8 years ago
April 13, 2016

How to Talk About Why You Left Your Last Sales Job

Talking about the reasons for leaving your last sales job is not so easy; here is how to answer these questions without hurting your candidacy.

Rhys Metler

Interviewers ask your reasons for leaving your last sales job to determine whether your departure was on good terms and under conditions that would not prevent you from being a good match for their company. However, talking about the reasons for leaving your last sales job is not so easy; here is how to answer these questions without hurting your candidacy.

Reasons for Leaving Your Last Sales Job: Stick to the Most Important Motives

When it comes to reasons for leaving your last sales job, you probably have more than one. Yet if you explain a long list of motivations for seeking a new employer, the interviewer might wonder whether any new position can meet your expectations. Pick two reasons for leaving at most, and let your other motivations go. Once you examine your situation, chances are that many of the influences that caused you to look for new opportunities were secondary.

At the same time there are reasons for leaving that can damage your image, the most damaging being “I didn’t get along with my sales manager.” Even if this was your reason for leaving and you think you can demonstrate that your sales manager was not a fit for his or her responsibilities, this reason is a major interview faux pas that has taken innumerable candidates out of consideration; avoid this and similar reasons for leaving your last sales job.

Reasons for Leaving Your Last Sales Job: Frame Your Responses Carefully

Answering why you left your last sales job may force you to bring up negative topics, but you can soften the impact by framing your responses to focus on the positive. For every negative that you must mention, mention a positive to counterbalance it, i.e., what you learned or how you adapted. In addition:

  • Tell the interviewer why this organization is different. For example, if you left because your previous organization was not selling X type of product, mention, “I know from my research that your organization has an X line of business, which I really want to work with,” and give your reasons.
  • Make it about your career. Any reason for leaving should be tied back to your career goals, your accomplishments to date, and how you want to move forward with the next opportunity.
  • Mention what you did like. Never neglect to talk about reasons that you might have stayed, and how the organization you are interviewing with provides similar opportunities.

Reasons for Leaving Your Last Sales Job: If It Wasn’t Voluntary

Having been separated from a previous sales job does not make you unemployable, but it does make it more difficult to land that next sales position. If your reasons for leaving your last sales job were not voluntary, be honest with an interviewer about the separation; he or she will find out when checking your references.

You also should talk about the “whys.” For example, if you were laid off because you did not have seniority, say so, then follow up with your contributions while you were there. If you were separated for performance, give the reasons, and explain the circumstances without placing blame: “My sales numbers were X, which was below the average for that organization; although I was improving every quarter, I did not improve quickly enough, and I learned how important it is to set concrete goals with my sales manager as a result of that experience.”

Finally, never name names. Word can travel between sales departments, and the interviewer you are sitting with will wonder what you will say about your new managers, peers, and clients. The only time that names should arise when talking about reasons for leaving your last sales job is when you give your references. By doing this, you can keep the focus on the positive while explaining your reasons for leaving your last sales job in a way that is fair to all involved.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 15+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day and tropical vacations.