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I left my old company due to distress and burnout caused by my job last December. 2 days ago I attended a job interview, and when being asked why I left my prior position, as per advice, I didn't say the truth but just said that I left to solve family matters. Then the interview asked me "Why wouldn't you return to your old company". How should I handle this question?

I have also been unemployed for nearly 6 months and started feeling depressed. Do you have any suggestions to stay motivated and positive?

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    It sounds like the interviewer "sniffed out" the vague and dishonest answer to their original question. The real problem you should focus on is answering the original question "why did you leave your prior position?" and completely disregard the previous bad advice that you've been given about lying to the interviewer with some made-up falsehoods about 'family matters'. Any competent interviewer will likely see straight through vague, generic and evasive answers. Once their suspicions are aroused, almost anything you say in follow-up will most likely just confirm it to them. Commented May 24 at 8:31
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    Possible duplicate, or at least related Q+A here - workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12291/… Commented May 24 at 8:35
  • Which country are you in ? Please add a country tag as that may help to answer more accurately. Commented May 25 at 2:47
  • Welcome to Life. Pay particular attention to the lesson available to you at this juncture. Let that lesson, and all the ones yet to come, shape your decisions and actions from now on. All the best and wishing you success in your endeavours...
    – Fe2O3
    Commented May 28 at 1:33

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as per advice, I didn't say the truth

That was really bad advice: You shouldn't bad-mouth you previous employer (or yourself) but you should NEVER lie. It sound like the interviewer smelled a rat and called you out on it. That's not good.

Just tell a "sanitized" version of the truth. There is always something that isn't perfect a fit between you and your job. Could be culture, workstyle, growth opportunities, compensation, commute, lack of learning, a specific skill you want to go after, business outlook, hiring freeze, etc. Just pick handful that are applicable to your situation and talk about them without being judgmental.

Obviously, you don't want to pick something that's equally applicable to your new employer so it's general a good idea to prepare a few different replies and adjust to the specific situation.

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When faced with interview questions of this nature, find a way of pivoting the answer toward working for the company you're interviewing for.

Something like:

I had a long time to think about my core needs while I was away and felt that I needed to be in a company that offered xyz (insert details that interest you about this company).

Doing this diverts attention away from what kept you from returning to your previous role and indicates that you want to move forwards.

If the interviewer wants to press further, then you'll need to respond with something that your previous company/role didn't quite fulfill that your new role/company will.

a healthier work/life balance

is a good enough reason since this is something that your prospective employers will most probably be promoting anyway.

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  • I think it's possible another interviewer would ask this question. The suggested response is good though Commented May 24 at 9:37
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    @mattfreake - On reflection you're right, it could well be asked. I'll edit accordingly.
    – Boots
    Commented May 24 at 10:04
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Always be prepared for a follow-up question.

In this case, having dug yourself into the hole, you could have answered "well, of course that's the easy and obvious answer, but this seemed a good opportunity to look at what my other options are and I've liked what I've heard about your company."

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