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The Interview Question Everyone Dreads
Monday, January 30, 2012

The silent pause in the room is hard enough to bear as you attempt to conceal the bead of sweat making its slow and steady way down your temple. The interviewer takes a longer look at your resume than you'd like--but she is and there's nothing you can do short of a diversion to stop her. Scanning the page she shows no reaction whatsoever. She's got her game face on alright and she's not about to let you read through it. She lifts her head up; here it comes. You're bracing yourself as she opens her mouth to utter the words: "So what made you leave your last job?"

Boom. There it is and now the spotlight is on you to make the next move in this torture chamber of an office. It's a simple question but you feel as if you're under a federal investigation. But did you really forget? She's already seen your resume! That's why you're in the interview in the first place. So relax, let some oxygen into your lungs, you'll need it to answer her question.

Many people get so nervous when it comes to explaining themselves, but the truth is there's nothing really to sweat about lest it was for some hanus reason then yeah, some extra deodorant might be in order. But for everyone else, the interviewer is partly testing you to see how well you can handle being confronted with the question as well as the answer you provide her.

Whatever reason you give her will be good enough as long as you back it up with conviction. You don't necessarily have to justify your reasons for leaving or being let go but let her know that you could still find a light at the end of the tunnel. This information isn't mandatory in an interview, but the interviewer wants to get to know you and part of you is your past and background. Surprisingly, she might be able to relate to your experience but flubbing your chance to make a real connection can give her the wrong impression.

Remember these pointers the next time you find yourself in this position and you'll save yourself from using your dressy clothes as sweat rags:

Honesty Is the Best Policy. The last thing you want to do while under pressure is to dig yourself a deeper hole. If things don't work out, you don't want to come out of there jobless and your dignity damaged. Avoid coming of as sketchy; even if you were fired from your last job own up to it. Things like that can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. But stay positive and don't point fingers. Talk about what you learned and got out of your experience there. Keep the focus off your flaws without going around them. Just try to couple the cons with as more pros.

Cool, Calm, Collected. And Confident! Don't cower under the shadow of a question. Topple it with an even better statement. Whether you saw it coming or not, a part of you knew that it was going to come up, but whether it becomes an issue is all in how you handle it. Be prepared with an answer and know what you're going to say. Keep it short and sweet so you can address it and move on. Don't let the question control you; take command and show maturity. Make it known that you're two steps ahead of the game and are not afraid of confronting your past.

Add Fuel for the Future. Don't dwell on the past. It's there and it's there to stay but you don't have to stay there with it. Think about the good times and look forward to making many more. Tell the employer how your insight from that experience will help you in your future pursuits and that you're up for taking on this exciting new opportunity. If you show the employer that you can turn a negative into a positive it will prove to them that you are resilient and don't let an unfortunate circumstance get you down.

You've probably heard of the saying, "You're only as strong as your weakest link." Well, employers know that and in order for them to succeed, they have to have the strongest people behind them. Don't be one of the weaklings left out just because you felt dejected from a previous employer. So it didn't work out--learn from it, move on, and be better than ever. Show employers that you're ready to start fresh; that you're ready for a clean slate. Dragging baggage with you will only weigh you down. Leave the wrongs at the door, your interview is a chance to do things right!
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