Here’s an “Aha” moment in the employment business. Most people are looking for a new job because they’re unhappy with their current circumstances. They either don’t like their boss, their co-workers or in the worst-case scenario they’ve been fired. If they were really happy with their current circumstances, why were they surfing the internet looking for a new job?
Hundreds of candidates have told me, “I’m looking for a new challenge or there’s a lack of promotional opportunities.” These are legitimate reasons, but they’re not always the truth. As your future boss I want to know to the real reason you’re out here beating the pavement. If I could have an honest conversation with your current boss or co-workers how would they describe you as an employee? Have you outgrown your job or do you hate your boss and you’re tired of working for a company that doesn’t appreciate your efforts? As your future boss, I want to know the attitude you’re going to bring to our organization.
Many candidates avoid this conversation by saying, “I can’t risk losing my current job, and so I need to keep my job search confidential.” Short-term this eliminates the immediate problem of us talking with your current employer, but it doesn’t resolve the real issue if the truth comes out later.
After you accept a new job, many employers will contact your current employer to confirm the details discussed during the job interview. If they discover discrepancies in the information (for example, you inflated your salary) then your new relationship is in jeopardy. Yes, you could be fired even before you start your new job. I’m suggesting that being honest is your best option. The challenge is to find the best way to describe the real reason you’re leaving your current employer.
If you’ve been fired, you’ve got to deal with this upfront. At all costs, avoid throwing anyone else under the bus, even if your boss or a co-worker was a real jerk. If you’re too critical or judgmental about other people, there’s a high likelihood that you’re going to do the same thing to me.
Describe the circumstances and avoid criticizing others. For example: “We had a personal crisis in our family and my employer was unable to accommodate the time off I needed to resolve the crisis.” What you really want to say is that your boss had no empathy for your dilemma and he was totally unreasonable, but that will not be in your best interest. Stick to the facts, describe the circumstances and avoid personal criticism of co-workers or your boss. A toxic attitude can make you an undesirable candidate quickly.
There are circumstances in which no one was fired, but employees and bosses don’t always see eye to eye. If you think a prior boss may not give you the most flattering reference then you may need to be proactive and describe the circumstances ahead of time. Explain that you had an excellent attendance record, you worked extremely hard, but at the end of the day you and your boss did not always agree on how the job should get done. You had a difference of opinion, it was time to move on to find a job and organization that were better fits.
Life is a rocky road and we can all describe circumstances when our working relationships were not as successful as either side hoped. How you resolve problems and find a solution that enabled you to continue to perform your job is most important.
Look at this as your opportunity to convince a potential employer you can handle the inevitable bumps in the road.
Bill Kaminski is president of Stone Associates Training. He is an HR consultant with 35 years of experience in the employment field, teaching managers the art of hiring great employees. Bill is also an adjunct instructor at Keuka College. You can contact Bill with questions, suggestions or comments at www.bill@stoneassociates training.com.