What to say when you don’t know the answer

This job interview answers section is PART II of a three part question and answer series. This is a continuation from Mark’s problem about how to answer the question, “Why did you leave your last job?”

You can read the beginning (Part I) of Mark’s original question under Sample Interview Answers.

At JobInterviewTools.com, you’ll find common job interview questions and answers from real job hunters with unique problems. Since everyone’s situation is unique, there is no one perfect answer works best for everyone.

Here is the Rest of Mark’s Question – Part II:

I am 53, look young for my age and have the energy of a 40 year old– despite not working for the past six months, I am really focused and ready to work again. I will be studying hard and applying your ideas from your eBook and certainly will write you of my future success when I land my next job!

What troubles me most Don, is that the article regarding my resignation continues to circulate around the Internet, plus the breaking of an unspecified rule was published in the Northern City Press. I was a very popular principal.

This I believe is the final blow keeping me from ever finding myself in education again. I guess my question here is will this hurt my chances in the corporate world as well and how do I over come this? Should I consider a new venue?

Don’s Answer:

Mark, this is one of the most common job interview questionsand answers I get asked almost everyday and every time I find their situation to be unique. I usually lead job seekers down the path of telling their prospective employers they left because of corporate politics, or they were bored and needed greater challenges, or there was too much red tape, personal differences with their manager, lack of professionalism amongst their colleagues, etc.

Usually one of these answers will fit and satisfy your interviewer while keeping them from snooping around in your past to discover the truth, that is if you didn’t already tell them.

People who have been relieved of their jobs often seek alternate job interview answers to this question because they feel that being honest will instantly disqualify them. Perhaps they are right. Nobody wants to tell an interviewer they were fired for a bad reason.

But your case is a little different because you have been in the educational sector for 30 years. It’s almost certain any school system who considers you for employment will contact your past employer, though you know school systems and they way they operate better than I do.

Telling them you resigned for personal reasons and that it’s time for you to move on might work if you were seeking a different type of position outside the school system, and one that was not available to you in your last job, but if you going for the same type of job, you may need to come clean.

I believe that you would have your best chance of securing another position within a different school system if you tell them the truth, or at least a partial truth, kind of like throwing them a bone.

Alternatively, maybe it’s really time for you to move on and change careers. Changing careers would certainly put all this behind you and then you could more-honestly say that you left your last job to pursue a new career because after 30 years in the school system, you are ready for new challenges, or something like that.

It sounds like you have a wealth of experience and could easily secure a position in the corporate world. I’d be happy to discuss this avenue with you further if you like.


To read the rest of Don’s answer comments to mark, visit my Best Interview Answers page.

You have just read a transcript of real problem posed by Mark, who is not sure how to answer why he left his last job. Don is guiding Mark on how best to answer this question.

The Complete Interview Answer Guide is filled with common job interview questions and answers. Don shows job seekers how to answer interview questions. The 201+ sample answers in the guide will quickly help you craft your own professional answers for ALL types of interview questions for any occupation.

More Interview Techniques and Skills:

Behavioral Interview Answers
Best Interview Answers
Free Interview Answers
Sample Interview Answers

Interview Techniques
Interview Questions
Interview Answers
Interview Tips
How to Interview
Behavioral Interviewing
Interview Preparation

New job interview training videos