How to explain your reasons for leaving a job (and still get hired)

We show you how to answer one of the trickiest questions that might come up in your interview: Why did you leave your previous job?

It’s one of the most feared questions in an interview: Why did you leave your last job?
But it doesn’t have to be something to worry about. We’ll help you through that potential interview minefield and show you how you can not only answer the question, but also use it to your advantage. The interviewer might be seeing if they can trip you up. You’re going to show them you can smash through any obstacle.

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Why do interviewers ask why you left your last job?

An interviewer will want to know why you’re leaving (or have left) your previous role for a number of reasons.

Do you have a good reason for leaving your job?
If you left without good cause, or just because you were in a bad mood that day, your interviewer might doubt they can trust you and suspect you’ll do something similar to them.

Were you fired?
If so, your interviewer will want to know whether this was for bad performance, behavioral issues or something out of your control like a business restructure.

Did you burn any bridges?
If you still speak to your old manager, or better yet have them as a reference, it shows you were good at your job and didn’t leave by flipping your desk and smashing your computer.

Do your values match theirs?
If you left for ambitious reasons like a greater challenge or more responsibilities, that shows your values are good and can benefit your new employers. If you left because you were bored or felt underappreciated, you might need to word it in a smart way to show you’re not difficult to work with.

How do you explain your reasons for leaving a job?

There are three main reasons for leaving a job, and some of them are easier to explain than others.

1. You’re leaving for career progression

This reason is perhaps the one interviewers are happiest to hear. If you’re leaving your job to further your career, you can explain how your previous role has helped you develop the skills you need to take that next step, and how excited you are to show what you’re capable of in this new position.

It also plays into one of the key rules of a job interview: you’re looking to move into something better, not leave something bad.

This positive outlook shows you’re ambitious without bad mouthing any previous employer. It tells people that you’re confident and up for a challenge, ready to develop and learn new skills and capable of moving up, instead of sideways.

2. You left your last job with nowhere to go

This reason is a little tougher to talk about, but it can still be done in a positive way. Many people will leave their jobs with nowhere else lined up, and there could be several contributing factors as to why. You might not have fit into your old employer’s way of working, your values might not have aligned, or you might have left for personal reasons such as your family moving away.

Whatever it is, you can explain in a way that shows you in a good light:
• You knew you were capable of doing more than your old job allowed.
• You knew you would find something better with the skills you possess.
• You hold your values dearly and were unwilling to let them go for the sake of your work.

All these answers show you to be confident and capable. Even if the real reason you left is because your boss was driving you insane, you can say that you were looking for a better cultural fit where your strengths could be put to better use.

Don’t interview angry. Interview smart.

3. You were fired

Maybe the most challenging reason to explain in an interview is that you were fired. It’s happened to the best of us, and it’s never easy to show a sudden career change like that on your CV.

However, you can approach it creatively.

Being fired isn’t always a bad thing. It can take you out of a situation that wasn’t right for you and give you an opportunity to find somewhere you can thrive. Make sure you mention everything you learned at your old job, talking about how the experience helped you and showed you what you really wanted in your career.

Keep your answer positive. You were fired because the business and you were moving in different ways, and now you’re moving in a better direction.

10 GOOD reasons for leaving a job

Whatever your reason for leaving, there’s a way to make it work in your favor. Try using one of our examples the next time you interview for a role. You’ll see how easy it is to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive outcome.

Example 1. This job was too good to ignore

“It’s not so much about why I’m leaving my current role; it’s more that this is a role I couldn’t ignore. I’ve loved my time at <current company> and learned so much about <examples of what you’ve learned>, but now I’m ready to put those skills to use in a new challenge. When I saw this role, I knew now was the time for me to step up and prove what I was capable of.”

Why it works:
You show that you’re ambitious. You’ve studied the job posting and know you have what it takes to make it your own. You’re not bad-mouthing your former employers, and you are subtly praising your potential new ones.

Example 2. I’ve achieved all I can and I’m ready for a new challenge

“In my current role, I’ve achieved all that has been asked of me. I’ve won the business new work, earned them more money and hit all my KPIs. There’s nothing left for me to prove, and I’m ready to take on a new challenge. This role represents new opportunities for me to test myself, using the skills I’ve learned in my current job to step up to the plate and do even more.”

Why it works:
You show how much you’ve already done and how you’re ready to do even more. You might be bored at your current job, but you don’t say that. Instead you say you’re ready to push on and achieve great goals.

Example 3. I believe I can offer more to you than them

“I’ve enjoyed my time in my current role, but I believe the job description for this role better aligns with my skills and values. I’m capable of doing more than my current role requires, and this job would give me the room to grow.”

Why it works:
You demonstrate that you’re ready for the next step. You understand how your values match and how well you could work with the potential employer.

Example 4. The company was struggling

“Unfortunately, my old company lost one of its biggest clients and had to make structural changes. I was one of the last people in through the door, so I was also one of the first out. My former manager was sad to see me go, as they believed I would have been of huge benefit to the business in different circumstances.”

Why it works:
Your job loss was for business reasons, not personal ones. You’re still in touch with your former employer, which shows you build good relationships.

Example 5. Management changes

“A change in management meant my role was no longer best suited to my strengths. They brought in new people to deliver the kind of work they wanted. Ultimately, this taught me where my true passions lie, and when I saw your job ad I knew I could better express them here.”

Why it works:
You don’t sound negative or defensive. You explain the situation in a straightforward way.

Example 6. Relocation

“The business announced it would be merging with another company, meaning its head office would move to a new location. My family lives here, and I knew that leaving them behind wouldn’t be good for my professional or personal life. I chose to pursue a job I could thrive in closer to home.”

Why it works:
You care about your family and put your mental health before corporate restructures. This shows you have strong values.

Example 7. Our values are better aligned

“Looking at your website and the work you produce, I can see that our values are very closely aligned. My current company sees things in a different way than me, and I would love the chance to work somewhere I can be truly proud of.”

Why it works:
Values matter. Companies are more keen than ever to promote their beliefs and hire people who share them.

Example 8. Family reasons

“My partner was offered an exciting role in a new area, and I chose to move with them to support their career goals. Unfortunately this meant I could no longer work for my old company, so I am looking to bring all my knowledge and experience to a role in the area I now call home.”

Why it works:
Family comes first. This shows you’re loyal and committed, two traits any good employer would be happy to bring on board.

Example 9. It’s the right job at the right time

“I believe this role has come about at the perfect time for me. I’ve loved every second at my current company, but having worked there for a number of years, I know I need to step up in order to advance my career. I don’t want to wait around for the chance to come – I want to chase what I know is best for me.”

Why it works:
You’re not happy to sit and hope for the best. You’re pursuing the right job, which shows ambition and determination.

Example 10. You want better pay (but be careful)

“I’m motivated by achieving the best results for my clients, something I had a great track-record of doing at my previous role. I’m also motivated by career growth, and being compensated fairly for the work I do.”

Why it works:
We all want to be paid more money. This shows people that you are willing to work for it. However, make sure money isn’t the only thing you talk about. Hiring managers will want to see your passion for the job and a commitment to the cause. If money is your only motivation, it might look like you’d be willing to jump ship if a better offer came along.

How NOT to explain your reasons for leaving a job

There are a few reasons for leaving a job that an interviewer just doesn’t want to hear (no matter how true they might be). If any of these are why you left your job, it might be best not to mention them. Use a more positive reason such as career progression or a new challenge, and leave the manager hate behind.

Bad example #1: You hate your boss

Lots of us have worked for people we just don’t like, but that hatred will only hold you back at an interview. Instead, say you’re looking to work somewhere that better fits with your values. It’s the same thing, just done in a smarter way.

Bad example #2: You’re bored

If we were all being honest, boredom would be the reason behind many job switches. But saying it out loud is a lot worse than just thinking it. Instead, say you’re looking for an exciting new opportunity.

Bad example #3: You thought the company was rubbish

Worked somewhere terrible? Join the club. But it sounds a bit unprofessional to slam your old employers in an interview. You never know, the interviewer might have friends who work there, so don’t burn any bridges you might still need to cross.

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