What Should Her Friend Say About Why She Left?

I get a lot of comments and from time to time like to share them with you – along with my responses.  Here’s one I got recently from Donna:

Hi Ronnie Ann!

My best friend has resigned from her current role in the banking sector, without a job offer. She just joined for less than a year, but due to job fit and boss issues, she was stressed out. Futhermore, she will be getting married at the end of the year.

She needs advice on what to say if she has been asked the reason why she left without a job. She hopes to give a good and positive reason and impression to the interviewer.

She is looking around for new opportunities in the same sector she left. But she needs advice on what to say during the interview. Please help her.


~ Donna

And here’s my response:

Hi Donna!

In situations like this, you answer as honestly and minimally as possible about the details of what happened and impress the interviewer with everything else. She knew it wasn’t a good fit for her and decided to spend her time looking for the right one; a reason or two that differentiates the last job from this new one (without blaming anyone) would help.

Then, leaving the topic of the last job completely behind (if allowed), she can continue to make a strong case why this job is a great fit for who she is and what she wants from her career. Her attitude, clear thinking and delivery – as well as how she connects with the interviewer(s) – are what helps them know she’s right for the company and the job.

She should probably leave the upcoming marriage out at this time since that’s personal and could raise the question of whether she will leave them after the wedding – as well as other swirling doubts. During an interview, the less personal things that can raise questions the better. Plus, employers don’t need to know all that kind of stuff unless it’s something that might interfere with the job.

Hope that helps. I wish her much luck!

~ Ronnie Ann

Note: I was going to say something about advice perhaps being most useful when a person asks for it herself. But in this case, it’s nice that Donna wants to help her friend and this is the kind of situation so many others face, so I stopped myself and just answered without mentioning it. DOH!


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. I did this once and this is pretty much how I handled it but it was certainly a red flag during interviews. If I had to make the choice again I would put up with my boss until I landed something else. I got through it OK in most interviews but there was one guy I remember who just wouldn’t let it go. I would also stress not mentioning the wedding. It might be a factor if the wedding was a month or two away but the end of the year? That being a factor at all would be a bigger red flag to me than quitting your job without another lined up.

    • Good points, BA. Glad you mentioned that part about the bull dog who wouldn’t let it go. Sometimes that happens no matter how well you finesse your answer. All you can do is stay positive and make your case for why you are such a great fit when you are given the chance.

      If they are relentless, could be a red flag for the interviewee. 😉 But since I am one who has been known to dig deeper if things don’t feel quite right, just know that the way you handle even that can make all the difference.

  2. Hi Donna & Ronnie Ann,

    I’ve left several jobs without a next step and I think that there are two keys to interviewing well for the next opportunity.

    1. Have a learning for why she left and how that applies to the current position. In one instance for me it was “I figured out that 50% travel isn’t the right lifestyle for me, which is one of the reasons I am really looking forward to working a X – I’ll have a walking commute”

    2. Have a story for what she did durring the sabbatical. Now, I’ve always taken long sabbaticals (6+ months) and they have yielded some of the greatest conversation of my interviews! The trick is TO DO SOMETHING! Volunteer, write a book, setup a webpage, clean houses for older people… It really doesn’t matter what, as long as it is a good story.

    Hope that helps!


  3. Great suggestions, Rebecca. Thanks!

    So true about having a story to tell that shows what you’ve been doing with your time. Shapes an interviewer’s opinion, as a recent reader wrote to tell us:

    How Helping Others Helped Get Her the Job

  4. Hello, I’ve been reading a lot of what you’ve written and love it. I’m in a dilemma and not sure of what to do. I had an interview at an org. i really want to work for. I met the director some years back and have kept in touch from time to time. (I attend the programs brown bags quite often). When a lady called to schedule my interview, she asked me if was free the following day! Of course, I made myself available. I felt like the interview went well. I was told they would try and get back to me as quickly as possibly. The director was going on vacation at the time. I followed up with a thank you email. I got a response immediately saying they enjoyed the conversation very much as well. It’s been 2.5 weeks now. I would like to follow up and perhaps send a reference list as well. (They had asked me to bring one in, but didn’t take it from me at the time though they did take my writing samples.) So basically, how do I follow up and should I send in my references? (A couple of my references are colleagues of the directors) ANY advice you can give me would be great. Thank you!!

  5. Hi Sira!

    Thanks for the kind words. Really appreciate you telling other readers how effective it is to stay in touch with people and organizations you connect with. Nice job!

    As for contacting them at this point, no reason not to since you’ve given them some time – although I might give it another week. Trust me…they haven’t forgotten you. These things just take time.

    Just know a vacation can be more than a week sometimes and, even after a person gets back, there’s tons to catch up on and possibly more folks to interview. So the silence is no indication of anything.

    Normally I’d say to wait on the references since they didn’t ask for them. But since it has names on it that might cast an extra positive light, guess it would be ok. (Then again…they may have been contacted informally already since organizations often know these things.) Just politely mention you’re including them in your note; snail mail might be a nice touch if that feels right.

    Best of luck, Sira! Would love to know how it goes.

  6. Thank you so much for your reply!

    I forgot to mention that they did tell me they had a couple of interviews that day but that was all. No other interviews.

    Also, since I was a short list candidate does this mean they HAVE to contact me to let me know i DIDNT get the job?

    There is a brown bag I’d like to attend next week, should I go or wait to hear back re: the position before I do?

    I just got back from an overseas position and this would be the only job I’d stay in this area for. I wont lie, I feel a little anxious.

    Thanks again Ronnie Ann!!

  7. I really can’t tell you exactly what to do since every case is different and there are no absolute rules, Sira. Use your instincts; they’ve gotten you this far already.

    Good luck!!

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