One of the most difficult facets of a job interview is the unavoidable subject of previous jobs. From giving details about past salary to gossiping about former boss, there are so many pitfalls when it comes to talking about past jobs; it can be challenging to know what’s the best thing to say.

When interviewers inquire about your previous jobs, they’re trying to find two crucial pieces of information: The abilities you sharpened in your earlier jobs, and just how much you’re prepared to disclose about past employers. The ideal answer provides plenty about the former and little about the latter that isn’t public knowledge.

Obviously, it’s a solid idea to think of a handful of lines prior to the interview. Do this and you won’t be caught unaware on questions about previous positions.

Maintain a Facts-Only Policy

A typical question that pops up in job interviews is: “Can you tell me about a typical day at this past job?”

In asking this question, interviewers simply want to find out about your duties and obligations at former jobs. They are also hoping to find out about your current opinion of a past job and the way you approach sensitive topics.

Get ready for this question by writing down a set of the duties associated with past jobs, standard situations you faced, and the ways that you addressed the more stressful aspects of these jobs.

Avoid Getting into the Gutter

Responding to questions regarding your past positions gets a bit more challenging when interviewers ask directly about management at a past job. The first rule is to never trash former bosses or employers. Also, don’t discuss sensitive information. You never know the connections your interviewer has and divulging the wrong information to a well-connected interviewer can come back to bite you.

Respond to this question by steering the discussion back to your achievements and job duties. Never tell an interviewer anything he or she can’t find out by doing an internet search.

Be Able to Explain Why You Left Each Job

If you are not employed, you probably don’t have the luxury of giving a response that is completely positive. There was obviously a problem of some kind if you left without having a new job in place.

If you were let go for reasons not connected to performance, you need to make that clear and mention any extenuating circumstances. If you were fired for poor performance, you should avoid placing blame and instead talk about a change in circumstances or expectations that happened after you were hired. Often, a job situation will change due to new management, cutback or even a change in approach.

Be sure to emphasize one or two lessons you learned from the experience and try to reassure the interviewer that you are not a high-risk candidate.

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