Previous Employment: How to Discuss in a Job Interview

Previous employment is one of the trickiest subjects to discuss in a job interview. If you have ever been fired, quit a job, or otherwise left on less than perfect terms, this will inevitably come up with future employers. Even if you left amicably, there is the fear that you will look opportunistic or less than loyal for moving on. You may be the perfect candidate, but this is a hoop you will have to jump through.

If you think about your answers in advance, you can navigate this treacherous situation and focus on your future rather than your past. Use these tips to help you answer questions about your employment history honestly, but tactfully.

Plan Ahead

There are a few questions you can expect to be asked in any and every job interview, and inquires about your employment history are pretty much guaranteed. Know that they are coming so that you are not caught off guard when they arrive. If you appear nervous, evasive, or otherwise flustered when the subject of past jobs comes up, it immediately raises red flags to the interviewer. Before the interview, write down the dates of past employment, your supervisor’s name, and other basic information that may be pertinent.

Avoid Negativity

If you had a negative experience at a previous job, don’t make it the subject of your current job interview. This kind of behavior only casts you as petty and bitter, regardless of how legitimate your grievances may be. As much as possible, focus on the positives and sidestep the negatives.

Be Truthful

The interviewer may have more information about your work history than you realize. That is why it is essential to be truthful in all your answers. Being caught in a lie will immediately disqualify you from most jobs. If there is something embarrassing in your past, be honest about what happened, but focus on what you learned and how you have changed. Find strategic ways to shape the truth without resorting to lies or outright distortions.

Accentuate the Positives

You may have had a negative experience at a past job, but try to focus on the aspects you did enjoy. How was the work environment? Did you feel challenged by your responsibilities? Have you seen any former coworkers since leaving? Your boss may have been a problem, but try and make the things you enjoyed the focus of the interview.

Don’t Overshare

Answer ever question honestly and intelligently, but do not offer up more information than was asked for. This may open you up to uncomfortable lines of questioning you could have avoided. It also eats into valuable interviewing time that could be better spent talking about your credentials, your passions, and you future goals.


A job interview is an opportunity, not a burden. Smart applicants use the interview as a chance to minimize their mistakes and highlight their achievements. To learn more about putting your best face forward when it really counts, consult the employment resources offered by Selectek.