Anybody who has had a job has been asked a form of this question, “Why did you leave your job?” If you left because of something dissatisfying, it’s easy to share information that would emit a negative vibe. The negative vibe won’t sit well with the interviewer.
Why they want to know
There are 3 big reasons why a hiring manager would ask this question, whether it’s in an interview or on a job application.
1. Was it a good reason?
The hiring manager, ultimately, wants to know if you are loyal and responsible. Or, even reasonable. Think about your answer as if you were the hiring manager. Would you hire someone who quit impulsively just because they felt like it that day? No because they could potentially do the same at the next job.
2. On your own or asked to leave?
If you were let go, the hiring manager wants to know if this was for performance/integrity issues or because they were downsizing.
3. Were you professional about it?
Being escorted out of the building by security doesn’t give off the best impression. Being on good terms with your former employer shows some professionalism.
Good Reasons for Leaving
No matter the circumstance, it’s important to phrase your response as best as you can, so you don’t badmouth your former employer or tank yourself. Again, do not talk bad about your former employer, co-workers, or company you worked for. Here are better responses for every situation.
“I was offered a position with another company and accepted.”
Whether you were actively searching to get another job or a recruiter contacted you with a better deal, this answer works for any situation where you left a job for another company. You want to phrase things, so there is no possibility of negativity toward the job you left. Leaving out the fact that you were actively searching to get out of your dead end job or got an offer from an employer that won’t micromanage you will keep things positive and isn’t something the interviewer needs to know about your past employment.
“I’m looking for a position within a company where I can contribute and grow.”
Sometimes people re-evaluate their goals, want to pursue something a little different, or feel they aren’t growing in their current position. This is ok, but the best way to go about saying this is by responding with a future-driven mind set. Where do you want to go? What are your goals? Don’t spend any time on what made you think like this.
“I went back to school to pursue a master’s degree program.”
Showing that you want to improve your skills will definitely give you brownie points in an interview. Whether it’s for your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD, if the reason you left your job is to continue your education, there is no need for further explanation.
“When my boss left, it made me realize that it was time for a change.”
If your boss leaving stirred up too much drama in the office or your new boss changed the dynamics of the office and you didn’t like their “vibe,” don’t go into this during your interview. Leave the past in the past and explain that it’s time for a change and your boss leaving was a perfect opportunity for it.
“In order to continue improving myself professionally, it was time to move on.”
Sometimes it’s just time to move on. You may not have gotten the promotion you were working toward or found out there’s no room for growth in the near future, but expressing your commitment to improving yourself is what the interviewer may want to hear.
“The job was a good fit for who I was when I first accepted the job, but now where I want to go and where the company is going don’t align.”
You might feel overqualified or under-utilized. Sometimes there are times when we have to take a job because of the money, but focusing on getting a job that’s a better fit for you and your skills is a great thing to hear.
“I’m looking for full-time employment.”
You might not be completely unemployed. You might be a freelancer or part-time who now desires full-time work. Talk about how your time as a freelancer or part-time has helped you develop skills that you would implement if you got a full-time job.
“I decided to take five years off to start a family.”
Family always comes first and it’s ok if you need to take time to take care of your persona situations. You don’t have to explain your family situation. You can just say, “I left my job in order to take care of a family issue and now as the circumstances have changed, I’d like to reenter the workforce.”
“My position was eliminated and I was let go.”
As long as you weren’t let go because of performance or integrity issues, the hiring manager isn’t going to hold it against you. If it was a merger or restructuring, it’s not your fault. Be honest about what happened without any negative attitude toward the company.
“They needed someone with a different skill set and experience. I was let go.”
Translation: You were fired. It’s ok. Even the most influential people in the world have been fired at least once. It may not even be about your performance. Every employer has expectations and sometimes those expectations don’t match with the expectations of the employee. Don’t resort to badmouthing your former employer. Explain that you performed to the best of your ability, but the company wanted to go in a different direction. Although you may have been devastated at the time, you may realize that this is an opportunity to grow and continue your professional education and experience.
Bottomline: Don’t be negative!
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The world is small and you never know who knows who. Be aware that the interviewer or hiring manager may know your former boss. Also, if you spend time answering this question in a complaining or negative manner, then the hiring manager might think of you as unprofessional and childish. Keep your answer positive and uplifting. Be sure to promote yourself in all of your interview questions, especially this one.