything like "I was no longer a good fit."

I also think it could be OK to say something like, "I am a team player and more than happy to put in the occasional late night to meet a deadline and keep the customers happy, but to be honest, the company began requiring daily unpaid overtime, which after many months was something I simply could no longer do." (Only say this if you know the new company supports good work-life balance and won't require the same thing!)
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: dawbs on November 06, 2013, 02:31:43 PM
Well obviously I didn't like something since I resigned, so I'm not sure I can get away with sounding like I was nothing but a happy contributor when I up and left. I'm sure that will be questioned.

Honestly, this is something that you should notice about them...people who question that are people to watch out for.

because, IME, when someone is doing the 'polite fiction' (which, yes, we all know that, the job market being what it is, someone walking away from a long-term job w/o a new one probably isn't real happy w/ former employer) we all know it's polite fiction--the fact that someone is doing 'polite fiction' (instead of saying "I worked for harpies who should be drawn, quartered, and allow me to tapdance on their graves") is what they're supposed to be finding out.  They're not SUPPOSED to be asking the question to find out why you 'really' left your previous employer.  They're supposed to be asking the question 'if I ask this difficult question, is this person professional and tactful enough to give an 'honest' answer without vilifying the previous employer."?

Someone who tries to grill you to get more information and who questions that is someone to avoid.  It tells you that the interviewer is quite possibly someone you don't want to work for.  (the same way that an interviewer who says they can't let you give 2 weeks notice to your current employer is someone you don't want to work for)
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: DCGirl on November 06, 2013, 02:32:58 PM
Don't reference unpaid overtime if you're not in a position where you would be legally entitled to paid overtime.  If you're an exempt employee, the understanding is that you work until you get the job done.  That's what they tell me at my job and, like you, it's getting to the point where I can't reliably plan anything after work because of the hours.

If you feel like you need to provide more detail, couch it in terms that make you look your best.  For example, "Changes in staffing levels meant that I felt I was no longer providing the best possible service to our customers.  I'm looking for an environment in which keeping the customer happy is the highest priority."
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: DCGirl on November 06, 2013, 02:42:52 PM
I have to disagree with dawbs, who posted while I was posting, on why interviewers ask why someone left a previous job.  Yes, they want to see that someone will respond in a professional manner instead of describing a lunatic manager.  But, they are also trying to understand your motives and gain insight as to how you'll handle difficult situations.  They're not looking for the "polite fiction."  They want to know if the person will leave them in the lurch if he/she becomes bored or dissatisfied without trying to work things out.   

I do agree that the hiring manager who doesn't want you to give two weeks' notice is a huge red flag about the corporate culture at any potential employer.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: Betelnut on November 06, 2013, 02:51:22 PM
We asked, "What is the most difficult experience you've had with a supervisor," and, "What is it about this job that makes you want to leave your current one?"

We are looking for positive answers to possibly negative situations.  Professionalism, etc.  Also, mention the goals and mission of the organization that you are interviewing with to show that not only do you want a new job but that you want that job with that organization.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: despedina on November 06, 2013, 04:58:08 PM
The job I'm looking at is an Administrative Supervisor position.

I"m not looking for late nights on a constant basis. I would hope a long day is the exception and not the rule.  It was the rule at my previous job (I was paid overtime fyi, but it was interfering with my ability to spend time with my children during the week and was burning me out).

Honestly I'd want to know if the life/work balance is not good. If they are asking several hours of overtime every day, then I don't want the position. If they say it happens a couple of times a month, then no problem. Most reasonable people can work around it on occasion but not every day for months on end with no end in sight.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: katycoo on November 06, 2013, 05:16:08 PM
Talk about how you were ready for a new challenge.

Talk about how you had reached the pinnacle of career progression available at your old office.  that the people above you had been there forever with no signs of moving on limiting you from promotion.

Don't say anything negative about them or yourself.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: violetminnow on November 06, 2013, 06:15:55 PM
I would say pick what to say and keep it short. I've been interviewing people for a while now, and when someone goes on for more than a few sentences (max 3) about what they didn't like about an old job it's a Huge Red Flag. I say max 3 mainly because I've found that once people go over 3 they tend to start venting. Since most people do vent to friends and spouses about work, it's way to easy to accidentally do that in an interview.

I would suggest saying something like, "We had quite a bit of turnover, and new people weren't being brought in. I'm good, but I can't do the jobs of 4 people!" Or however you would word something similar. Let them know that there was high turnover that way they know there's likely a problem with the office, not the worker.

Good luck!
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: greencat on November 06, 2013, 06:35:35 PM
"My pay was not commiserate with my experience, my workload, or the requirement to work 2-3 hours of overtime daily.  There was no opportunity for improvement in my work situation due to the high turnover rate leaving us short-staffed, and I decided my time would be best spent searching for better employment opportunities."

The phrase "high turnover rate" will clue your potential future bosses in that something was rotten in the state of Denmark.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: *inviteseller on November 06, 2013, 07:01:22 PM
I walked off a job after 13 years..just left my keys and never returned.  It sounds like I am flakey on paper and it was hard to be creatively polite in interviews.  I know what I wanted to say about why I left, but I promised myself that no matter what I would NOT bad mouth my former boss even though she was doing it to me, so I had to find a way to express why I just walked without going into a rant.  My spin on leaving because my boss had turned into the most evil bully, who not only criticized me about my work but personally in front of clientele, wanted me to cook the books, then was stopping my paychecks and refusing to make good on them, which all caused me to start having health issues due to stress was "My last place of employment was having some down times in the economy and boss and I were unable to find the right compromise on my wages so I felt it was easier for the business and myself fiscally to find another position."  I used this like during numerous interviews and my current boss is the only one who picked up that I wasn't getting paid and I had no choice but to walk (he brought it p after I was hired and I didn't deny it).  If you are still looking to stay in the same field, there is a chance that stories about your companies recent issues have gotten around and it may be known that they ask more of less and it isn't working for them.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: DavidH on November 06, 2013, 07:04:07 PM
I agree on the high turnover rate being good thing to mention.  I'd say that there was a very high turnover rate which led to more experienced staff like yourself being required to pick up the slack.  I'd then say that while you understand the need for occasional overtime, you are unable to consistently up in 3-4 hours per day.  It may turn off some potential employers, but if that's what they need, they'd be a poor fit for you anyway. 
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: aussie_chick on November 07, 2013, 04:58:19 AM
Just trying to think what I like to hear. I recruit a lot of people.

Do not complain about previous employer at all. Even in an implied fashion.

Focus on you - together with the company you're applying with. Your great skills and this company presents opportunities for you to achieve what you want but also achieve what they want - mutually beneficial exercise.

E.g why did you leave your last position?
I decided after x years with company it was time for the opportunity to learn some new skills and I know your company really focuses on developing leaders/staff training opportunities/skills development (whatever is most appropriate)

Agree with others - emphasise what you did like. If not the company then what you liked about the work.

Or. "At old company a lot of the work I was doing was with abc type accounts. I know your company deals with a lot of xyz type accounts and that's an area i'm really interested in"

I often think the best way to avoid negativity about an old employer is to research the hell out of the company you're applying with and focus on discussing the new company with you, not your old company with you.

The reality is that savvy recruiters will read through the BS and spin. They will know there is more to the story. But much better for them to be curious than to know for sure why you left and have you leave the interview with them thinking "wow i wonder what they'll say about us when they leave"

I wouldn't mention working conditions at all until you're offered the job. Even if unintended it can appear presumptuous. Unless specifically asked about overtime then of course be honest. But if you're not asked, the time to negotiate or discuss the specifics are once you've been offered the job.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: Betelnut on November 07, 2013, 11:56:23 AM
Oh, don't say anything negative about having to "take up the slack" of other people!  My god, that makes it sound like you're not a team player and a whiner!  Huge red flag for people hiring.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: TootsNYC on November 07, 2013, 04:07:47 PM
I agree w/ the last two posts--except that I think people may say, "why did you leave before you had another position?" Or they may wonder it, even if they don't say it.

So while you don't want to trash-talk them, you also don't want to leave room for the interviewer to think that you've been fired. Laid off would be OK, but you don't want to lie, even by omission.

So I like the "I wanted something new--in the same field, but with some fresh challenges--but I found it impossible to look while I was working there. It was simply too demanding, and I took my responsibilities too seriously. So I felt my time was best used looking for work."
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: ringingbells on November 08, 2013, 01:18:01 AM
I think you should absolutely mention your work/life balance concerns. Definitely don't get into all the gory details and paint your old employer in a negative light, but don't lie about why you're leaving. I would say something to the effect of, "I left my last position, because at this point in my career, I'm looking for more of a work/life balance. While I'm happy to pitch in overtime during crunches, 10-12 hour workdays were the norm at my last job, and I'm trying to get away from that."

If this answer makes the potential employer turn you down, then it probably wasn't the right job. Because ultimately, if you don't want to work 50-60 hour weeks all the time, you really need to know if that's a dealbreaker for the employer, IMO.

You might check out the AskAManager blog. I find it very helpful for these sorts of questions. Good luck in your search! :)
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: sweetonsno on November 10, 2013, 08:51:21 PM
Why not just say that you want to try some new challenges or that it just wasn't a good fit for you anymore? Nothing wrong with being vague on this one.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: camlan on November 10, 2013, 09:06:45 PM
My sister was in the same situation--completely burnt out after weeks and weeks and weeks of, for her, unpaid overtime. When she started with that company, there were 9 people in her department. For the last 2 years, there have been only 4. Everyone was completely maxed out and stressed.

In her interviews, she did not reference this at all. Her explanation for looking for a different job was that she had pretty much gone as far as she could with her current company--they even created an Assistant Manager job just for her, and she was looking for new challenges.

Do come up with a short, sweet explanation that you feel comfortable with. Don't mention anything that would raise red flags for the interviewer though.
Title: Re: How to explain why I resigned from my previous job in an interview politely.
Post by: DavidH on November 11, 2013, 10:46:06 AM
I think she needs to say something plausibly bad enough to quit without another job over, but that doesn't reflect negatively on her or her prior employer.  This can be anything from the changing amount of overtime required to taking care of an ill relative (if true).  Without any reason or a weak one, it can raise all sorts of speculation, was she fired, how is she flakey, none of which are desirable in a new hire. 

If you are interviewing in response to a head hunter call, then you can say, I wasn't looking for a job, but when I heard about this opportunity, it was so interesting I wanted to learn more.

If you have a job and are looking, you can say all sorts of things around looking for new challenges, limited in your current role, heard great things about the company you are interviewing with and so on.

If you've quit, it is, at least in my field, sufficiently unusual that it would be good to give some reason to head off any negative speculation.