Office Coach: No negative comments in job interviews

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Question: About a year ago, I quit my job in a small medical clinic because of a very unprofessional co-worker. “Jake” dressed inappropriately, accepted gifts from vendors, had an affair with a married patient and sent sexual emails from our shared computers. The owner knew about Jake’s behavior, but he did nothing to stop it.

Although I liked my job, working with Jake became so frustrating that I decided to leave. Now I’m ready to return to work, but I don’t know how to describe my reason for quitting.

Answer: While it might be emotionally satisfying to “punish” your former boss by trashing him during a job interview, such comments will automatically cause interviewers to wonder if you were part of the problem.

When asked to describe your departure, therefore, you must formulate a truthful response which does not include any criticism of your unpleasant colleague or ineffectual manager. The fact that you chose not to work during the past year provides one possible approach.

For example: “Although I enjoyed my clinic duties, I decided to spend this year devoting more time to my family. I believe that was a good choice, but now I’m really looking forward to going back to work. I was excited to learn about this position because I feel my skills would be a good fit.”

When talking with interviewers, applicants should remember two things. First, there can be many honest answers to the same question. And second, they should keep any negative opinions to themselves.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at


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