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Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

By: Alyssa Evans

When asked in an interview, “Why did you leave your last job?” many employees aren’t sure how to answer, especially if their current job is negatively impacting them. Employers usually ask this question to assess the risk of hiring you, so it’s best to have a response prepared. 

Workers may worry their answer will affect the interview or even cost them the job. You shouldn’t succumb to these fears. This article will help you feel more confident and comfortable when discussing your job history and moving on from old roles.  

Stay Positive

Regardless of why you left your last job, it’s important to stay positive when questioned about your motives. Consider that more than 8 in 10 full-time American workers would quit their job because of a horrible boss. That said, bad-mouthing your old manager could lead the interviewer to believe you’ll talk poorly about the company if you ever leave. 

Rather than indulge in gossip, frame leaving your old job as an opportunity for growth or a way to pursue a new interest. If a situation from your old job arises, frame it in a non-accusatory light. 

Don’t Discuss Details

Keep your answer short and sweet. Stick to the facts of why you left and try not to talk for more than two minutes on the subject. The last thing your potential employer wants is a diatribe on why your last position was so horrible. Instead, turn the conversation back to why you’re excited about this new position. 

For example, if you’re a Realtor who wants to work at a flat-fee real estate company, don’t go into detail about why you hate the traditional brokerage model. Focus on what draws you to the flat-fee model, such as the possibility of earning more business.

Be Clear About Your Reasons

When asked “why did you leave your last job,” don’t beat around the bush. Be clear about your reasons for making the switch. Maybe you’re looking for more job security and want a recession-proof role. Or perhaps you want a more challenging position where you can better utilize your skills. Being concise will help you appear more confident while stumbling over the question could put your motivations into question.

Avoid Talking About Personal Problems

There are numerous reasons why employees leave their old positions, and some of those reasons may be personal. Perhaps you got a comparative market analysis and realized you could make a nice profit by selling your home and moving to a less expensive part of the country. If you moved to a new city, you may have had to resign because of a lack of remote work opportunities at your old company. Or maybe you got married and are looking for a role that better matches your new lifestyle. Although these reasons may be true, it’s best to focus on professional reasons for switching companies, such as wanting a role with more flexibility or greater responsibility.

Highlight Your Experience 

When applying for a new role, explain the responsibilities you had at your old job and how they apply to the position you’re pursuing. Make sure the responsibilities you highlight actually align with the job you’re applying for. Perhaps you learned a new skill at your old job and want to apply that knowledge to a position that better suits your desired career path. 

Additionally, highlight your knowledge of the industry. If you’re a real estate agent, you might discuss challenges clients face in the current market and how you helped them overcome those obstacles. For example, if your clients had multiple offers rejected, explain how you directed them to a finance company like Homeward that helped them pay with cash to make their offer more attractive. You’ll make an even stronger impression if you can offer some real-life examples of success.

Be Honest If You Were Laid Off or Let Go

If you were laid off, explain the circumstances under which you left. Perhaps you were impacted by the company’s restructuring plan or your position was eliminated because of budget cuts. 

If you were fired, when asked “why did you leave your last job,” explain how you and your previous employer had different expectations and how you’ll apply the lessons you learned to your new position. The interviewer may call your old employer, so offer a truthful explanation about why you were let go.

What you shouldn’t do is be ashamed or embarrassed about your past. Take a straightforward approach and confidently explain the situation, always bringing the conversation back to why you’re excited to pursue the new role you’re applying for.

The interview process can be stressful, and being questioned about your old job can be distressing. If you’re still nervous about interviewing, consider working with a friend or a career coach on mock interviews.

Other useful articles:

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12 Tips for Before, During & After a Phone Interview

The Definitive Guide to Career Job Searching for Every Moms