Job Interview Question
Why did you take a job that seems to be outside of your career path?
How To Answer Interview Questions Series
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What they’re looking for here is at least some thought process…some understanding of who you are and where you’re going. Why did you take that job? What they are afraid of is that you don’t know what you want to do and if they hire you, you might not want to hang around their company very long, either. The hiring and onboarding process is disruptive to companies, and most want to minimize turnover so they can concentrate on making money.
There are actually a lot of valid reasons you could have taken an odd job that don’t reflect badly on you and will make sense to them: Maybe you thought that industry experience was going to be really useful; maybe you thought that you could learn a lot from that boss; maybe you thought that skill set you’d pick up there would be a benefit to you. Going after additional skills is a positive.
Or, maybe the truth is that you had no other choice: you needed a good job, and this was one. Sometimes practicality is reason enough. Just explain that you have worked your tail off in that job, but now it’s time to move on to one that more closely fits your skill sets or your desired outcome as far as a career path goes.
They’re looking for you to make them feel better about something that puzzles them. And unless you answer that question where they do feel better about it, you have not done a good job of representing yourself in the interview. So you really need to think this through and put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager.
Just explain to them what they want to know: Are you being thoughtful about your career? Are you making good decisions? Or are you just impulsively taking any old job that sounds good? Why did you do this? And most importantly, does that have anything to do with why you want this job? Are you going to be happy in this career long-term?
Tell them why you made that decision, tell them what you learned from it, and then come back around to why you’d be a good fit for this job.
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