Author Topic: What to say in an interview when you're leaving your company because it's awful  (Read 2433 times)

newgirl

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Hi all...

7 months ago I took a job at a company who offered me a crazy high salary and the opportunity to WFH full time. Without going into a ridiculous amount of detail, it turns out that the grass is NOT greener, more money and no commute do NOT compensate for a horrible work environment, and I could tell within my first week of training that I was not going to do well there.

A few weeks ago I reached out to a manager that I knew pretty well from my previous position, and asked if he was looking to hire anyone. I used the reasonably generic "current company unfortunately turned out to not be a good fit" to explain why I was looking. He wants to bring me in for an interview next week, which is great.

He indicated that I'd be meeting with him and a couple of senior individual contributors on his team for the interview. No HR screen or anything like that. These people know me pretty well and know my skills and what I bring to the table. I worked with them extensively in a B2B services capacity for several years - I've taken them to lunch, happy hour, gone to baseball games with them, hosted training events with them... they know me.

And so, I am struggling a little bit with what and how much I should say about my experience with current company. The interview is not going to focus on my skills and experience because I am a known quantity to them and they know what I can do. It will focus on fit with the team, and it's reasonable to think they will want to talk in some detail about why this current job isn't working out. They know that if I was having a good experience I wouldn't be there, so it seems silly to try and put a positive spin on it like I might try to do with people who don't know me. "I've enjoyed my time working for company X, however I have reached the limits of blah blah blah".

At the same time, nobody is going to respond well to an applicant who talks negatively about their current employer. My thought would be to try and talk about it something like this... "I work best in a collaborative environment, and I have realized that doesn't align well with the culture at company X. I know from having the experience of working with you and your team for several years that collaboration is highly valued and encouraged here, which is why I feel it would be a much better fit that would produce higher quality results."

What do you guys think?

dogboyslim

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Very little.  Your answer with first situation was good.  If you go off on your current boss/environment, it makes you look bad.

If you are asked directly, it will likely be in the form "Why are you considering leaving your current position?" and the answer is that while you are satisfied in your current role, you are looking for an opportunity to <thing you like about new position> which is available in this position.  I'm excited about this opportunity because it allows me to leverage <skills> to drive meaningful results for the organization.

Something along those lines.  I have had candidates speak badly about their prior employers, and while they may be telling the whole truth, it makes me wonder how much of the situation is because of them.  I've not hired anyone that has done that.

AZDude

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Lie. Find out what the culture is like at this job, and then claim you work better in an environment like that, rather than (the opposite of that environment).

Generally, the less you speak of your current/former employer, the better. Focus on what you can do and what you are looking for.

Dicey

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Lie Omit. Find out what the culture is like at this job, and then claim you work better in an environment like that, rather than (the opposite of that environment).

Generally, the less you speak of your current/former employer, the better. Focus on what you can do and what you are looking for.
There, made a little adjustment for you. This is excellent advice.

Ladychips

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Lie Omit. Find out what the culture is like at this job, and then claim you work better in an environment like that, rather than (the opposite of that environment).

Generally, the less you speak of your current/former employer, the better. Focus on what you can do and what you are looking for.
There, made a little adjustment for you. This is excellent advice.

+1.  While you might not get caught, I think lying is just bad form.

I think focusing on fit is perfect.  It's ridiculous to think every job is a fit for every person.  I love your thoughts on 'this is when I do well and I know you all fit that model'.  I also agree that I've never hired anyone who talked negatively about their previous employer, even when I thought their previous employer was yuck. 

Sounds like you are going to do great!  I hope you'll keep us posted!

Gronnie

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Meh, I think the "don't talk ill over your current employer" camp takes it a bit far. If you are leaving, chances are you don't like your current employer. They aren't stupid.

I just went through a similar situation. Most of the people I was interviewing with used to work for the company I am at, they know why I am leaving. We had some good laughs about it, they sold me on the new company, we negotiated an offer, and I accepted.

If you are a known quantity and are good, this interview should more be you interviewing them and them selling you on the company than the other way around.

formerlydivorcedmom

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I've used the "not a good cultural fit" line before, and in a final interview, they almost always want to know more details about what part of the culture wasn't a good fit.  They wanted to make sure I wouldn't find the same issues working with them.

If the true answer is "collaboration", then I like your proposed answer.

For this round of interviewing, when asked why I left the employer before this (and I don't know why they all ask about that one), I have two answers.  If the new job is in a certain industry, I stress project management, because PM and processes are VERY important in that industry.  For other industries/companies I don't know as well, I talk about the fact that old company was outsourcing the interesting work.

For this group, you might even start with a lighthearted, "I missed you guys!"  and then, if they still want an answer, use the collaboration one you suggested.

COEE

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Don't lie during an interview - ever - I've learned this the hard way. 

You haven't been there long.  I think a "I have found my new company to not be a good fit for me" is perfectly appropriate.  They will probably ask why.  A truthful but concise answer is also appropriate so that they can gauge if you'll be a good fit there.  Don't go into details and don't bad mouth the company, but a "The corporate culture is not as collaborative as I hoped." is also a perfectly valid answer.  Focus on you - not on them. 

Or, "They hired me to do X, but I already miss doing Y, and you are offering me a chance to do Y again."
Or, "I've always liked your company.  I heard of a potential opportunity and I had to jump at the chance to join your team."
Or, "I just really want to help you <insert something that you want to do for the new company>"

Don't say
"My new boss is an asshole"
Or, "My SO told me to"
Or, "I need more work/life balance"
Or, "I heard you pay well"
Or, "My current company won't let me do X, Y, Z.  There's too much red tape.  The manager sucks, the benefits are almost as bad, and they make me bring my own TP for the toilet".

Now I'm just being silly, Good luck!

simonsez

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Well, you know the interviewers.  Communicate with them based on your prior intel.  Use the Platinum Rule - treat others how THEY want to be treated - in this case, talk in a way that gives the appropriate amount of disclosure and gives the interviewers what they are looking for out of the meeting.

If being overly blunt works best, do that.
If telling the muted version of the truth is way to go, so be it.
If omitting, okay.
If lying, do it.

I personally lean toward not lying if avoidable but every situation is different.  Good luck!

Lanthiriel

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I had to do this recently, and the advice above about spinning it in a way that is positive for the new company being a better fit is the way to go. For me, I centered my comments around wanting to work with X type of clients instead of Y type of clients. I was then able to showcase my abilities by providing some good examples of how I work with X clients and why it's my strength, and give some examples of current job's unwillingness to make the needed changes to court X clients (despite that being why they hired me). It illustrated why the current job wasn't a fit while highlighting the qualities that would make me successful in the new job.   

Kepler

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I've had to do this recently, where the 'real' story was that a restructure meant that I had to report to an extremely unpleasant person, who was likely to block future advancement as long as I stayed where I was.  Like others, I feel that saying anything negative about your current role can come across as unprofessional - people can worry how you'll talk about them one day, even if they would never do the sorts of things that are prompting you to flee right now.

I did some combination of "I'm very keen to do [some specific strategic initiative in the new role that can't be done in my current role]", combined with "We've had a recent restructure, which I think will achieve great results around [X], but unfortunately has meant that my work is now done in isolation, rather than as part of a broader team, and I'm finding myself missing the creative charge you get from collaboration".  Modify as needed, obviously, but the basic strategy is whatever you can say truthfully that frames the desire to move as a sort of osmotic pull /toward/ the new organisation, rather than propulsion /away/ from where you work now...

Car Jack

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Very little.  Your answer with first situation was good.  If you go off on your current boss/environment, it makes you look bad.

If you are asked directly, it will likely be in the form "Why are you considering leaving your current position?" and the answer is that while you are satisfied in your current role, you are looking for an opportunity to <thing you like about new position> which is available in this position.  I'm excited about this opportunity because it allows me to leverage <skills> to drive meaningful results for the organization.

Something along those lines.  I have had candidates speak badly about their prior employers, and while they may be telling the whole truth, it makes me wonder how much of the situation is because of them.  I've not hired anyone that has done that.

The bolded part......no.  This sounds like complete BS and anyone will know it.

You need to find concrete things that are bad about your current job.  Or promises that were made and not kept.  You can spin them a bit, but making it sound like everything is fine but you want to advance will be seen right through.

I don't know the things you don't like so I'll use my previous job as an example and what I said to my present boss when interviewing:  "When I joined, I was offered a salary and position with the promise that my immediate supervisor would be retiring within a year and at that point, I would get a big jump in pay and take over his position.  What happened was that first, my supervisor hung on for 3 years.  At that point, nobody was chosen to take his place.  I received no pay increase over the entire 4 years I was in the job".

Translation: I took the job for future growth and future money.  Promises were all broken.  Advancement was futile.

There were other reasons I left the job, including micro managing leaders, toxic environment, no room for advancement unless you were family (private company where relation to CEO got you the job) or if I were to impregnate a niece of the CEO here and there, perhaps....which my wife wasn't too keen about.  :D 

clarkfan1979

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Very little.  Your answer with first situation was good.  If you go off on your current boss/environment, it makes you look bad.

If you are asked directly, it will likely be in the form "Why are you considering leaving your current position?" and the answer is that while you are satisfied in your current role, you are looking for an opportunity to <thing you like about new position> which is available in this position.  I'm excited about this opportunity because it allows me to leverage <skills> to drive meaningful results for the organization.

Something along those lines.  I have had candidates speak badly about their prior employers, and while they may be telling the whole truth, it makes me wonder how much of the situation is because of them.  I've not hired anyone that has done that.

I have been a full-time academic faculty for the past 7 years and have served on 3 hiring committees. It doesn't bother me if a candidate speaks badly of their current employer. It happens. Their story just needs to make sense.

acroy

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 These people know me pretty well and know my skills and what I bring to the table. I worked with them extensively in a B2B services capacity for several years - I've taken them to lunch, happy hour, gone to baseball games with them, hosted training events with them... they know me.

And so, I am struggling a little bit with what and how much I should say about my experience with current company. ..............  because I am a known quantity to them and they know what I can do.
What do you guys think?
This is a unique situation since they know you already. In this case, I'd say don't sugar coat it. Tell them honestly, they do this and that well, but it is a 'toxic work environment' or words to that effect. They know you and you can lean on your reputation to an extent this time.

Normally I'd say use more guarded words ('culture', 'fit' etc and be prepared to carefully elaborate) but in this case I think you're fine. Frankly if I was on the other side of the table, and knew you already, I'd expect honesty and this is what I would want to hear from you.

good luck!!

Acastus

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The basic approach is to sell the idea that you want to be more, but for one or more reasons, you cannot do that in your current job. No growth, have learned all you can learn, no promotion possibility, overly degree focused, useful skills are undervalued.

Pull back from your emotional angst, and build a more positive story about why a new companies offer you new possibilities, and you want to seize the chance for personal growth. Companies want people they can keep giving more duties to. You are that person.

I know it sounds like hoccum, but you are now the sales rep for You, Inc. Don't lie. Just present your case in the best possible light.

chasesfish

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I think its more about "I didn't realize how much I missed X", especially when the prior boss is part of the hiring committee.   You can always compliment your current boss while addressing the problem at the current company by saying "I didn't realize how much leadership matters when you choose where to work...which is ultimately why I'm here at the table again"

J Boogie

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Just tell them you like company A a million times better than company B, and you didn't realize how good the leadership team and your colleagues were until you left.

You don't have to say anything bad about this place. Just say good things about your former place of work, and say that you didn't realize how rare it is and that you can't say all those good things about your current employer.

This is a layup.

Good for you that you have this opportunity.

I'm a red panda

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I typically say as little as possible in exit interviews.
Don't lie, but don't offer up any information positive or negative.

chasesfish

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@newgirl How did it go?