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View Full Version : Applications, interviews, and "quitting"



Kat
05-23-2008, 02:45 AM
After a period of unemployment, I'm finally ready to jump back onto the horse. Unfortunately, I left my last job under difficult circumstances and I don't know how to deal with it in relation to the job search process.

Without going into too much detail, my last boss was a control freak whom I could never please. We had a few (what I thought were) minor misunderstandings over rules and procedures. Then I realized she was initiating proceedings to fire me and she gave me the option to quit, which I took.

How can I explain this on applications and interviews without looking like I'm difficult to work with or a disciplinary problem waiting to happen? And without looking angry or bitter?

I'd prefer to be honest, but is it better to use a plausible lie such as "I found it difficult to juggle full-time work with school?" (The position I'm applying for is part-time and I'm no longer taking classes.) If they call my former boss to verify my dates of employment, can she tell them about her displeasure with me and my work?

I HATE being put in this position. This woman is pretty unpopular among many of her current employees and has apparently ran off other employees under similar circumstances (why did no one tell me this beforehand?), yet I risk looking bad if I say anything approaching the truth of the situation. *sigh* Any advice?

Twes
05-23-2008, 08:37 AM
After a period of unemployment, I'm finally ready to jump back onto the horse. Unfortunately, I left my last job under difficult circumstances and I don't know how to deal with it in relation to the job search process.

Without going into too much detail, my last boss was a control freak whom I could never please. We had a few (what I thought were) minor misunderstandings over rules and procedures. Then I realized she was initiating proceedings to fire me and she gave me the option to quit, which I took.

How can I explain this on applications and interviews without looking like I'm difficult to work with or a disciplinary problem waiting to happen? And without looking angry or bitter?

I'd prefer to be honest, but is it better to use a plausible lie such as "I found it difficult to juggle full-time work with school?" (The position I'm applying for is part-time and I'm no longer taking classes.) If they call my former boss to verify my dates of employment, can she tell them about her displeasure with me and my work?

I HATE being put in this position. This woman is pretty unpopular among many of her current employees and has apparently ran off other employees under similar circumstances (why did no one tell me this beforehand?), yet I risk looking bad if I say anything approaching the truth of the situation. *sigh* Any advice?

You don't say anything negative about the old place or people.

Focus on the things you learned there and the accomplishments you had and you move on.

Gyron
05-23-2008, 08:40 AM
If I'm not mistaken, Legally, she can't tell them anything other than your dates of employment and wether or not you are rehirable for her company.

It may be different in Indiana, but I'm pretty sure thats a common law in most states.

And Twes is correct, focus on the positives, you want to show you gained experience in that job that you can apply into the position you are applying for currently.

DisplacedKnick
05-23-2008, 08:49 AM
What Twes said. They'll know there were problems there when you don't list your previous employer as a reference and expect one of your interview questions to be, "Why did you leave?" and have a pet answer for it.

You don't have to completely say, "Even though we all loved each other and held hands to sing Kumbaya every day I had to leave because . . ."

You can talk about personality conflicts in an extremely general way or, better, "After I'd worked there a while I realized this position wasn't helping me fulfill my goals . . ."

The last thing you ever want to do is talk negatively about a past employer. If there's a good applicant pool that's almost an automatic entrance into the "shred" pile.

In this day and age employers expect young people to move from job to job when they're young. It's not like it was 30 years ago when you started your career as soon as you graduated. Today most careers start at 30-35.

bellisimo
05-23-2008, 10:37 AM
in my previous job i used to work in recruitment/hiring new members to the team so i've done my share of interviews...

here are the main things based on what you've written....

1) period of unemployment. This can be either of 2 things - you either could not find a job or it was a personal choice. You would need to pass on a message that it was your choice to take the time off instead of the interviewer thinking behind their head that you failed to find a job since your last job.

2) i would echo what Twes has mentioned - as far as your previous jobs and experiences are concerned - its more about "marketing" yourself to the current employer - not to gossip about the previous places. I would not suggest raising up any issues you might have had with management no matter how much their fault it was - at the end of the day they would not be hiring the management, they're going to hire you...all based on the interview and qualities you posses which would be a good place for you to mention the environment you worked in and any success you might have had there.

3) As long as you are the one who officially quit - you shouldn't worry about anything. Your ex-manager should not have personal grudge to hold you back from moving on with your life. If that would be the case, then you can deal with that in a follow up interview and mention something about it being a bit more personal instead of work related. Most interviewers are understanding as long as you're somewhat open and truthful with what you say.

Trader Joe
05-23-2008, 10:59 AM
Another useful thing would be to reference former co-workers with whom you had a better relationship with than your boss.
The best policy would be to just be honest. I don't know what job you are applying for, but if its part time they probably won't look too deeply into what your former boss has to say. I know that the truth may risk making you look bad, but it would be far worse for you to say you quit because of school and have something come out to the contrary. We all have disagreements with our superiors and I think most employers would understand that it is more of a case by case basis and not necessarily indicative of an individual employee.

PacerPete
05-23-2008, 12:45 PM
A few ideas off the top of my head.
Use your former supervisor's boss as a reference.
Tell potential employers to call your last place of employment and "speak to anybody over there."
Have a good reason for quitting. Juggling work and school works for me.
I'm guessing you're not applying for a $100k mgmt position. They won't be that picky. You would be startled at how much some people check up and also how little others do.
Projecting confidence covers a multitude of sins.

If these people don't see your assets and instead focus on your liabilities, you can move on to someone else who doesn't. I've interviewed with some people who were so bad at it I would never consider working for them. It's a two way street. Go in with the idea you are good enough that THEY have to impress YOU. Confidence, but not cockiness.

Slick Pinkham
05-23-2008, 03:57 PM
I will echo the sentiments about totally avoiding any comments at all about conflict, personality clash, etc.

Negative remarks about past bosses, co-workers, jobs, etc. are totally the kiss of death.

I once left a job because the boss was a raving lunatic, yelled, screamed profanities at people, etc. I had another job lined up before I quit, but I will never ever level with any potential employer the reasons why I left there.

They won't call the boss and get a backhanded reference-- they will stick to the ones you give them. List all the things you learned in the awful job that you can talk about, and be prepared to emphasize how those skills help you going forward.

If you had to, the little fib explanation about devoting your full energy to your education is a good one if you can deliver it comfortably and convincingly.

Otherwise I would say that you realized your future there was limited and your interests changed to (insert the line of work for the job you are interviewing for).

Kat
05-23-2008, 03:57 PM
All of you make very good points. I would *never* speak badly about my former boss in an interview; I know better. My question was more specifically about how to fill out that little box on the application that asks "Reason for leaving" previous employment and how best to field the question if it comes up in an interview.

Would it sound overly negative if I said something like, "My last job didn't offer me enough opportunity to work independently and make my own decisions?" (I could see that easily being misinterpreted as "I hate all authority and don't work well with others.") And on the application say... what? How do you positively sum up the situation in less than a sentence? I just don't know how to put a positive spin on the situation and I don't understand how to say something that wouldn't be misinterpreted negatively.

I learned a lot from my last work experience. How to use a cash register, that I can handle and like some customer service, how to deal with an often chaotic situation (although that will have less applicability for the job I'm applying for; it's a library job), and that I prefer work situations that allow me freedom to exercise my own good judgment.

I have another question for those of you more in the know than I. I have an acquaintance that currently works at the library who has offered to serve as a reference for me. However, I feel a little awkward doing so because I've never met him and know him only indirectly. I worked with his mother for a time and my fiance still works with her and has taken a class or two with him. Would it be inappropriate to list him as a professional reference on the application (since we've never worked together)? What would I put for "Years known" on the application? Is there any other way to cash in on his generous offer? I've thought about writing a cover letter (not strictly necessary for the job I'm applying to), but I can't figure out a way to work him into that either.

I feel so inept at this sort of thing. Most of my work to date has been temp work and I've rarely had to fill out applications or interview.

Kat
05-23-2008, 04:01 PM
Otherwise I would say that you realized your future there was limited and your interests changed to (insert the line of work for the job you are interviewing for).

Ah, that is a very good idea. The company I was working for doesn't have much in the way of upward mobility and the reason I'm applying for a library job is because I'm seriously considering getting my MLS in the future. Hmm....

jeffg-body
05-24-2008, 12:38 AM
As an employment specialist myself, I would recommend being honest but using some grace when answering that question. Maybe saying something like the manager's style conflicted with your personality and you decided that a change was needed.

Just remember not to bad mouth the employer and try to show the positives of the experience there.

DisplacedKnick
05-24-2008, 10:09 AM
You can also turn this into a positive if you work it right. A "pet" interview question is, "Could you give me an example of a workplace conflict you've had to deal with and how you responded."

Obviously, "I quit" isn't a good answer - hopefully there were some positives related to your situation you can use.

Trader Joe
05-24-2008, 10:28 AM
You could say that you learned from the situation and grew from it as well.

Twes
05-24-2008, 10:02 PM
A "pet" interview question....


Pet, pet...exactly. Why didn't I think of that.

You could tell them you were fired for stuffing a cat into a shot glass.

And while this act was not tolerated at your former place of employment it has made you a freaking legend on the internet forums.

:cool:

Putnam
05-25-2008, 08:31 AM
1. You don't want to use the name of the guy you hardly know as a reference. If you get called for an interview, you can mention it then, but you don't want to give a reference that you really don't know well and never worked with.

2. Gyron may be right, but I wouldn't count on the former boss limiting her comments to just dates of employment.

3. You can tell the truth about why you left the old job. Make it clear that the former boss was profane, arbitrary, or whatever. Be calm about it, but make it clear in your brief answer that cursing and shouting and whatever was reason enough for you to quit. You don't want to work anyplace that would read that and say, "She's not dedicated." I've quit jobs myself for that same reason, and it wasn't held against me afterwards.


Good luck. Are you and obnoxious modesty both going to graduate at the same time?

Kat
05-25-2008, 01:08 PM
Good luck. Are you and obnoxious modesty both going to graduate at the same time?

Not exactly. He's graduating in December. I already have a degree (in psychology); I was just taking some additional classes to evaluate my interest in a different field (speech, language, and hearing sciences) for grad school. Ultimately, I decided that, while I like that field somewhat, I'm not going to pursue grad work in it. I'm now looking into library science.

Neal and I may go to grad school together. Of course, that depends on whether I decide to pursue my MLS, if we can get into the same school, and if that school suits both our needs well. While history is offered at practically every college in the US, ALA-accredited MLS programs are very few in number. For example, IU is the only one in Indiana. So we'll see.

Los Angeles
05-25-2008, 01:26 PM
I know a few grads from the IU MLS program. They all were placed with jobs and most talked about how the program was actually easy. Don't hold me to that.

Plus, Bloomington isn't a bad place to spend grad school.

I know you're originally a boiler, but the town is more than a college town. Lots to do (music, arts, etc), lots of outdoors stuff. Very beautiful, very fun.

I'd seriously consider it.

Just my :twocents:

Don't have any advice on interviewing. I've never held a job that I've had to interview for, and never got a job that I've interviewed for.