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20 Best Answers to “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job”

By Biron Clark


One of the most common interview questions you’ll face: “Why did you leave your last job?” Maybe you left under odd circumstances and don’t want to share the whole truth. But you’re not sure what to say instead. Or maybe you think you’ve got a pretty solid reason for why you left your last job, but you want to make sure. Either way, this list has you covered.

I’m going to share 20 safe, proven answers you can give when the interviewer asks “why did you leave your last job?”

Why Employers Ask This Question

When employers ask why you left your last job, they’re asking a legitimate question that helps them determine whether you’re a good fit for their open role. They want to ensure that hiring you won’t waste their time and efforts. Hiring managers seek to learn three things when they ask this question:

First, they want to understand whether the reason you left could apply to their organization. For instance, if you left because you didn’t feel challenged, there’s a chance the same feeling may crop up again in the new role. 

Second, the hiring manager wants to know whether your prior employer fired you. If you were fired, be prepared to answer why, as this can be a red flag to recruiters.

Finally, they want to understand what keeps you interested in a role. For instance, if you left because your last job didn’t allow you to showcase your creative skills, the company’s open role as a marketer may be what you’re looking for. 

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How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

While talking about your last position may feel uncomfortable, expect it to come up in an interview. Recruiters want to understand their candidates as much as possible before hiring them. 

Be clear and concise 

Before your interview, list the reasons you left your last job. For example, you might have felt that the role didn’t give you upward mobility or didn’t allow you a chance to use your skills. Make sure your answer is clear and concise. There’s no need to be overly specific.

Don’t badmouth

You should be very careful not to speak about your previous management team in a negative light. Speaking adversely about your employer can get back to them, and it reflects poorly on you. If you left your employer under unfavorable circumstances, find a way to put a positive spin on it. 

Be honest

Finally, keep your answer brief and honest. Recruiters interview many people and can usually spot when someone isn’t being truthful. To avoid future negative ramifications, be on the safe side and keep your answer tactful but candid.

20 Best Answers to “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Here are 20 safe, acceptable answers for why you left a past job. If you give one of these reasons, the interviewer is likely to be satisfied and quickly move on to the next question. After the list, make sure you keep reading because there are 5 big mistakes to avoid when answering this question.

1. “I had been with the organization for several years and wanted to experience a new environment to continue growing.”

Most people who advance far in their careers have worked in a variety of companies. Large, small, public, private, etc. No hiring manager will fault you for wanting to have well-rounded experience and gain a new perspective in your career.

2. “I was offered a promotion at another company.”

Your past employers can’t always offer the ideal next step for your career when you’re ready. Leaving to advance your career is a common reason and this won’t be the first time the interviewer has heard it. So if another company offered a promotion, just say so.

3. “I left for an opportunity to advance my career.”

Maybe you didn’t receive a promotion in terms of job title, but you saw a better path forward at another company. Or you joined a new company for an opportunity to build a new skill that was important to you. It’s fine to change jobs if you feel it will help you advance in the future even if it’s not an immediate promotion. So you should be fine using this as your answer.

4. “I was offered a significant pay increase.”

We all go to work for money. Companies get it. I’d try to combine this with another reason though, so that you don’t sound too focused on money. So you could say something like this: “I was offered a significant pay increase, and was also excited about a couple of product launches that this new company was working on, so it seemed like a great opportunity to take.”

5. “I left to work on a product I was very passionate about.”

Sometimes an amazing opportunity comes up that matches perfectly with your interests. Nobody will blame you for leaving to pursue something like this. It’s a perfectly good reason for why you left your last job. In fact, it’s a good reason even if you “job hopped” and left very soon after being hired. While job hopping never looks great, this is one of the reasons that an interviewer will understand.

6. “A former boss or colleague recruited me to join their company.”

Maybe you had a great boss who left to start a company. She called you a year later and said they could really use a great salesperson like you to round out the team, so you went over and joined her. That’s a great reason for why you left your job. It’s pretty common in some industries, and it shows that your former boss thought very highly of you.

7. “My department brought in a new manager and I felt it was the right time to leave.”

Things change. A job you used to love could turn not-so-good, and one of the most common reasons is a new director or manager is brought in to replace your old boss. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit, so you decided to leave. If you use this answer, don’t badmouth the new management, just say that things changed and you didn’t feel as excited about the job under new management, so you decided to look elsewhere for the next step in your career.

8. “I was hired for a certain role, but over time that changed and I was no longer being given the opportunity to do the work I was interested in.”

Jobs change. Or sometimes you’re hired for a job and what they ask you to do ends up being nothing like the job description (unfortunately this happens a lot). This is a fine reason for why you left your last job. This is a very convincing and acceptable answer, even if you left the position very soon after being hired. It makes sense right? You’d leave pretty quickly if the job ended up being completely different than what the company had promised.

9. “I was no longer finding the work fulfilling or enjoying my work as much.”

If you stayed a few years but left because you didn’t find the work meaningful or enjoyable, that’s fine. Just make sure to show this new company that they’re different, or that they offer something you do enjoy. If they think you’ll find their work boring too, they’re not going to hire you.

10. “I had been with this company for many years and learned a lot, but felt ready for a change.”

If you had been at your last job for a few years or more, there’s nothing wrong with just saying you felt ready to move on. Maybe you learned almost everything you could, or just wanted to try something new next. Those are good reasons for leaving if you’ve spent a long time with one company.

11. “I reevaluated my career goals and decided a change was needed.”

Goals and objectives change. And if your company doesn’t offer something that fits with your new goals, it’s fine to leave. There’s nothing wrong with this answer for why you left your last job. Just make sure to show the interviewer that you know what you want in your career now. And show them how their job fits into your goals. If not, they’ll be worried that you might change your mind after they hire you.

12. “I went back to school to pursue a Master’s Degree (or Ph.D., etc.)”

This happens all the time. It’s very common and you shouldn’t feel any anxiety about giving an answer like this for why you left your last job.

13. “I didn’t feel there was an opportunity to grow or advance further in that role so I decided a change would be best for my career.”

If your company was holding you back, or if you were stuck under a “glass ceiling”, this is a nice way to say it in the interview without sounding too negative.

14. “I wanted to take on new responsibilities that this role and company couldn’t offer.”

You mastered the basics of the job and wanted to lead people, projects, etc. And the company couldn’t offer it, so you had to make a change. Totally fine. The interviewer will understand. And you’ll sound ambitious and motivated which is great.

15. “I didn’t feel the job was using my abilities to the fullest or challenging me enough.”

If you’re bored or not being challenged, it’s hard to stay motivated and focused on your career and your work. So there’s no problem with giving this as your reason for leaving your last job. Just make sure you don’t sound spoiled or negative or ungrateful when you say this. Don’t make it sound like the job wasn’t worthy of you, or anything like that. Just explain that you felt you were capable of more and wanted a greater challenge. Or mention a specific skill of yours that wasn’t being utilized. Maybe you’re a great salesperson but they had you doing customer service. You’d sound great mentioning this if you were interviewing for a sales job, because it shows you really want to do sales.

16. “I resigned from my last job to take care of a family issue. The issue is resolved so I can work full-time again without issues.”

You don’t have to go into a ton of detail. Just keep it simple. Make sure you tell them that the issue is resolved though, so they don’t worry whether you’ll have to resign again. If you do want to share a bit more information, that’s fine. As a recruiter, I’ve talked to a few job seekers who had to take time off to care for an elderly parent or relative. So that’s one common story I hear, and it’s completely normal.

17. “I took a position with a company that was closer to my home.”

Just like salary (mentioned earlier), I’d recommend you combine this with another reason. Here’s an example: “I took a position with a company that was closer to my home that also offered an opportunity to lead a couple of big projects right away.”

18. “I left my last job to take time to start a family.”

You can share as much or as little detail as you’d like with this answer. I’d keep it simple though.

19. “My position was eliminated and I was laid off.”

Layoffs happen. This is one area you want to be specific in your answer though and share details. Were you laid off due to financial struggles? Did your job get outsourced overseas? Did the entire department shut down? Did the company go out of business? etc.

20. “I was fired.”

If you were fired, I recommend you tell the truth and come clean. It’s not worth lying and getting caught later when they check references. Even if you get hired, if they ever find out you lied, it’s grounds for termination. Make sure you NEVER badmouth your former employer though, and try to take responsibility for what happened. Show the interviewer what you learned and what steps you’ve taken to ensure this never happens again.

Here are examples of how to explain being fired.

Tips and Mistakes to Avoid When Answering Why You Left a Job:

Now you know 20 good answers that you can give when the interviewer asks, “why did you leave your last job?” However, there are a couple of more tips you should know, and mistakes to avoid when answering. So here are my top tips and mistakes when you explain your reasons for leaving a job in the past. If you follow these rules, you’ll avoid most of the things interviewers hate to hear in response to this type of question.

1. Never badmouth, especially if you were fired.

I mentioned this above but it’s worth saying again. Take responsibility, and don’t sound bitter or angry about the past. As soon as you badmouth, the interviewer will start to wonder what your employer would say. They’ll want the other side of the story. If you take responsibility and sound like you accept what happened, you’ll avoid all that.

2. Don’t say you had a fight with a coworker, and definitely don’t try to then blame them for it.

It’s okay if you were fired or had a professional disagreement. But if you say you couldn’t get along with somebody on a personal level… all the hiring manager will be thinking is, “how do I know this isn’t just going to happen again if I hire you for my team?”

3. Don’t make it sound like money is the only thing you care about.

If you skipped it, you can scroll up and check out the section about what to say if you left your last job for a higher salary. It’s one of the 20 reasons above but you need to do it the right way.

4. Don’t sound impulsive or scattered in terms of what you want in your career.

You need to show the interviewer that you’re focused and ready to come in and help them if they hire you! Regardless of what happened in the past. You can’t seem unsure of what you want, or undecided even if you pivoted your career recently.

5. Don’t be vague.

Especially if you were fired or laid off, try to be as clear and direct in your answer as possible. Don’t use vague words like “I was let go.” This will make the interviewer suspicious and open up a ton of possible follow-up questions. Say the words you mean (“I was fired”). You’ll get through it much faster… while building trust instead of suspicion.

6. Always be upfront and take responsibility.

Answering “why did you leave your last job?” when you were fired or had trouble getting along with your boss can be tough. And you don’t need to say, “everything was my fault,” but the interviewer also doesn’t want to hear, “nothing was my fault.” It’s about finding a balance and showing you’re responsible for your actions and you try to learn from experiences like this. If you seem stubborn or unwilling to learn from the past, you’ll struggle to get a job.

7. Don’t rush to bring it up if they don’t ask.

Don’t feel pressure to explain why you left previous jobs unless you’re asked. If it fits naturally into the conversation, that’s fine. But don’t walk into the interview and feel like you need to explain everything immediately. If they care, they’ll ask. One way you can naturally work this into the conversation is by explaining the key career moves you’ve made when answering “tell me about yourself.” Since this is one of the first interview questions employers typically ask, it’s an opportunity to not only walk them through some accomplishments and professional achievements, but also the big career moves you’ve made and the reasons for those moves. But if you aren’t comfortable doing that, or the employer doesn’t ask you that question, it’s best to just wait for them to ask why you left your last job.

8. Practice your answer so you do not hesitate. Delivery is key!

After you have a reason for why you left your last job that you’re comfortable sharing in an interview, make sure to practice a few times. I’d recommend recording yourself talking on your smartphone voice recorder app (every modern phone has one). You don’t have to memorize your interview answer word-for-word. Just make sure you sound confident and relaxed and are hitting the key points that you want to mention as you explain why you left your previous job.  Those are the dos and don’ts of answering “why did you leave your last job?” in any interview.

Pick one of the acceptable answers above for why you left your last job, avoid the mistakes we just covered, and you’re going to impress the interviewer and quickly and easily move on to the next question in your interview.

Biron Clark

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30 thoughts on “20 Best Answers to “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job””

  1. How can you say “I was offered a better position” or something along those lines if they’re asking you about your last job at an interview for your next job? You wouldn’t be interviewing if that was true.

    • Sometimes a recruiter or employer will ask you to walk them through the reasons you left multiple past jobs, in order, which is why I included this.

      Also, if you’re currently employed while job searching, then this answer could make sense in that case, too.

  2. Well, personally I do answer these questions honestly as I always have a valid reason for quitting my job. It’s not just salary and benefits for which you switch but the working environment and the boss behavior with you.

  3. I was let go from my last job, a coworker from day one of the 12years didnt like me as I out shined her and she was threatened by me, she constantly turned new people against me and then would complain to our manager about me, I have no idea how to make this not seem petty and that I cant get along with coworker. Need help

    • Hi Sheila,

      I wouldn’t mention this story or coworker at all. There’s no way to make it sound good in my opinion. If you want to be direct/upfront and say you were let go, the discussion should be about you and your manager, and what you’ve learned and what you’ll do differently next time. But I don’t think talking about that other coworker will help much. It’s a difficult situation to explain but that’s my opinion.

  4. Hi everyone! I resigned from my previous work because my earnings were not enough for my expenses. Especially since I was planning to enroll myself to college again and I needed to save more for me to be able to go back to school. How do I explain this to the interviewer without coming off as too focused on my salary?

  5. Hello,

    I recently left my previous employer to due culture of leadership and company. My previous employer was not competitive in the job market. I.E. There were no increase in salaries and/or promotion or advancements. I recently took a position that allowed me to use my educational training and skills. Upon taking this position I forfeited health insurance, retirement benefits and a salary decease. My previous employer now has merged with another organization and has significant changes. If you would please assist me with working this appropriately.

  6. I left my last job due to political reasons – new people were elected and it was on their agenda to get rid of me. I was not asked to resign, I was told, “or else”. Because I had a political appointment and the statute said that I could not be removed without cause, I said, “or else what?” To which the Board then de-funded the position and claimed they didn’t have the funds to pay for the state mandated position. And then said that I had mismanaged grant funds (which I did NOT do). So, I sued them for wrongful termination. To make a long story much shorter, I lost the case, but cleared my name. Shortly after I left the state to help take care of a couple of my parents acute health issues, and haven’t been able to find employment since then in my field. I’m struggling with how to explain this succinctly without sounding bitter in job interviews. An interesting side note is that the person they hired to replace me lasted a little over a year and sued them for a hostile work environment. Willing to take suggestions! Please!?!

  7. I understand to be honest. I have worked over 40 years, 20 in Management and have never been fired from a job. I was fired because they say that I did not give clear direction to my employees when that is simply not true. I have been a manager for other companies and never had that compliant from my boss. The store manager is not managing his store correctly and they do not follow up with the documentation that we as mini managers were required to provide when an employees performance is good or bad. It is hard to get a job done when your staff continues to abuse the system provided from the company. When they are counseled and then documented for several occurrences of attendance or whatever the issue maybe, the upper management does not follow thru. Why would they stop when nothing ever happens to them .

  8. What if you were the only white person in a spanish run company and they were prejudice against you every day, even some co workers harrassing you and bullying you? supervisor. spanish. 90% of my co workers, spanish. lead was also spanish. they didnt like i didnt speak spanish and couldnt recollect with them. i would also get bad reviews for not “communicating with others”

  9. My last job is good but there are no proper hikes. Suddenly, I saw job-related to my profile on jobads site. I attended for interview and got selected.

  10. I quit my last job because i had an accident after work where i sprained my thumb and i was n o t able to do the job

    • Perfect, that’s exactly what I’d do when preparing to answer this question. Pick one reason, get comfortable explaining it, and stick to it. Good luck!

  11. I left my last job for personal reason. I had health issues and was going through a toxic marriage, had taken money from the job and paid it back. My question is how do I explain to new employers with out sounding too vague. It is an embarrassing situation but my life is in a better place. Looking for advice.

    • Hi Rochelle,

      Tell them you had a health issue and weren’t able to work for a period of time. And that it has been resolved and is no longer a factor.

  12. I wonder what would happen to people, let alone society, if everyone would be encouraged to be honest? Instead of relying on articles telling you what to say, when and how to say it, otherwise you will be crucified and prosecuted, just say things the way they happened. Period.

    Shitty bosses do exist. Why do you think there are so many articles on Forbes, US News & World Report, The Atlantic, LinkedIn, Psychology Today, etc about bullying bosses? Is that a coincidence?

    There is an expression: “The U.S. is the greatest country in the planet!” Well, do you have any statistics on how many people in the U.S. have (or had) some form of therapy? Do you have any statistics on how many people in the U.S. taking medications for anxiety? Here’s my question. If the U.S. is such a great country, how come so many people need therapy and anxiety pills? Isn’t that an oxymoron? What do you think happens, when an individual with such issues obtains an MBA, and now that the person has an advanced degree, is asked to manage a department!? Can you spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r!?

    So stop writing articles that telling the truth is a “mistake”. When and if you left your job for a better opportunity, sure, everyone gets that. And in such a case you don’t need to write an article about how to explain why you left. But when you left your job due to incompetence, arrogance, bullying, berating, humiliating, that should be spelled out and place it on the shoulder of the person who did it, not to mention asking the company in question, who come they didn’t do anything about it?

    Incompetent, arrogant, sick bullies mascarading as managers and directors are an epidemic in the United States. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT as opposed to just shoving it under the rug.

  13. I was recently let go from my job after almost 10 years. I was given a severance package as part of a separation agreement so I am not sure how to respond to this answer. If signed I can say that I resigned from the position and use them as a reference where they will say that I am eligible for rehire. So what is the best response about why I left my last position do you suggest.

    • You strike me as a person who is scared to stand up for herself. You did not say anything about why you were let go of your job, yet you are asking how you should explain why you left. Without explaining why you have left, how could anyone give you an advice? Obviously you are full of common sense and brain power.

  14. Hey
    I graduated last year as a chemical engineer. I joined one the biggest energy firms as a process engineer . But very soon i realized that i have interests in finance and economics and i am good at it. Moreover i had a startup idea in my mind on which i wanted to work. So after 10 months i resigned and came back home. Presently i am working on the start up but it has not been set up yet. moreover i have some interviews coming up for the admission to masters in management courses of reputed schools of europe. So how should i frame my answer when asked why i left my job.

  15. I left my last position due to a growing negative environment. This really WAS an instance in which the job started fine then more and more responsibilities were piled on and I was not given the tools to excel in any of the areas I was responsible for. Eventually my manager grew increasingly condescending and negative toward me. I finally had to leave. How can I possibly turn a totally negative environment into a positive response that will not say ANYTHING negative about this employer? Everybody knows these employers exist and most people (including the person interviewing you) at one time or another had a job that just wore them down to the point of quitting. Why does our culture insist on false positivity?

    • Really good question David!

      You can mention it briefly. Just don’t dwell on it or get specific unless they ask. People get into trouble when the spend 2 minutes explaining why their last work environment was awful (I’m not joking, I’ve seen people spend 2 full minutes on this).

      I’d say something like this: “After I took the position, the work culture slowly shifted, and I didn’t feel it was a very positive environment to grow my career in…”

      And then you can get into what you’re looking for now, what type of boss you’d love to work with, etc.

      Does this help?

    • Biron,

      Thanks for the advice. I’ve spent hours researching this online and I think I can come up with a concise answer. I still have trouble with the correct wording, but as my “greatest weakness” response is that I am socially awkward, I am hopeful that the interviewer will recognize that I have difficulty in articulating the answer to the “why I left my last position”. My skills are solid and my dedication to helping the employer improve their bottom line is just as solid. I know there are also GOOD companies to work for and eventually I will find the correct fit. I don’t want to take yet another job I know I will be unhappy at. Thanks again.

    • Hey David-

      What type of job are you interviewing for? If you’re going to say your weakness is being socially awkward, just make sure it’s not a job where you’ll need to be good in social situations. (If you say this when interviewing for a job like customer service, you will not get hired.)

    • Ideally I would like to be in any clerical/administrative position where exacting attention to detail is required. Later today I will be interviewing for a production coordinator position but the employer added Customer Service as a side function….so I will not use the socially awkward weakness. It’s not that I CAN’T function well in a one-on-one situation as in a customer service position, I don’t like social gatherings such as parties or going to concerts or anywhere there will be crowds of people.

      I have read that using the “tend to be a perfectionist” weakness is also acceptable in positions where attention to detail is imperative, but usually the general reaction to perfectionists is people think I am too picky and won’t want to employ me. Any advice on how to use that weakness effectively in an interview situation? I can add that it is a weakness that I have made great progress in overcoming. I’m not like a total OCD perfectionist, I just like to make sure that when I do something I do it correctly the first time without mistakes.

    • Hi, I just want to know how should I say that the reason why I leave is because I just got conflict with my co workers, or like toxic in a workplace. How should I say that with out make feel them bad. Thank you.

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