Why did you leave (or are leaving) your last job? | PM interview questions

Question’s Purpose
PM is a high-pressure job with lots of moving parts that can go extremely wrong. They want to know if you were fired, swept out for poor performance, re-orged into irrelevancy, and so on.

How to Answer
The truth can be tricky. If nothing is wrong and you’re leaving because the new company is a cool opportunity, then answering is easy. Just focus on what makes the new company so wonderful and why you are the perfect fit for it. Easy-peasy.

But if you’ve got some skeletons in the closet, then answering this question is challenging. Don’t lie. It can come back on you. Be truthful but focus on the positives, just like you would if you were giving stakeholders bad news.

  • Fired
    “Ultimately, my manager and I had a very hard conversation and we both felt this wasn’t the right place for me. What I learned from the experience is X, Y, Z, and here’s how I can apply that to your company.”
  • Re-orged
    “Change is the only constant at the company and I’m grateful for the time I got to spend there because I got to learn X, Y, Z, which made me a much stronger PM and in a good position to execute X, Y, Z at your company.”
  • Poor performance
    “My last performance review wasn’t nearly as good as the ones before that. What I learned from that is…”

These are hard conversations. Answer without emotion, concisely, and in a way that makes it sound like it was a tough but valuable lesson you had to learn. Do you PM homework on the business so you can connect your hard-learned lesson to the new job opportunities.

Don’t let what happened at your last company be the end of you. Everybody at some point in their lives gets fired, re-orged, poor performance reviewed, and so on. It’s what you learned and how you come out of it that matters the most. Show that in the interview —it’s the only way to turn that negative into a positive.

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