How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Preparing for an interview is key to success— especially when it comes to questions about your employment history that may not be easy to talk about. 

One popular question that may fall into this category is, “Why did you leave your last job?”

From the interviewer’s perspective, this question serves as a gauge of your honesty, self-awareness, and alignment with the company’s values and goals. They’re not just interested in the surface-level reasons for your departure. Rather, they’re looking at how you articulate and frame your response. Your answer can reveal much about your character, work ethic, and attitude towards challenges and opportunities.

Common reasons for leaving a job 

There are plenty of valid reasons for leaving a job. Whether you’re seeking new opportunities or adjusting to life changes, know that leaving a job isn’t inherently a bad thing.

Wanting career advancement opportunities

Wanting to grow and advance in your career is a common reason for leaving a job. Sometimes, people feel like they’ve learned all they can in their current role and are excited to tackle new challenges that will help them develop professionally and move up the career ladder.

Example response: “I left my previous role because I felt that I had reached a plateau in terms of growth opportunities. I was eager to take on new challenges and responsibilities that would allow me to further develop my skills and progress in my career.”

Seeking a new challenge or learning experience

After spending a while doing the same job, some folks crave something new. They’re looking for roles that will push them out of their comfort zones, give them opportunities to keep learning, and let them grow both personally and professionally.

Example response: “After several years in the same role, I felt that I had mastered the tasks and responsibilities assigned to me. I was seeking a new challenge that would push me out of my comfort zone and allow me to continue learning and growing.”

Company culture mismatch

The culture of a company can have a big impact on how happy and comfortable you feel at work. If your old workplace just wasn’t the right fit for you, it’s understandable to want to find somewhere that feels more like home.

Example response: “While I appreciated the mission and goals of my previous company, I found that the company culture was not the right fit for me. I value collaboration and open communication, and I believe I would thrive in an environment that aligns more closely with these values.”

Relocation or family reasons

Sometimes, life changes mean you need to change jobs. Whether it’s moving to be closer to family or simply because of you’re seeking a change of scenery, moving may require you to look for a different job in your new home.

Example response: “Due to family circumstances, I needed to relocate to be closer to my aging parents. While I enjoyed my time at my previous job, this relocation was a personal priority. I needed to make this change to support my family.”

Layoffs or company restructuring

Changes in structure or layoffs can happen for all sorts of reasons, and they’re not something you can control. If your old job disappeared due to circumstances beyond your control, it’s understandable that you’d be on the lookout for new opportunities.

Example response: “Unfortunately, my previous company underwent a restructuring process that resulted in layoffs across several departments, including mine. While it was a challenging time, I view it as an opportunity to explore new possibilities. My goal is to find a role where I can continue to contribute my skills and expertise.”

Handling sensitive situations

You may be a little more hesitant to address other situations like getting fired or having gaps on your resume. Even though you’ll want to put a positive spin on these scenarios, they should still be approached with transparency.

How to address getting fired or dismissed from your job

Explaining a job termination or dismissal can be challenging, but it’s important to approach it with honesty and professionalism. 

If you were let go from your previous job, be prepared to provide a brief, factual explanation without placing blame or getting defensive. Focus on what you learned from the experience and how you’ve grown since then. Emphasize your readiness to move forward and contribute positively in your next role.

How to talk about employment gaps

If you have a gap on your resume, an interviewer may ask about that rather than why you left your job.

Gaps in employment history are common and can occur for a number of reasons. Perhaps you took time off to care for family, pursued further education, or dealt with personal health issues. 

When addressing gaps, be transparent about the reasons behind them. Highlight any relevant activities or experiences you engaged in during that time. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your resourcefulness, adaptability, and commitment to continuous self-improvement.

What to do if you’ve changed jobs multiple times

Having multiple job changes in a short period of time on your resume may raise questions during the interview process. 

Providing context for the transitions can dispel any concerns the interviewer may have. Demonstrate your commitment to finding the right fit by explaining how each job change was a step towards aligning your career goals with your values and interests.

You can also emphasize the positive aspects of each role. Focus on the skills you gained from each position and how they have contributed to your overall professional development. 

General tips for answering “Why did you leave your last job?”

No matter your reason for leaving your previous job, you can make a good impression by framing the question positively and emphasizing your goals. 

1. Highlight a positive aspects of your previous job.

When discussing your reasons for leaving, highlight the aspects of your previous job that you enjoyed and valued. This could be important lessons you learned, honing specific skills, or a specific part of the job your liked. This demonstrates gratitude and professionalism while also showcasing your ability to find the silver lining in any situation.

2. Connect your reasons for leaving with your career goals.

Articulate how your decision to leave aligns with your long-term career objectives. Whether it’s pursuing new opportunities for growth, seeking a better cultural fit, or realigning with your passions, framing your departure in the context of your professional aspirations adds clarity and purpose to your response.

3. Avoid negative language or blaming your former employer.

Maintain a positive and diplomatic tone when discussing your reasons for leaving. Refrain from speaking negatively about your former employer or colleagues. This can reflect poorly on your professionalism and interpersonal skills. Instead, focus on the factors that motivated your decision to move forward positively.

4. Keep your response short.

It seems like there’s a lot to cover, but don’t feel pressured to go into a ton of detail. Keep your answer short. If the interviewer has further questions, you can offer up more of the specifics.

Answer with confidence

Honesty, professionalism, and positivity are key when navigating the classic interview question “Why did you leave your last job?” 

By emphasizing positive aspects of your previous job, connecting your reasons for leaving with your career goals, and handling sensitive situations with transparency and grace, you can present yourself as a thoughtful and self-aware candidate. 

Remember, every career move, whether motivated by advancement opportunities, personal growth, or unforeseen circumstances, contributes to your professional journey. Approach each interview with confidence, knowing that your experiences have shaped you into the capable and adaptable individual you are today!