Question: I was asked to leave my job but given a voluntary separation agreement which I signed.
The reason I was asked to leave was that I suffered a deeply personal tragedy and this situation affected my focus which did not allow me to concentrate on my work to the extent I am capable of. I have worked at other places and always had good performance reviews.
How do I explain this situation in response to the question “Why did you leave your old job?”
Answer: LM, besides being an advocate for employees, I am an employer. As an employer I have asked many job candidates that very same question, “Why did you leave your old job?”
Your reason seems honest, reasonable and straightforward to me. Quite honestly, if I heard that (a) you had positive performance reviews at prior positions, (b) you suffered a personal tragedy at this position that made you temporarily lose focus, (c) you and your employer agreed it would be best that you left, considering your loss of focus, (d) you felt that your ability to concentrate had returned, and (e) you were now ready and eager to get back to work, I would have no problem hiring you.
Unless I am missing something, I don’t think you have much to fear. Admittedly, I do not know (i) what kind of tragedy you have suffered (or whether it is even my business to know), (ii) how long it has been since you have regained your ability to concentrate, (iii) how long you were on your last job, (iv) if you received positive review from your last job – at least until you suffered your personal tragedy, or (v) if you seem focused in an interview. But, from what you have shared with me, your reason for leaving your last job is as honest, common, straightforward and understandable as any other reason for leaving a past job as any reason I have ever heard.
It may be helpful to gather letters of support and reference. Why don’t you consider gathering together testimonial support for your hard work, honesty, loyalty, positive attitude and very good performance. While nearly everyone experiences personal tragedies, not too many people can provide proof of positive performance and attitude. It would seem especially valuable to have your former employer vouch for you as to your prior performance and attitude.
Skills, positive performance and superior attitude are the most important drivers of hiring decisions. Your reason for leaving a former job is not among the most important of factors in hiring decisions. My own sense is that you have less to fear than you think. Armed with proof of these attributes – skills, prior performance and superior attitude – I think you’ll do much better than you seem to fear.
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Best, Al Sklover
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© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.