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How to Explain Your Reason for Leaving a Job During an Interview (With Examples)

January 27, 2021

Job interviewers usually ask candidates their reason for leaving a job, but answering this can be challenging. Your answer shows your professional values, exemplifies how you handle undesirable situations and reveals the level of respect you have for your current or past employer even though your position no longer suits you. In this article, we discuss common reasons for leaving a job and how to explain them to a new employer or recruiter during a job interview.

What are some common reasons for leaving a job?

People may leave a job for one reason or a combination of factors. Learning some of the most common reasons for leaving a job can help you determine why you left a recent job or want to leave your existing one. Some of the most common reasons for leaving a job include:

  • Wanting a higher salary
  • Working for a company that went out of business
  • Feeling undervalued in your role
  • Feeling dissatisfied with management
  • Wanting new challenges or opportunities, including career progression
  • Wanting to work in a new sector or role
  • Having values that don't align with the company's mission
  • Having a personality that doesn't align with the company's culture
  • Leaving for personal reasons, such as an ill parent, a loved one requiring care or your own health
  • Wanting greater work-life balance
  • Relocating to a new city
  • Being let go or made redundant

Read more: How to Quit a Job

How to answer questions about leaving a job

As interviewers usually ask candidates why they want to leave their job or why they left their last one, you should prepare an answer to this question before a job interview. Your preparation will help you answer the question confidently and tactfully. The following steps will help you answer this question well:

1. Be clear about your motivation for leaving

Understanding your motivations for leaving will help you articulate them clearly. Writing down your reasons for leaving can help you to understand them better. Consider your career path and what your ideal career looks like. Think about the positives and negatives of your past or existing job. Your reflections should help clarify your motivations for leaving.

Browse the reasons you've listed to determine which are the most important. These are the reasons to mention in your job interview.

2. Be positive

Your answer should have a positive tone even if negative events influenced your decision to leave a company. Your ability to see the positive aspects and problem-solve for the best career outcome will reflect well on you. Focus on the skills you developed, the positive relationships you formed and the experience you've gained.

3. Be honest

While you should be positive, you should also be honest. The interviewer may contact your current or past employer to verify your story, so it's important not to embellish the truth. Any inconsistencies may reflect negatively on you and compromise your chances of securing a vacant position. Frame your answers so that they are truthful while maintaining a positive tone.

4. Answer concisely

Effective interview answers are concise and to the point. You should answer any question about leaving your current or past job in just one or two sentences. Once you've addressed this question, you can move the conversation back to your professional future.

Examples of how to answer questions about leaving a job

Reading good examples of ways to answer questions about leaving a job can inspire your own. Note the way these answers frame negative reasons for leaving a job in a more positive way:

You are not happy at the company

Consider the reasons why you are not happy at the company. Use these reasons to craft a more positive response that shows why you feel the vacant job would suit you better.

Example: 'I have expanded my skills and built strong relationships at my current company, but I feel my skills could serve my community better. I appreciate your company's charitable giving and would love to be part of a business with such strong altruistic values.'

You would like more pay

Financial compensation can be a sensitive topic, so consider carefully whether you want to address it. If you do, frame your answer in a way that focuses on the larger idea of incentives as motivation for doing high-quality work.

Example: 'Several factors motivate me, such as client satisfaction and positive feedback in the office. The way this company rewards its employees for good work with a range of different incentives is very attractive to me.'

You are not happy in your position

Consider why the position does not make you happy. Use your observations to develop a positive answer showing why you feel you will be more satisfied with the vacant role.

Example: 'While I have learned a lot in my current position, I prefer creative work over administrative tasks. I feel a position at your company would make the best use of my natural talents and let me focus on the type of work I love most.'

Read more: How to Deal With Job Dissatisfaction

The hours at your job do not suit you

Working fewer or more flexible hours can be a real advantage in a new job. This benefit is worth mentioning to an employer, since you may be more loyal to a company with a better working schedule. Frame your answer carefully. Your answer should show that while you value a work-life balance, you are also a hard worker who knows how to manage their time.

Example: 'I am most productive when I have a healthy work-life balance. I am a hard worker who is looking for a company that recognises that and can reward my efforts with more flexible hours at times.'

You want to grow in your career

Some organisations provide limited opportunities for their employees. Wanting professional growth is a natural reason for leaving a job that you can easily frame in a positive way.

Example: 'I love my job and team, but as I work for a small company with a local client base, I feel I have grown as much as I can there. I'm excited at the thought of working for a company with a global client base developed through an online infrastructure.'

You want to change careers

Wanting a new challenge through a new career path is another excellent reason for changing careers. Make sure you work your answer carefully to make sure your plan seems considered rather than fanciful.

Example: 'While I have enjoyed working in medical sales, this work has made me realise I'm most interested in the way medical products can help people. I studied nursing online over the last few years. I'm now excited to follow my passion for helping people and to become a nurse.'

Read more: How to Change Careers

You found a better opportunity

You may want to leave your job simply because another one seems like a better option. Emphasise the opportunities that await you in your answer.

Example: 'I enjoy my current role working for a fashion boutique, but this other role is too exciting to ignore. I think I could learn so much working alongside one of the country's leading designers.'

You were let go or made redundant

If you are let go or made redundant, your past employer made the decision without your input. Explain this to an employer, honestly, without providing any details that may reflect negatively on you. Avoid using the word "fired" if possible. Note what you have learned from the experience and how well you fit in a new position.

Example: 'On reflection, my former employer and I had different expectations about my role. I have learned a lot from that experience and am excited about bringing my skills and maturity to this job.'

Example: 'Unfortunately, my former company restructured and let 20% of its workforce go, including myself. My redundancy package allowed me to spend time considering my next move and finding the right role, which I believe I've found with your company.'

Preparing for follow-up questions

As you answer questions about leaving a job, your interviewer may ask follow-up questions to gather more information about your decision. Some common follow-up questions include:

  • Did you try to pursue a similar position with your last employer?
  • Did you try to resolve your issues before searching for a new job?
  • How do you plan to prevent miscommunications from occurring with us?

Consider what follow-up questions the interviewer might ask you and how you would answer them during your interview preparation. As with your answers to the original questions about leaving your job, follow-up answers should be concise, honest and positive.

It's a good idea to role play the interview with a trusted friend or family member. Have them think of some follow-up questions you hadn't considered. Answering their unexpected follow-up questions without preparation can help you feel confident with answering unanticipated questions during a real interview.

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