Leaving Your Job? Get Ready For These Five Questions

May, 2016


In April, 2015 I wrote a blog entitled, “Laying the Foundation for Leaving Your Job”.  If you are moving on, start with that blog.  You’ll notice a natural progression beginning with self-assessment, then market research and then creating a focus statement.  After completing this groundwork, it’s time to network. If you want to excel in the networking meetings and job interviews ahead, you will need good answers to the five questions that follow.

Question 1: What happened?

Why are you leaving, or why have you already left, your job?
No matter how frustrated you are, take the high road. What were the business or industry conditions?  What led to the company’s actions or your decision?  Factor into your answer your contributions and pride of accomplishment. Be careful not to be defensive or resentful in words, tone or body language. Have both a short and long version of your reason for leaving statement.  

Script your answer, but don’t sound scripted. Rehearse your answer to this and each of these five questions.  Record and play each back and then ask, “How would I respond if I was on the receiving end of these words?” Consider asking friends to give you feedback on your words, tone and body language. 

Question 2: What do you want to do next?  

What is the next role you are pursuing?  Let your network know what specific jobs and responsibilities fit your preferences and qualifications.  Be as clear as possible so you don’t sound scattered or unfocused.  Initially, your network can help you fine tune your focus, but remember that this is your project, not theirs.

Question 3: What makes you especially good at this kind of work, and where is your proof?

This is often called a branding or strengths statement, but be careful to not come across as contrived or canned in your response. Be natural, clear and efficient, using language that describes the strengths and accomplishments that distinguish you as a high achiever in an area you are passionate about.  Be ready to offer historical proof of your strengths in the C.A.R. (challenge, then actions, then results) story progression format.
Question 4: Where do you want to work next?

What are the size parameters of your preferred employer (usually stated in millions in revenue and/or number of employees)?  What lifecycle stage is your best fit (startup, early, growth, mature, turnaround)? What culture do you thrive in, or want to avoid?  Geographic preference? Industry preference? Do you have several target companies your network can respond to regarding what they know and who they know?  

Consider a one page marketing plan with your focus, background summary and top skills listed on the upper third of the page, future work preferences in the middle third of the page, and a sample of 20-30 target company names on the bottom third of the page. 

Question 5: How can I help you?

The four things that most networking contacts can give you are visibility, information, advice and referrals.  I suggest moving in that order.  The first three will make your network connection more comfortable with you before asking them for network contacts. With some in your network, referrals will come quickly because they know you, like you and trust you. With less familiar network connections, however, warm up the conversation and create trust so they will more comfortably open their network to you. Read my August, 2013 blog on networking to help you get the most from your efforts.  


If it’s time to leave your job, start by laying a solid foundation for your career transition.  Read my April, 2015 blog to help you bridge to something better.  After completing the first three steps of self assessment, market research and clarifying your focus, get ready for the five questions from this blog.  Become confident and natural through rehearsal and feedback. Know the questions, craft your answers, then make your move.