Interview Questions

Comprehensive Interview Guide: 60+ Professions Explored in Detail

Read More

“Why Did You Leave Your Last Job” 10 Answers From Industry Professionals

By Biron Clark

Published:

One of the most common interview questions you’ll face is, “Why did you leave your last job?”

Maybe you left under unusual circumstances and aren’t sure how much to share. Or maybe you think your reason is solid, but you want to double-check its effectiveness. Either way, I’ve got you covered. 

As a recruiter who has guided many through this question, I’m going to share 10 safe, proven answers you can use when your interviewer asks this inevitable question.

Highlights
  • Explain your reasons for leaving your last job in a way that highlights personal growth and readiness for new opportunities.
  • Shape your explanation to underscore how your skills and experiences make you a suitable candidate for the position you’re applying for.
  • Use a voice recorder to practice your response, ensuring it sounds confident and hits all the key points you want to convey.
  • If you left under difficult circumstances, focus on your proactive steps towards personal and professional development since then.

Why Do Employers Ask “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

From my experience as a recruiter, hiring managers seek to learn three things when they ask this question:

First, they want to determine whether you’re a good fit for their role and if you would integrate well within the company culture and team. They want to ensure that hiring you won’t waste their time and efforts. 

Second, 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. They want to determine if your reasons for leaving align with what their company can offer.

Finally, the hiring manager wants to know whether your prior employer fired you. This helps gauge your stability and reliability as an employee. If you were fired, be prepared to answer why, as this can be a red flag to recruiters.  

EXPERT ADVICE

Dr. Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES
Tech & Interview Career Coach
caffeinatedkyle.com

What are the key points to communicate when asked why I left my last job?

Prospective employers often ask why you left your last role, because they are looking for potential red flags in candidates. The key here is to answer honestly and alleviate their worries that you might be a potential flight risk without going into unnecessary details. 

If you left a company because of a layoff, you could explain that you were part of a reduction in force, along with XX% of colleagues, and then pivot toward why you’re drawn to this future company.

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.

1. Prepare in Advance

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.

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. 

2. 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, frame your answer in a positive light, focusing on what you gained from the experience rather than any negative aspects (more about this in the section below).If you seem stubborn or unwilling to learn from the past, you’ll struggle to get a job.

3. 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.

PRO TIP

Tailor your answer to the company’s values. For example, if they value innovation, mention a past departure due to limited opportunities for new ideas. This shows you align with their goals and can adapt to their culture.

How To Discuss Leaving a Job Due To Difficult Circumstances

If you left your previous job under difficult circumstances, focus your response on how you’ve overcome adversity and are ready for a new challenge. Here’s how you can structure your response:

Framing the Situation:

  • Start with context: Briefly explain the situation, like layoffs or a company closure. You can say something like, “Unfortunately, my previous company [briefly describe the situation, e.g., underwent restructuring / downsized / closed its doors].”
  • Focus on your achievements: Shift the focus to your contributions and accomplishments in the past role. Briefly highlight a project, achievement, or skill you honed that’s relevant to the new opportunity.

Highlighting Your Adaptability:

  • Show initiative: “While these circumstances were unforeseen, I took the initiative to…” Mention any steps you took to adapt, like upskilling yourself, networking within the industry, or attending relevant workshops.
  • Maintain a positive tone: Emphasize your proactive approach to this situation.

Positioning Yourself for the Future:

  • Connect the dots: “This experience has allowed me to develop my [relevant skill] and focus on my strengths in [mention your strengths]. I’m confident these skills will be valuable in contributing to [mention the company/position you’re applying for].”
  • Express enthusiasm: Show your eagerness for new challenges. You can say, “I’m excited about the opportunity to [mention something specific about the new role] and contribute to [company’s goals].”

By framing your experience this way, you demonstrate your ability to overcome challenges, adapt to change, and actively pursue professional growth. This showcases valuable qualities to potential employers.

Amanda Augustine, CPCC, CPRW, elaborates on this by stating:

“Frame your reason for leaving in a positive light. Focus on what you’re looking for in a new opportunity, rather than dwelling on negatives at your old job.” 

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

Here are 10 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.

1. You Were Laid Off

“Unfortunately, due to company restructuring, my position was eliminated along with several others. It was a difficult situation, but I’m grateful for the experience and the opportunity to explore new possibilities. I believe that the skills I developed in programming languages and statistical analysis will help me thrive in this role.”

2.  You Were Fired

“In my previous role, there were some sales performance expectations that unfortunately weren’t a good fit for my skill set. It was a difficult situation, but I took it as a learning experience. I reflected on areas where I could improve and used the time to seek sales training and mentorship. This experience helped me identify how I could better communicate in a work environment. I’m confident that with my skills and the clear communication style I’ve developed, I can be a valuable asset to your team.”

Related Article: Here are other examples of how to explain being fired.

3. Your Old Job Didn’t Challenge You

“I found that my previous role didn’t offer the level of challenge and growth opportunities I was seeking. I’m someone who thrives on being challenged, and I felt I had reached a plateau in my previous position. I’m excited about the prospect of joining a team where I can push myself and contribute meaningfully. I think your company will provide the kind of dynamic environment where I can continue to learn and grow.”

4. Sought Personal Growth or Career Advancement

“I left my previous job because I was eager to take on more responsibilities and advance in my career. I felt that I had accomplished what I could in my role and wanted to seek new challenges and opportunities for growth. I’m particularly drawn to this position because it offers the chance to lead and manage a team. I’m confident I can leverage my experience to empower and motivate others.”

5. Personal Reasons

“I left my previous job because I took a break from the workforce to care for my family. I’m now eager to return to work and feel this position offers the chance to contribute my expertise in client communication and data analysis. During my time away, I also honed my skills in digital marketing through online courses and freelance projects, which I believe would be valuable to your team.”

6. Transitioned to Entrepreneurship or Freelancing

“I made the decision to leave my previous job because I was eager to take on the challenge of freelancing. I felt passionate about graphic design and wanted the freedom to build something of my own. While I appreciated the stability of the role, the chance to showcase my creativity and work with a diverse range of clients was incredibly appealing. I’m particularly drawn to this position because it offers the chance to collaborate with a dynamic team on exciting international design projects.”

7. Completion of a Milestone or Project

“I left my previous job because I had successfully completed a major project, which involved leading the development of a mobile application from concept to launch. While I’m proud of my accomplishments there, I’m now eager to take on new challenges. I’m drawn to this role because it offers the chance to lead a cross-functional team in developing innovative software solutions that directly impact customer satisfaction.”

8. Sought a Better Cultural Fit

“While I respected the mission and goals of my previous company, I decided to seek a work environment where I felt more in sync with the team. From my research and conversations, I’m impressed by the culture you’ve cultivated here, particularly your emphasis on innovation. I believe I would thrive in this collaborative and supportive environment and contribute positively to your team dynamics.”

9. Relocation

“I made the decision to leave my previous job due to a relocation to be closer to family. While I valued my time with my previous company and the experiences gained, I’m excited about the opportunity to bring my expertise to your team, and I’m confident that my dedication to problem-solving and strategic thinking will make me a valuable asset.”

10. Pursued Further Education or Training

“I left my last job to pursue further education in sustainable engineering. I believe in the importance of continuous learning and wanted to enhance my skills and knowledge to better contribute to future roles. I’m particularly drawn to this position because it offers the opportunity to apply the new skills and insights I’ve gained.”

What Not to Say as a Reason for Leaving a Job

Now you know 10 good answers that you can give when the interviewer asks, “Why did you leave your last job?”

Here are some examples of what not to say when you explain your reasons for leaving your previous job:

  • “I got tired of doing the same boring tasks every day, so I decided to leave.”
  • “I was forced to leave because my supervisor didn’t appreciate my hard work.”
  • “I had a conflict with a coworker that made it impossible for me to stay.”
  • “I left because they refused to give me the raise I deserved.”
  • “I was let go because I made too many mistakes and couldn’t keep up with the workload.”
  • “There were some issues at my previous job, but I’d rather not go into detail.”

Take inspiration from one of the 10 acceptable answers above for why you left your last job, avoid the bad responses 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

About the Author

Read more articles by Biron Clark


30 thoughts on ““Why Did You Leave Your Last Job” 10 Answers From Industry Professionals”

  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.

Comments are closed.