Question: I was unexpectedly asked to resign or be terminated – I did not agree with either but resigned thinking that would look better. I haven’t had any interviews yet, but I am not sure what to put on the applications or how to answer the question why did you leave your previous employer? I loved my job and the company I worked for so this has been very difficult for me. I need to get another job, but I am fearful of that question.

Barbara, Idaho

Answer: Sorry to hear of your difficult experience. There is an old saying: “Don’t worry about whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, just figure out what good you can make of whatever is in your glass.” For you, the choice is only how best to proceed.

I believe in honesty, and I believe in candor. Still, I don’t believe that a person has to go out of his or her way to explain everything there may be to explain. Keep in mind that interviewers never ask people “Please tell me all of the circumstances surrounding your departure from your last job.” For that reason you don’t need to tell them everything. Here are just a few of the ways you can honestly and positively answer “Why did you leave your last job?” or “Why did you resign?”:

“I resigned for personal reasons.” (True, because it seemed preferable to being terminated.)

“I resigned. Resignation allowed me to devote full-time efforts to finding a job that offered better job security.” (That’s definitely true.)

“I resigned after frank discussions about my opportunities for advancement at my former employer, which were severely limited.” (True, and an understatement.)

“I loved my job, and would have stayed on much longer. But the dynamics in our department turned negative – suddenly and without warning – and that prompted me to decide leaving by resignation was my best alternative.” (Seems true, too.)

If your interviewer asks follow-up questions, you are free to say that “Additional answers might make me reveal confidential information, which I cannot do,” or “I don’t like to criticize, and additional answers would make me do that.” That should suffice.

I suggest you choose one, best answer to a question about “Why did you resign?” and practice it over and over, perhaps with a friend playing the role of the interviewer. I’ve interviewed many people in my years as an employer; those who keep it simple when discussing their last employment are preferred to those who say a lot, or criticize, or act defensively.

We offer a list of 50 Good Reasons to Explain Your Last Departure. To obtain a copy, [click here].

Hope this helps,
Al Sklover