One of the most uncomfortable interview questions for any job seeker is when you’re asked to explain why you left a previous job – or are thinking of leaving the current one. How do you answer the question without hurting yourself – or raising more questions?
Luckily, having a job that doesn’t work out is not all that uncommon. Most employers nowadays understand that. The trick is how to handle your answer so that you leave an impression that keeps their minds open to hiring you!
Is your answer different for leaving your current vs. prior job?
The basic reason for leaving a prior job depends on where you wound up (or will wind up) next. So you can use a similar strategy for your answer no matter what the situation was. Still, there are some variations to consider:
- If you left of our own choosing and have been out of work since then – then you want to make sure your answer points strongly to this new job having things that your previous job didn’t. You want to calm any fears that you will leave this one also.
- If they are looking at your work history (they sometimes do that) and you went to an actual job AFTER a previous job they’re asking about, then your reason has to make sense at the time for that whatever job you took. It may not be the same reason for your move now. So know your resume well!
- If you were fired from the last job, then this article should help:
So how do you answer why you left (are leaving) your last job?
You want to look for a reason that feels true enough to you to sound totally sincere in the interview. And you want to make sure that the new job actually provides you the opportunity you say are looking for – something that the old job doesn’t offer!
Some examples of reasons you might give for leaving your current or previous job and moving to the new job. These are just to give you an idea. Come up with your own original answers based on reality:
- Your job doesn’t offer room for advancement. (You’ve gone as far as you can, despite having done well in your position.)
- Your job is cutting back on some of the very areas you want to focus on.
- You want to expand into areas that don’t exist within your current job (but do exist with the one you’re interviewing for).
- The new company is one you’ve always wanted to work for (let your research help you find a reason); and when you saw the opening you were excited to have a chance to make this career move.
- The new company is growing in a direction / areas that you want to be part of.
- You’re looking for a chance to take on a higher level of responsibility.
- You are looking for more money – but also appreciate the opportunities this new job presents.
- The new job offers better working conditions, benefits, commuting, etc. (This isn’t always as strong as some of the others on its own, but if combined with one other reason can make a very good case for your choice to interview now.)
- You just completed some classes or training in an area you want to pursue and the new company gives you the opportunity to use and grow these skills.
- You have researched the new company and feel that it’s a much better fit for you and your current career goals. (You would need to have a solid reason(s) for that conclusion.)
Important to remember no matter what the reason for leaving
Leaving a job is no longer the stigma it once was. In fact, people who stay places for too long – especially with no almost change in their role or responsibilities – are much more suspect to many employers nowadays.
BUT … no matter what really happened, never talk trash about a former employer. A new employer will assume that you’ll do the same to them one day. So frame your answer in a way that shows you did well there (have examples prepared if at all possible) and got along well with coworkers. But for the reason(s) you select it’s now time to move on.
NOTE: In general you want to focus interview answers, as much as possible, on where you’re going rather than where you’ve been. Even stories from the past should point to skills you want to use now. But you still have to answer the questions they ask, so be prepared!
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