Updated: Nov 13, 2019
I stayed in my first full time job for nearly 8 years – it was a significant part of my life. And I wasn’t alone, this company regularly held onto their employees by progressing them into more senior roles, which meant many of my peers had been in the company longer than I had. Today it is rare to meet someone in their mid-late twenties who has been in a role that long.
Many factors have influenced the job market including social media, online shopping and the amazing range of SME’s that have opened. All these amazing innovations and advances have created more and more job opportunities, and this has influenced a trend of moving on from jobs quicker than previously.
Working in Talent Acquisition & Recruitment – we liked to see someone staying in a role for around 18 months before making a move. It gave us some insight into attributes a candidate might possess – resilience, commitment, loyalty, the ability to learn from challenging situations. In some situations, though that just isn’t possible, so what then?
Interviewing a potential employee is a challenging task for the Interviewer. They have circa 45 minutes to assess your suitability for a role and piece together your journey so far and how you might approach situations in the role you are interviewing for. They need to make a calculated decision on whether hiring you is a good commercial decision and if you are a cultural fit for their business. Hiring and subsequent rehiring is a costly exercise to any business. Being as clear, constructive and honest in an interview is only going to help you in the process and build trust. Vague answers leave room for interpretation and can leave the interviewer with more questions about you than answers.
So, what if you have a couple (or a few) roles that were less than a year? Or an awful experience with an employer where you only stuck it out for a couple of months? We have all been there! Read on for our tips on how to handle THOSE questions at an interview.
Be prepared for the question
Know that if it was a recent role, you are likely to be asked the question around what happened and why you left so soon. If your employment ended on a less than positive note – you need to think about how you will address this. How you respond to sticky questions is a very clear insight into how you face challenges, how you articulate your response to said situation, and the action you took. How you phrase your answers is equally important – do you have the ability to respond in a constructive way, and know how to limit your answer appropriately? All of this gives us an indication of how you might respond to a challenging situation in the role you are interviewing for.
Be as honest as you can
It is very easy to chalk leaving up to a lack of progression, however, say this and you can leave the impression that you expect a promotion within the year of being hired. It can make the interviewer nervous particularly if you are interviewing at a scale up, they should be happy to invest in your development, but they may not be able to give a timeline of progression and may worry that you will get itchy feet within the year.
Similarly saying “it just wasn’t the right fit for me” – probably isn’t a clear enough answer, and you can likely expect follow up questions to understand why.
The worst case here is that they just simply don’t believe you and know there is another story that you are unwilling to share. It also not a great look to start talking negatively about an ex-employer, so it might leave you feeling just HOW do I navigate these questions?
When this happened to me, I mentioned the very real challenges of the role, tangible reasons that made staying in this role impractical for me. There was also a personality conflict that was an element in my decision to leave however the possibility of this reflecting negatively on me was too high in my opinion, so I didn’t mention it.
If you have more than a few roles that are less than 6 months understand that you are going to get a bit of a grilling on your reasons why. Most interviewers are more than understanding of one or two bad experiences, but a consistent history of this suggests the problem may be deeper than circumstantial. An interviewer will want to ensure you are resilient and can handle challenging situations.
What if I was fired?
Yep it’s a tricky one. And feels a bit icky. Whilst this could have been a truly traumatic experience for an employee - I still am an advocate for honesty. Whether its been failing probation or that the employee had a really unfortunate situation arise – having the details of that situation made it easier for me to make a subjective call about whether it was a deal breaker or not ( a call that can never be made lightly). You have one chance to tell this story from your perspective in a constructive way. If you don’t – you run the risk of your employer finding out another way.
Know that you take the lead on setting the tone
Your tone, body language, the level of confidence you speak with, and your empathy to the situation are all determining factors on how you speak about challenging situations. Most cases if you speak with confidence and seem genuine the interview will flow easily onto the next question and will have no bearing on the outcome.
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