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How to Show Loyalty and Responsibility in an Interview

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If you’re trying to show warmth in your answers to common interview questions, a quality that commonly earns an interviewer’s trust, one question that’s “really, really easy to screw up” is...

“Why did you leave your last job?”

However, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes over at Harvard Business Review, if you answer it correctly, you’ll show them that you are loyal and responsible, which are two traits common within warm people.

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t say anything negative about previous (or current) places of employment. This is correct, Halvorson affirms. “So the advice they’ll give you instead is to focus on how you are ‘looking for new challenges’ and trying to develop yourself in a new role. This is fine advice if you only care about competence--but notice how much ‘I’ there is in those answers: I’m looking for new challenges. I want to develop myself. What about the people you left behind? Where is your loyalty, your sense of responsibility?”

Here’s how she advises you to show your loyalty. I must interject that I’m not sure I agree with her approach, since it involves a bit of fakery, but you can, of course, make up your own mind: “To demonstrate loyalty, talk about how painful it was for you to leave (even if it wasn’t)--how you and your colleagues looked out for one another. Mention that if there were a way for you to have continued developing and challenging yourself in your last job, you would have stayed.”

Regardless, what you’re trying to avoid is the impression that you can just walk away whenever the mood strikes you. According to Halvorson, “If it seems like it was easy for you to walk out on your last team, then they’ll assume it won’t be hard for you to walk away from them, either.”

As for responsibility, there are two suggestions Halvorson gives: “First (and most obviously) that you are eager for new responsibilities, and second, that you did not leave anyone in the lurch when you left your old job.”

You want to show the interviewer how seriously “you took your responsibilities…in your last job… Perhaps mentioning that you had considered leaving sooner but wanted to see a major project to its completion or to wait until your replacement was ready to fill your role.”

Halvorson also gives additional advice within the article for how the questions you ask can demonstrate warmth and competence. We highly recommend that you read the entire piece.

As physicians and advanced practitioners who are looking for jobs, what’s the best way to explain why you’re leaving your past or current job? How can you show loyalty and responsibility in your answer?

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