You left a toxic work culture – how do you explain that in an interview?
Written By: Movin’ On Up Blog
Where do you even start?
Sometimes a good company goes bad. This can be for a range of reasons: from sketchy financial situations and harassment issues to nepotism and endless gossip. The possibilities are practically endless. Regardless, the result is the same—you probably leave.
But while interviewing with new companies several of them ask why you left your previous job (especially if you weren’t there for very long).
How are you supposed to respond? Should you tell the truth? Or do you need to dress it up as something else? The answer is a mix of both.
Tell the Truth (But Maybe Not Every Detail)
Being honest about why you left a job is a good thing. But try to keep your emotions and the specific details out of it. For instance, if you left because of nepotism, stay away from saying “I left because the CEO only promoted friends and family members into leadership positions.” This makes it sound like you were bitter about the promotion landscape, and might have been coming up for excuses why you weren’t promoted.
Instead, go with something along the lines of: “I was ready to take on more responsibilities and enter a management position, but the company decided to go in another direction. While I respect that decision, I believe I’m ready for a position like [name of position you’re interviewing for], and am excited to take that next step.”
This way you’re staying truthful, but keeping the focus on you as a productive individual and your own career hopes and dreams.
Keep the Focus on You
Don’t spend too much time talking about the culture and misdeeds of your last company. Your interviewer wants to know more about you as a job candidate not about how your last company was run. Keep emotion out of the interview, give a quick soundbite about why you left that job, and continue to keep the light on yourself and why you’re perfect for the position you’re interviewing for.
If you spend too much time talking about how bad your last job was, your potential employer might think that’s how you’ll talk about their company in the future.
Show What You Learned
Try not to place all the blame on that old company. What was it that finally made you leave? Focus on that element, and turn your leaving the company into a learning experience.
For instance, perhaps there was uncontrollable gossip in the office due to a lack of clarity from management regarding the future of the company. Instead of saying that you left because “people wouldn’t stop talking about me behind my back,” opt for something positive:
“There was a lack of clear vision for the company going into the future, and this trickled down into discontent among employees. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where things were going either. However, I eventually realized that sitting around wondering about things wasn’t going to do anything to change my circumstances. I researched ways for the company to improve, and brought them to my supervisor to forward up the chain. When no action was taken regarding those concerns, I decided to leave the company. I wish them all the best, but I think for me, personally, it’s time for a change.”