If you are preparing for an important job interview, one question that you should always be prepared to answer is why you left your previous job. This is a basic screening question that gives recruiters and hiring managers an idea of your personality and work ethic.
There are good reasons for leaving a job and there are bad reasons for leaving a job. Some reasons are beyond your control and others will look unfavorable on your application. If you want to impress the hiring manager with your answers, here are some pointers to keep in mind.
If you are struggling to land that all-important interview, read our article on how to write an email to the hiring manager.
Why Interviewers Want to Know Why You Left Your Previous Job:
Ideally, you should be applying for a new position while you are still at your current job. This will indicate to recruiters that you are seeking to improve your skills, experience, or salary. However, sometimes this is not possible, and you have to leave your job before you can apply for a new position at a different company.
Hiring managers and recruiters see this as a potential "red flag" and will want to know why you left. Most of the time, they are looking to find out if you were fired or if you quit because you simply got bored with your current position. Either way, an unfavorable answer could indicate that you are not trustworthy or will be a "flaky" employee.
Good Reasons For Leaving a Job:
You were laid off.
The outbreak of COVID 19 (coronavirus) has had a major impact on the global economy forcing thousands of businesses to conduct mass layoffs or face financial ruin.
Being laid off is something that is usually beyond your control and is not seen as unfavorable on a job application. If you have been laid off, be honest in your interview, and mention when and why you were laid off.
If you have been seriously ill, you may have had to leave your job to attend to your health issues. While some companies offer extended sick leave for special circumstances it is not always possible to retain your position if your illness extends too long. In an interview, simply mention that you had to leave to attend to serious health issues and that you have fully recovered.
There are many circumstances in which you may want to leave your job to attend to family issues.
- To provide full-time care for a seriously ill family member.
- You got married and moved out of state.
- Your partner got transferred to a different state.
- Your position requires you to travel too often.
- You decided not to return to work after maternity leave to be a full-time parent.
If you resigned for any of the above reasons, let the interviewer know why and for how long you were unemployed, and why you are looking to start a new job.
If there have been massive changes to your working environment or your position, you may have valid reasons for resigning from your job. While it is always best to apply for a job while you are working, some changes cannot be weathered. Valid reasons to leave include:
- You are being relocated to a different part of the country.
- Your company cannot afford to retain staff and your workload has increased beyond reasonable expectations.
- You are required to travel more often which is affecting your relationship or family life.
If you are considering changing careers completely, you may have to resign from your job to study full-time or develop the necessary skills for your new career. It is important to relay this information in an interview when explaining why you left your job.
Bad Reasons for Leaving a Job:
If you leave your job for any reason that could be rationally avoided, any future job application could suffer because of your decisions. Recruiters want to hire people who are level-headed and trustworthy.
You were fired.
If you were fired from your last job, you were responsible for the termination of your position. This is not something recruiters want to see on a job application or hear in an interview. Whatever the reason for your dismissal, you should always be honest in an interview and explain why you were terminated. In most cases, recruiters will contact your former company for a character reference and to verify your employment history.
If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated, read our article on wrongful termination.
You were arrested.
While every company is different, many employment contracts can be terminated if the employee is arrested. If you were terminated because of an arrest, this will be a major "red flag" on your job application. Again, it is important to be honest about why you were terminated.
Many companies also conduct criminal record checks when you apply for a job which is another reason to be upfront about your history.
You were bored with your work.
If you quit your job because you were bored with your work, hiring managers will infer that you may do the same if they were to hire you. Boredom is a sign of stagnation which can be avoided by looking for ways to improve your skills, taking on more responsibility, and creating new business ideas for your department.
You didn't like your boss.
A recent survey indicated that at least 76% of workers don't like their boss. Your boss has a role to play and the responsibility of driving productivity. If you quit because you don't like your boss, you may come across as "flaky" and unable to handle stressful situations.
You didn't want to work overtime.
Most companies have overtime policies requiring employees to work after hours if necessary. If you quit because you didn't want to work overtime, recruiters will infer that you avoid hard work and will look for someone else to fill the role.
Office politics exist in almost every workplace. While unpleasant, workplace politics is not something that can be easily avoided and is certainly not worth leaving your job over. If you have an issue at work, speak to your HR representative, or approach your manager about a solution.
If you quit because you didn't like office politics, you may find it hard to land a new job. Recruiters look for candidates that put the work first.
You didn't want to do additional skills courses.
Many companies require their employees to complete mandatory skills courses and educational training programs throughout their time at the company. This ensures that the workforce stays up to date with the latest information, trends, and technology. If you leave your job because you didn't want to do additional training courses, recruiters may infer that you are lazy or that you are not interested in advancing your career.
What to Say in a Job Interview:
When you are asked about why you left your previous job, always be honest with your answers. Provide straightforward answers that are easy to understand and avoid going into too much detail.
By the time you have been asked to come in for an interview, the company will have done a thorough background check on your employment history and references. In some cases, a criminal record check will also have been done. Make sure you have given the interviewers the correct information that does not contradict their research.
What are good reasons for leaving your job?
- To attend to serious health issues.
- If you or your partner are transferred to a different city.
- You get married and move out of state.
- You decide to be a full-time parent after taking maternity leave.
- Your company is forcing you to relocate.
- You want to change your career.
What are bad reasons to leave your job?
- You are bored at work.
- You don't like your boss.
- You are frustrated with office politics.
- You don't want to work overtime.
- You don't want to do mandatory skills courses or training programs.
Should you tell an interviewer why you left your job?
Yes, always be honest in a job interview. Explain why you left your previous job in a way that is rational and easily understandable.
How do you explain why you left your previous job?
If you left your previous job for suitable reasons, explain the circumstances to the interviewer as clearly and simply as possible.