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Dealing with Job Interview Questions about Being Demoted

Being demoted seems to carry more negative weight than being fired. This is because demotion suggests personal failure; firing doesn’t, unless you’re fired for cause. You may find that you’re running into rejection after job interviews because you were demoted in a previous position with another company.

The sample interview question below appears in bold, followed by effective ways to respond to this question:

Do I read this resume right — were you demoted?

  • Your best move is to deal with demotions before you reach the interview. Ask your demoting boss for a positive reference and come to an agreement about what happened that’s favorable to you — assuming your boss knows you’re looking around and doesn’t mind helping you leave.

  • Explain honestly and as positively as possible the reasons for your send-down.

  • Admit that you weren’t ready for the responsibility at that time, but now you are. Describe the actions you have taken to grow professionally — school courses in deficient areas, management seminars, management books, and introspection.

  • Affirm that you’re looking for a good place to put your new and improved management skills to use, and you hope that place is where you are interviewing. Quickly remind interviewers that you’re qualified for the job you’re interviewing for, and back that up with examples of your skills and quantified achievements.

If you've been demoted, don't lie or shift the blame to anybody but yourself. Also, you'll look bad if you try to accuse your previous management of unreasonable expectations.

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