How to Explain Why You Left Your Last Job

Estimated reading time: 8 mins

We all have been there – the moment when during the job interview the hiring manager asked, “Why did you leave your last job?”

You might be reluctant to share the whole truth because you left your job under odd circumstances. You might find it difficult to tackle such a straight and sensitive question.

Not to worry! These 17 tried and tested answers can help you cope with the question like a pro:

  1. “I was with the organisation for many years and I wanted to experience working in a new environment to ensure my professional growth.”

For most people, advancing fast in their careers means working in a variety of companies in a variety of industries. Therefore, no hiring manager will take it negatively that you want to gain a new perspective in your career and have a well-rounded experience.

  1. “I left my job for an opportunity to further advance my career.”

It is possible that you did not receive any promotion of job title but you could see a much better path forward at another company. You might have joined a new company for a skill that is very important for you that you want to be an expert in.

Changing jobs is totally fine if you feel that it will help your career advancement even if there is not any immediate promotion in sight.

  1. “Another company offered me a promotion.”

Your past employers can simply not offer you the ideal next steps for your career growth when you are ready. Hence, leaving a job to advance your career is a common reason and it would not be the first time the interviewer will hear it. You should just say so if another company offered a promotion.

  1. “I was given a substantial pay increase.”

Companies know that we all work for money. However, try not to focus too much on the money. Say something like, “I was given a significant pay increase and I was also excited about some of the product launches that the company was working on, so it seemed like a great opportunity overall.

  1. “I was hired by a colleague or a former boss to join their company.”

You might have had a great boss or colleague who left to start his/her own company. A year later, s/he called you to tell you that they could really use a great account manager like you to be a part of their team. This is a great reason for why you left your job. This is a common thing in some industries and it demonstrates that a former boss thought very highly of you.

  1. “I left because I wanted to work on a project that I was very passionate about.”

Sometimes in life, you come across an amazing opportunity that matches perfectly with your own interests. Not many people will seriously blame you for leaving your job to pursue something like this. It can also help answer why you job-hopped frequently in the past. Most hiring managers will understand this reason.

  1. “A new manager was brought in to my department and I felt that it was the right time to leave.”

Things can change at a workplace. It is possible for a job you love to turn not so good because of a new director or manager being brought in to replace your old boss. It is possible for you and your new boss to be not the right fit, making you decide to leave.

You will still want to demonstrate some class however, so avoid badmouthing the new management. Instead, just say that things changed and you lost your excitement about doing the job under new management, so you decided to part ways and look elsewhere for your next gig.

  1. “I stopped finding the work enjoyable or fulfilling.”

Staying at a workplace for a few years and then just leaving because the work stopped being enjoyable is totally fine. Just be good at showing how this new company is different from your old workplace. They will not hire you if they think you will find their work boring too.

  1. “I was initially hired for a specific role but that changes over time and I was no longer given any opportunity to perform the tasks that I was interested in.”

It is common for jobs to change overtime. Sometimes, you are hired for a certain job however what they really ask you to do is nothing like the job description committed. This is a totally fine reason for you to leave your job.

This is actually a very convincing and reasonable answer, even if you left the position soon after being hired. In fact, it all makes sense, as you would leave a job like this pretty quickly as the job ended up being completely different from what the company initially promised.

  1. “I was with this company for a number of years and I learned a lot. However, I felt that I was ready for a change.”

It is very normal to say that you felt ready to move on if you had been at your last job for a couple of years or more. Maybe you did learn all there was to learn at that workplace or maybe you just wanted to try something new. All these are good reasons for you to leave a company.

  1. “I went back to school to get a Master’s Degree (or PhD, etc).”

This is another very common reason. You should never feel any anxiety about giving such an answer to why you left your last job. If anything, the hiring manager will like how you are focused on developing yourself professionally.

  1. “I re-examined my career goals and decided that a change was needed.”

Our goals and objectives keep on changing. It is fine to leave if your company does not offer you something that is in line with your new goals. There is nothing wrong with giving this answer.

Just try to show your interviewer that you know now what you want to do in your career. Show them how their job perfectly fits into your goals otherwise; they might be worried about you changing your mind again.

  1. “I decided a change was best for my career because I did not feel there was any opportunity to grow or advance any further in that role.”

This is a nice way to tell your interviewer if your last company was holding you back without sounding too negative about the entire experience.

  1. “I felt the job was not utilizing my abilities to the fullest and I did not feel challenged enough.”

It is hard to keep yourself motivated if you are bored and not challenged enough. Being bored can make it difficult for you to keep coming to work with a happy face.

Just be sure that you do not sound too negative or spoiled when you give this reason. Never make it sound that you felt the job was not “worthy” of you or anything on those lines. Tell them that you felt you were capable of doing much more and wanted a bigger challenge.

You could also mention a specific skill of yours that was under-utilized. Maybe you are great at business development but you were more involved in project management. You will ace an interview for a business development manager if you mention this.

  1. “I had to resign from my last job to take care of a personal/family issue. The issue is now resolved and I am able to work fulltime again.”

It is fine if you do not go into a ton of detail. Keep it simple and make sure you clearly tell them that the issue has now been resolved, so they do not worry about any reoccurrence, prompting you to resign again.

It is also fine if you want to share some more information. Many people have to take out time to take care of their elderly parents or relatives in need, so sharing such a story is totally fine.

  1. “I was laid off from my position.”

Layoffs happen all the time. You will, however, want to be more specific in your answer here and share as much details as possible. Was the layoff due to financial struggles? Was your department outsourced overseas? Was the entire department shut down? Did the company go bankrupt? Etc.

  1. “I was fired.”

It is recommended that you come clean and tell the truth if you were fired. Lying will not get you far as they will check with the references and get to the truth. Even if you are hired and they find it later that you were fired from your last workplace, it can become grounds for an easy termination.

You should never badmouth your former employer and should take responsibility for all that happened. Show the hiring manager that you have learned from the entire experience and that you intend to take certain steps to ensure that it never happens again.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to tackle the “why did you leave your last job” question? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below. Make sure you also check out these 9 Tips for Nailing an Interview.

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