Hi everyone,

I am in a bit of a quandary and would love the community's advice.

Here's my situation:

I am in the process of resigning from my current employer due to my extreme unhappiness with the place - to say it's a toxic environment would be kind.  (People have been resigning frequently, btw).

My main reason for resigning vs. just looking for another job on the side is that the company is a sweatshop, requiring 70+ hours/week of work just to stay afloat (i.e., just to keep from being fired).  In other words, while I have attempted to conduct a job search on the side, I've found that all my "spare time" is devoted to doing more work for my company!

Anyhow, my question for everyone is in regards to explaining during my interviews why I quit w/o saying negative things about the company.  I've always been told that speaking negatively abt a prior employer is a no-no on job interviews, and I totally understand the rationale... so, bottom line - how would I answer the, "why did you quit?" question w/o sounding negative abt my employer?  It seems to me that if I'm neutral abt the employer and say things like, "it just wasn't the right fit", my resignation will seem highly questionable.... 

Any input or suggestions would be deeply, deeply appreciated.

Thanks for listening fellow MT'ers!

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

On these matters, I will defer to Wendii and others more expert at the interview process. You are correct to not go negative and in this economy it must be a very serious work situation for you to quit--I suspect you would feel less pressured if you had a job while out looking.

It was recommended to me to rehearse your answer so that you can sound fairly matter of fact about the issue.

Example: "I've learned a great deal at company X. I am seeking advancement and new opportunities to apply what I have learned."

Be prepared for the follow-up questions about *what* you learned specifically--new skills: managerial acumen, budget, planning, etc. Be specific with accomplishments and results.

No gamesmanship. Know in your heart why you are leaving.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Even if you had a negative experience, you can frame everything in a more positive light.  Trust me, you won't be the first person the recruiter ever met who did not like their job/boss/coworker/shift or whatever.

You don't have to tell them every sored detail either.  EG, Seven years ago, when I took the job, it was a fun place with lots of opportunity for growth.  Unfortunately now, with the economy the way it is, the company focus has changed and the work life balance has swung dramatically.  My family and I decided we want to go back to that healthier work life balance and that is why I am in front of you today.

Nothing disparaging.  No slamming of management, co-workers, the industry etc.  Hope you find this helpful.





gorourke's picture

In my opinion, employment should not be viewed as a marriage - where both parties must try to work things out and always stay together even through sickness and strife. I think it is increasingly acceptable to say that you found your values, integrity and life choices being affected by choices that the organisation was making. You literally grew apart...

That said - make sure that you reflect on how willing you have been to accommodate additional working hours and accountabilities in the short term given the tough year many organisations had in 09 and how you are perfectly willing to do whatever it takes to serve the client and the organisation as long as you feel the return on your investment of time and life energy is reciprocated. I suspect that when you began to feel that your additional efforts on behalf of the organisation were no longer valued and in fact were considered a necessary and required part to simply keep your job - you do feel like the arrangement has become inequitable and unsustainable.

Keep your answer to this question fairly short, to the point, factual without delving into the emotions of the situation and then as soon as you can move into the future focused what you are looking for and what type of organisational culture might get the best performance from you.

Good luck

jhbchina's picture

Hi Drucker1900

The previous posts have given you excellent advise related to your question. You do not mention how long you worked there, and what you have achieved, if has been over 2.5 years you stayed long enough not to raise a serious red flag.

So I'd like you to consider another alternative option to resigning. Let them "fire" you. Make them do it by the book, so that you protect your "severance package or unemployment investment". You maybe able to get one or both if you execute correctly. Though it won't be easy. If they want to deny your unemployment claim after they terminated you they will need to spend time explaining why 70+ hours a week for a long sustained period of time is a requirement to keep your position.

First, I want to congratulate you for being so courageous to leave your position under the economic state of unemployment, and for putting your work life balance in order.  Prepare for your "termination" by putting things in order in the office by following the "How to resign" podcast and "Finance Rules". In today's case, you probably need nine months cash flow instead of six.

Then start asking for professional updates to your manager. Try to get them to identify short term goals that you can deliver in a 40+ work week. Review your employment agreement and the company's policies for termination. Do they have to give you a verbal warning, and a written warning before final termination. What are the policies for immediate termination, do not violate them. Buy yourself some time to make them work to get rid of you.Then start leaving the office at a reasonable time to be with your family.

Be a great employee and remind when they complain that you are working within the company's policies. Take your active listening skills up another level and do not create conflict when they do. Think out every conversation, starting with the end result and what you need to say to WHOM to get them to agree. Then document everything you do, when you do it, what you say, what they say and of course the behaviors.

Then increase your communication with your network, go to more networking events, and start leaving the office at a reasonable time. Stay calm, stay professional, don't let them get under your skin.  Who knows, maybe they won't react at all. Worse case is that they follow your plan and they fire you, which is the goal in the first place.

Why were you fired? I could not sustain the work pace of 70+ hours of work for an indefinite period of time. It was wearing me down and affecting my personal life. I made every effort to communicate with my manager to find ways to decrease the work load. I cut back my work hours to 45 and they fired me. 

Remember in the back of your mind, that no one would ask you upfront in an interview, Would you be willing to work 70+ hours a week indefinitely? It is hard to say how many people even under today's high unemployment would accept a job knowing they would have to work 70+ hours a week while being paid only for 40. And if they do ask you to put in those kind of hours, do YOU want to work for them?

Good luck and keep us informed on your decision.

JHB  "00"

tberge's picture
Training Badge

I had a really great mentor once tell me the importance of running to something instead of away from something else. 

If we focus behind us on what we want to leave, we will potentially make unwise decisions about what is ahead of us.  Focus on what you want and that will lead you to answer the question posed by an interviewer.

"I really want to leverage my experience to work on _____ and that is why I am interested in your firm/this position/etc."  for example.  If asked why you quit, say that you wanted to devote your time to a full-time job search.

JHB has some really good points about making life livable and conducting your search while earning a paycheck.  Please look before you leap - the strongest interviewing position is from a position of employment.

As you know, never, never, ever say anything negative about your employer.

Good luck to you!


Drucker1900's picture


Thanks again for your extremely thoughtful and helpful feedback - just one of the many things that makes this community such a great one.  Truly.

One quick follow-up I have is drilling down to the specifics of answering the question/explaining the decision to resign--

Keeping it short, sweet, forward-looking, and positive, I would love to hear how you would respond to the "why did you resign?" question given my situation as outlined in my initial post. 

Thank you so much again - you are all so helpful.



jhbchina's picture


There are too many variables that I do not know about you personally to answer your question. What I know from your initial post is that you are unhappy with your employer.

Does your current position work to your strengths? Are you doing what you like? Is there a new direction you would like to go in? Without knowing you personally, it is hard to answer your question.

I recommend that you listen to these casts, then you will be able to formulate and practice a strong answer. Since you are not interviewing this week, I am sure you have the time to prepare.

Good luck

JHB  "00"

Drucker1900's picture

I will be sure to listen to the podcasts, and I appreciate your input!

What I will do is think about how to position my core reasons for leaving in a manner that is less about the company and more about the impact it was having on my career -- and, of course, with a positive, forward-looking frame throughout. 

Thanks again!