How to Answer “Why Did Your Last Position End?” in Interview
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” – Steve Jobs
Have you ever been fired before? I have. I was a bartender in my early twenties. We all showed up to the restaurant one day to find the doors locked and a notice that the restaurant had closed. We were all let go without notice. Apparently this isn’t all too rare a tactic to prevent a mass exodus of staff upon receiving an announcement that the restaurant is closing.
I’ve also quit jobs for greener pastures and bigger opportunities. The question will always come up in an interview: “Why did your last position end?” The answer itself is just as important as HOW you answer the question. There are many reasons why you will get asked this question in an interview:
- gauging your personality type by the way you answer the question and the reasons why you left
- making a pre-determination if you are a flight risk prone to quitting jobs quickly
- detecting patterns of previous employment issues.
PERSONALITY RED FLAGS
It is so important to answer “Why did your last position end?” calmly and non-defensively. Your interviewer is looking for red flags. If I had gotten upset and started talking badly about the restaurant that closed its doors, that would have been a big red flag. Even though getting fired had absolutely nothing to do with me, I’ve now turned it into a reason for a potential employer to be concerned.
In a very matter-of-fact tone, a proper answer should be, “The restaurant closed its location.” That’s it. That’s all they need to know and all they’re hoping to hear. Confidence makes a big difference here too, so check out our article on how to have confidence in your interviews.
You might be looking at moving to a position with more growth opportunity. There are two ways you can answer their inevitable question.
- I’m currently in a dead end job going nowhere.
- While I enjoy my current position and the people I work with, the opportunities for advancement are limited. I’m interested in a job that offers the potential for growth within the company.
Which answer do you think will set off a red flag and which one do you think will actually make the interviewer take a greater interest in you as a candidate?
FLIGHT RISK RED FLAGS
While you will almost always be asked “Why did your last position end?”, your interviewer will certainly be looking for something to ease their concern if your previous three jobs all lasted less than a year.
There could be very logical reasons to explain this. Remember, be calm and don’t get defensive. You already got to the interview stage which means they’re interested in you. They want to make sure you’re not going to run right after you get the job and that it’s worth their investment to onboard you.
Perhaps your first job was right out of school and you were doing that to pay the bills while you were looking for the right career opportunity. You thought you found it with your second job, but they quickly made cut-backs due to lack of business and you were low-person on the totem pole alone with half a dozen others who also lost their jobs. While your current job is in your field, it’s not challenging you to really use your particular skill sets and you believe this position you’re interviewing for can be the home you’ve been looking for.
If you have those answers lined up and ready to go, you will set your interviewer at ease and put to rest any thoughts they may have about you being a flight risk.
However, if you are the type to cut-and-run, always having one foot out the door, not only is that going to be difficult to explain, but it is also a very big red flag that will make your interviewer question whether your potential fit for the position is with the risk that you might not be around long enough for them to invest in you.
PATTERN RED FLAGS
Many of us have had the job that didn’t quite turn out as we had hoped. There were big promises of bonuses that were impossible to achieve. There was the enthusiasm of the positive work environment that turned out to be toxic. You were told it didn’t matter that you weren’t familiar with accounting, you’d pick it up in no time . . . and you didn’t. Again, HOW you answer why you left (whether it was your employer’s choice or your own) is so crucial to keeping the interview moving forward in a positive direction.
“That job turned out to not be the right fit. The job required more experience with accounting, which is not my strength, and ultimately we agreed that they needed someone with that background in that role.” That is a professional, honest, concise and reasonable answer.
Here’s a red flag answer: “I didn’t get along with management at my previous position, and the job before that as well. I don’t know, I guess I’ve just been unlucky getting stuck with bosses who are jerks.” That statement says a lot more about you than it does about your previous employers.
Whenever you go into an interview, know what’s on your resume and be prepared to answer the obvious questions they’re going to ask. The question of “Why did your last position end?” is almost guaranteed to come up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a job history, even the person interviewing you, and their boss and their boss’s boss. They’ve probably even been fired at least once. It’s not an interview-ender. Remember, they’re learning about YOU at this stage of the process. Just be calm, prepared and honest and they’ll move right past that question. As a next step in your preparation, if your interview is going to be online, check out our tips on how to set up for success in virtual interviews.