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Interviewing: explaining why you left your last firm

March 22, 2010

People voluntarily leave firms for various reasons, even during a recession. You may have had a very good reason for leaving your prior firm, but you don’t want to denigrate your former firm (after all, the legal field is truly a small community).  The interviewer may also be assuming you were fired or laid off from your last position, and you want to let him/her know subtly that you left voluntarily for good reason. Or, you may still be employed but you’re looking for something else. While explaining to a potential employer why you left is already awkward, this task seems doubly so during a recession.

Dan Binstock of BCG Attorney Search recruiters explains how to nip this issue in the bud in this excellent article. Attorneys will often ask Binstock: “The fact that the partner I work for is certifiably insane is the only reason I’m looking to move, but if they ask why I’m leaving, I know I’m not supposed to bad-mouth my current employer because it reflects poorly on me. If I lie and say I’m happy, they’ll question my sincerity because, after all, I’m on an interview, so there must be a reason I’m considering leaving. What do I do?”

Binstock’s article is practical and specific. He even has an acronym to help you remember his advice.  PACE.

P – express the Positives.

A – Acknowledge that it is a faux pas to speak negatively about an employer.

C – discuss the Concerns you had regarding your prior position.

E – show Evidence that you are a well-performing attorney and that your concerns are not the result of any problems with your performance.

This article is well worth the read.

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