The worst part of any first date? The point in the evening where you trade details about old relationships. The worst part of any job interview (besides the moment right after they ask the dreaded “what are your biggest weaknesses” question)? Recounting why you left your previous jobs.

Like discussing the end of an old romance, the details of a previous job departure can get tiresome and complicated. Sometimes the answer is really easy (“the company went out of business”), but most of the time, there’s enough narrative for a full season of a Netflix show.

So, how do you get into it, without really getting into it? It’s a delicate balance. But here are a few tips on how to explain why you left your last company:

Spin, Sure…But Don’t Lie

If you got fired for stealing K-cups from the break room, don’t try to tell your current interviewers that your former employer went out of business. You were likely to get caught in a lie.

Remember: they will do some due diligence. They’ll check websites and social media. They’ll call your references. So, paint yourself in as good a light as possible…but stick to the general outline of the truth.

Keep It Positive

Don’t use the interview as a therapy session. You’re not there to lie back out on the couch and explain all the traumatic things that your old boss did. Beyond wasting the small amount of time you have in the interview, dwelling on negative situations in the past can only make you look bad.

Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your last position. They asked you about the end, but use it as an opportunity to talk about the experience as a whole. Tell the interviewers about what you learned, and how you can profitably use those lessons as a valuable member of their team.

Don’t Get Bogged Down

Your purpose at the current interview is to focus on the future. You want to convince the interviewers that you’ll fit in well at the new organization. Your previous experience serves as proof of your qualifications and of your ability to deliver exceptional performance. Nothing else matters.

As such, don’t get lost in the weeds as you describe the end of your last tenure. You don’t want it to become a litany of “and then this happened…and then this happened…and then Mary said…have I mentioned Mary…well, let me tell you about her.” At that point, you’re just the crazy uncle at the family reunion with the endless, pointless stories.

Pivot to the Current Opportunity

When politicians get asked a question they don’t like, they are trained to pivot to a better talking point. Give a brief answer…but then quickly transition to a more profitable line of discussion.

There might not be much to admire about your average politician, but this tactic has value. Look for a way to steer the conversation away from the past and bring it back to the current opportunity and how much you can bring to the table as a team member.

Interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences. Having someone on your side, steering you toward meaningful opportunities, helps take the pressure off. Partnering with a strong recruiting partner, like SmartTalent, ensures that you can find the most fertile placement for your career goals.

Contact SmartTalent today to find out more.