Recruiter interviewing a candidate

Interview Tips: Explaining Why You Left Your Last Job

“Why did you leave your last job?” is one of the most common questions you’ll receive in an interview. Interviewers want to know if there are any potential red flags they need to be aware of before they hire you. They want to see whether you left on good terms and your level of commitment to your work. Are you going to be a good employee? Will you have trouble getting along with your colleagues and managers?

Replacing employees takes time, effort, and money. Because of this, recruiters want to ensure they are making the right investment when choosing to hire you and that you won’t quit on them as well.

Potential Reasons for Leaving a Job

You may decide to move on from your previous position for many reasons. Here is a list of reasons for leaving a job and what to say about why you left your last job.

Lack of Growth Opportunities or Not Feeling Challenged

Maybe your last company was a small, tight-knit group, but there wasn’t any room for advancement or growth. Or you are tired of doing the same thing day in and out without any challenges.

"I’ve been with the company for some years but wanted to experience a new environment and continue to grow in my career. Unfortunately, there just weren’t great opportunities available at my last company."

"I loved my role and coworkers, but I came to a point where there were no opportunities for growth in my role. Can you tell me more about this position's growth opportunities and the development this company offers?"

Desire for a Career Change

It has become more common for people to test multiple career paths and jobs in their lifetime. They may change industries, go back to school, or pivot in their specialty within their current field.

"I’m looking for a new opportunity to develop and expand my project management skills."

"I realized my true passion was graphic design. I’ve always loved it, but I got hired for copywriting out of college. Now I’m ready to pursue my original dream of being a graphic designer and excited to work with you."

Arising Family Responsibilities or Personal Obligations

Family responsibilities and obligations are a common and acceptable personal reason for leaving a previous job. You might have paused your career to raise kids or to help an elderly family member.

"I decided to take the time to raise my kids. I consciously put my career on hold, but I took the time to stay updated with changes in the industry and profession. I’ve refreshed my skills before starting my job search, and now I’m excited to return to the workforce!"

"I needed to take time off to assist an ailing family member. In my family, I was in the best position to do it. I’m now finished with that and ready to return to work."

You Were Fired/Let Go

Never hide that you were fired. It’s always best to be honest from the beginning. If you lie in your interview and get caught, it can be grounds for termination. Be honest, keep it positive, and don’t bad-mouth former managers, colleagues, or companies. Keep it simple, short, and to the point.

Be careful not to let emotion or opinions enter your response. Explain to the recruiter your steps to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Recruiters want to know that you weren’t fired for something egregious, and that the reason you were fired won’t be a problem.

"I was unfortunately let go from my last position. The job wasn’t a good fit for me. My former employer and I had different expectations about what success in my role meant. My boss and I agreed that moving on would work out better for both of us. Reflecting on my experience, I’ve learned a lot, and there are some things I would have done differently. I’m excited to bring my talents and abilities to a new opportunity."

"Being fired was a blessing in disguise. I can now explore jobs that better suit my qualifications and interests. According to my research and what we’ve discussed so far, this position looks like it qualifies. Would you like to hear more about my skills in working with [X, Y, and Z]?"

Candidate interviewing for a job

4 Tips for Answering "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?"

Here are some quick tips and guidelines to help answer why you left your last job in an interview.

  • 1. Be Positive and Confident

    When discussing your former company, bosses, or colleagues, always focus on the positive aspects. Many job seekers are unhappy with some aspects of their former job, and that’s natural. But as tempting as it might be, never speak negatively about it.

    How you handle this question will tell the interviewer much more about you than about your previous job. If you talk negatively about your job, the only one who will look negative is you. Remain calm, positive, and focused on what you learned from your last job.

    Share a clear vision of what you want out of your next job. Everyone quits jobs and begins new ones multiple times throughout their career. So, say it with confidence and be ready to move on to the next question.

  • 2. Be Honest and State the Facts

    Recruiters often ask difficult questions to see how you will react and respond. They want to know how you do under pressure and if you can remain calm and honest. If you were fired, be clear, direct, and tell the truth. Be frank with the strict truth of what happened, but not your opinion on what happened. It can be a tricky line to walk, so stick to the facts and keep it simple.

    Your recruiter may double-check your answers with your previous employer. Instead of your opinions, talk about what you learned and accomplished at your last job. By sticking to the facts of what you did and learned at your job, you give a professional air and a credible account of the work you accomplished.

  • 3. Keep Your Answer Short and Concise

    Keeping your answers short and to the point is in your best interest. Your interviewer probably has a full day and just wants to see how you handle difficult questions. You don’t want to accidentally overshare and talk about negative parts of your previous job. Keeping your answers concise is best.

  • 4. Avoid Making Unprofessional Comments or Blaming Others

    When talking about previous jobs and experiences, don’t talk negatively about others. If you say you couldn’t get along with a colleague, all the recruiter will think is, "How do I know this won’t happen again?"

    Don't blame a colleague even if you were fired for their mistake. Simply leave it as a "miscommunication" or "misunderstanding" of what happened. This will put you in a positive, more mature light.

    How do you explain leaving a job because of bad management? Try something like, "New management was brought in with an organizational shakeup, and I felt it was the right time to leave. Things changed, and I didn’t feel as excited about the job under new management." This kind of answer keeps blame and negativity away while adequately explaining your feelings to the interviewer.

Remember these tips for explaining why you left a job, and you’ll impress your interviewer and be ready to move on to the next question.

Are you interested in finding a job with an executive search firm in Kansas City? Contact our recruiters today at Spencer Reed Group by calling us at 913-663-4400.