Occasionally I hear from a job seeker that came out of a truly bad experience at their last employer. They either left or were let go through no fault of their own, but really were victims in the process.
The difficulty for them is to find a way to describe it to a new potential employer without sounding they are bashing the old one!
I met a woman who truly was victimized in her previous job. She was harassed, she was the subject of screaming and verbal abuse, and she was fired without warning because she resisted advances.
Other than the abuse by the owner, she loved her job and the people she worked with. She doesn’t want the stigma of suing her employer, and only wants to move on to a new opportunity. However, she finds it difficult to explain her situation without creating a series of awkward questions and doubt about what happened.
It is a challenge!
There are no easy solutions for that or similar situations. However, as with other questions that involved being fired, a direct, brief answer, followed by a question that directs the conversation in another direction is most likely to be effective.
In the case of the woman that was victimized, she may say something like…
“While I very much enjoyed working with my co-workers, and was effective in my role, there were instances of inappropriateness and values opposed to mine from the owner that lead to my being let go recently. I am looking forward to a new opportunity to learn, and develop new experiences. Can you give me a better idea what areas this position would primarily focus on in the first few months?”
It’s short and direct. It points to the problem without trashing the employer with a great deal of detail. It indicates a positive outlook for a new opportunity, and asks a question to send the discussion in a new direction.
There is no answer that will work every time. However, using a formula like this is most likely to provide the best results.
If you’ve had a bad experience that will need to be addressed in an interview, create an explanation that can be brief, optimistic, and send the conversation down a new path!