Focus on the positive rather than the negative when talking about past employers.
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You may be asked about past employers by current employers, during job interviews or on social occasions. What you say about previous employment is not only a reflection on your past boss but on you as well. Consider the circumstances under which youre being asked about previous employers before you decide on the most appropriate response.
A prospective new employer may ask you why you left your previous job and what you liked and didnt like about your employer. This line of questioning is designed not only to learn more about you and your professional history but also to find out about how youre likely to characterize your new job in the future. If you talk poorly or complain, it sends a red flag that you are unprofessional and lack company loyalty. For best results, provide the basics of your previous employment including how long you were employed, what your job responsibilities were and what skills you learned that can help the new company. If you are pressed for specific details about your feelings toward the company, be candid but respectful. If you liked the company but saw no room for advancement, say so. If you didnt get along with your manager and hated going to work, tell the interviewer that you had differing professional attitudes that were not conducive to a long-term relationship. Both responses are honest, and both responses paint you as someone who is forthright, yet not tempted to bash a previous employer, even when the work environment was negative.
At some point, you may be asked to share information about a previous employer after a new company hires you. This is especially likely if you were recruited from a business because of that companys success or because of your role in making the company profitable. While its fine to transfer skills learned at one business to a new employer, take care not to share proprietary or privileged information. This includes sales leads, financial and accounting information. If asked about this information, say that you are ethically bound to keep the information in the strictest of confidence. Explain that you would extend that same courtesy to your current employer as well. This establishes you as someone who is professional and loyal.
Business networking functions usually include talk of past and present employers. Regardless of your feelings toward your previous employers, refrain from talking negatively about them in these public professional venues. You can never be sure who you are talking to or what connections they have in your field. When asked about your previous employers, find something good to say, even if you only indicate the company gave you a good professional challenge or that you met several colleagues with whom you enjoyed working.
Much like professional settings, social settings also have the potential to involve talk of previous employment. While you are likely to be less formal and constrained talking with family and friends, use caution with talking negatively and be aware when someone you dont know well is part of a social function. Never bad-mouth your employer on social media or social networking sites where information can rapidly be transferred to numerous parties.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerreys work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.
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McQuerrey, Lisa. What Should You Say When Asked About Previous Employers?
McQuerrey, Lisa. (n.d.). What Should You Say When Asked About Previous Employers?
McQuerrey, Lisa. What Should You Say When Asked About Previous Employers? accessed July 06, 2018.
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