“Why did you leave your last job?” is one of the most common interview questions you will face in the course of your career. Preparing for interviews is pretty challenging on their own and questions like these only make them harder.
It could be a toxic work environment, burnout or a mismatch of expectations. The reasons may vary but in principle, your answers to this question are indicative of your abilities to manage undesirable situations.
Regardless of what your reasons for leaving may be, this is one way hiring managers can understand what you may be looking for or consider important in a job. Learning how to answer this question can help you frame your reasons for leaving in a respectful manner.
Remember, it is vital to make an exit graciously. While you may no longer work with the team, any resentment you leave behind may negatively impact your employees and influence your supervisor’s assessment of your work ethics.
These may bring about significant consequences to career opportunities you explore in the long run.
What are the common reasons for leaving?
- You want to switch careers.
- Your values are misaligned with the company values.
- You were let go.
- You did not get the promotion that was promised to you.
- You are stagnating at your current job.
- You want a new challenge.
- You found a better opportunity.
- You were caring for a sick family member.
- You were coping with an illness.
- You wanted more career growth opportunities.
Ultimately, you want to portray yourself in a good light during any interview. However, there are less than ideal reasons for leaving. These are trickier situations to manage and your reasons are always relevant to potential employers. Most hiring managers are looking for these key indicators:
- Did you leave voluntarily?
- Did you leave on good terms with your team?
- Was your reason for leaving a satisfactory and rational one?
How to answer “What were your reasons for leaving the job?”
Unless you have never worked in your life, this is a question that will come up time and again in job interviews. When the costs of rehiring and retraining are high, employers want to assess your suitability to the organisation’s mission and confirm that you are applying for the right reasons.
Instead of letting the question stymie you, learning how to frame your answer can position you in a new light and possibly boost your chances of getting hired.
- You want to advance your career, with either more responsibilities or promotion.
Beware of portraying your previous or current job as a ‘dead-end’. Shift the focus instead onto the role you are applying for and present new challenges as opportunities for your abilities.
- You wanted a change in your career.
Be careful to not present yourself as someone who switches between jobs on a whim. Factor in your skills and experience that would make you the best candidate for the position. Include how you have taken the steps necessary to prepare yourself for the role you want.
- You are looking for more flexibility and a greater work-life balance.
Feelings of burnout and fatigue due to inflexibility or overwork can quickly turn into disengagement at work. Explain how your experience with flexibility has helped you improve the productivity and the quality of your work in the past. You can talk about how you value the organisation’s approach to work-life balance and its alignment to your personal values.
- You were fired or let go.
Refrain from bad-mouthing your previous employer, being emotional or playing the blame game. Keep your answers honest, but short. Avoid divulging in narratives or details that can only invite more questions. Use this opportunity to show how you have learned from your past and can apply them successfully in your new role.
What not to say when asked about reasons for leaving a job
Though you can frame your reasons for leaving in a positive way, it is important to be honest. It is reasonable to have less than perfect reasons for leaving a job, but show discretion in reasons you do divulge. Avoid the following statements in your interviews:
- I was asked to leave on my own.
- My boss and I do not get along well.
- I was not paid enough.
Even if your reasons for leaving are no fault of your own, statements like these may not reflect well on you. The bottom line is, always be professional in your answers, keep them short and focus on your strengths.