Why did you leave your last job?
Interviewers do like to know why you have left previous jobs. They are looking to remove any candidates from the running that don’t have good reasons to look for a new job
I have experienced an interviewer ask this interview question about my last three jobs before. Be clear on why you have left each role on your CV in case you are asked to talk about each.
The interviewer is looking to find out:
By asking you for the reasons for leaving past jobs, the interviewer is trying to find out if you had
- any problems with previous managers and therefore might be a difficult person to manage
- were asked to leave or left because of poor performance. If this is the case, and you state it, you will not be hired
Do not provide any red flags that allows the interviewer to move you down the pecking order for the job offer.
An offer is given to those candidates that can do the job, that fit in and that don’t show any issues with their employment history.
One of the most frequent reasons for people for leaving a job is the relationship with the person’s manager. If you have had a boss from hell, one that has not helped your career or didn’t develop you, you must not talk about this with the interviewer. Do not criticise previous managers.
Being made redundant is also a difficult reason to navigate. Many companies use redundancy to remove their weaker staff members. There are several more acceptable reasons for redundancy including:
- Office relocation
- The business failing
- The management change direction or strategy resulting in your department / division no longer being needed
- Company was sold resulting in synergy job redundancies
If you fall into one of these categories, it is okay to provide redundancy as a reason. If you don’t then be careful how you position the reasons for the redundancy.
Acceptable reasons to leave a job
There is only a short list of reasons why you should be moving jobs that are “acceptable” reasons. Structure your answer using one of the following acceptable answers:
- Need a new challenge – e.g. I was getting stale and I need a fresh challenge. I have been asking for additional opportunities at my current company but have not received any to date.
- Location – the company had moved, or my circumstances had changed which is why I am apply for jobs in x area
- Would like to advance my career and there were no suitable opportunities at my current/last company
- Wanted to move to a more secure job – that last company was not that stable / did not have good prospects. Be more careful with this answer if you are in senior management.
Keep the answer to this question short and sweet. Be ready to answer any follow up questions based on the initial answer to this question. As long as you deliver your answer confidently, it makes sense and doesn’t raise any red flags, you are unlikely to get follow up questions.
Make sure your body language is relaxed and confident when answering this question. Practice your answer until it is.
Why did you leave your last job? – Example answers
My company was bought out last year and the new owners wanted to move the head office roles to their main building. The new location was over 2 hours’ drive away.
I have a young family and I don’t want to be spending 4 hours a day commuting nor is it realistic to move the family at this point. I had been offered a role in the new location, but I decided that I had to find a new role closer to home.
I was bought into the company to turnaround the Marketing Department and get the revenue growing above 10% per annum. I love a challenge and am very good at fixing problems. It took me a year to get the business revenue from -5% to a growth of 12%, and I have been improving on that over the last year with revenue growth of 21%.
I have fixed most of the key areas, we have a clear marketing strategy and I have my successor in place. They will enjoy managing the day to day turning of the wheel much more than I will so I am looking for a fresh challenge where I can create a significant benefit for the business.
Practice answering the interview question
It remains important to practice your answer to “Why did you leave your last job?” out loud, just like an actor would learning their lines. It may be better to learn the key points to include rather than learning word for word, so it come across as more natural.
Make sure that you use your words and story. By all means copy the structure of our answer.
Practice makes perfect as they say.
Make your answers structured, clear, credible, and relevant to get job offers