Quitting an old job is hard and most times unpleasant but being asked why you left in an interview is even more challenging. I mean, how do you explain that you were fired and in a messy situation?
When recruiters ask why you left your last job, it’s almost as if they are setting you up to fail. This is where a lot of interviewers go off the mark and destroy their chances. So why do recruiters ask why you left your last job? Well, there are so many reasons, and we’ll look at those shortly, but first, preparing for this question ahead of time will help you.
The “why did you leave your last job?” question is typical for non-entry level job interviews. Recruiters would want to know why you’re available for employment, and it is in your best interest to give a suitable answer that’ll not hamper your chances of landing the job.
Jobs end for a multitude of reasons, sometimes because you wanted to quit or you had to. Either way, it is not an easy thing to do. This is why you may get overwhelmed when asked: “why you left your last job” and fluff your chances of getting the new job, don’t let this put you off; the uncertainty is relatively standard, but with some preparation, you can set yourself up for success by answering this question the best way, which you will learn in this guide.
This is why this article is essential; it focuses on the popular interview question – why did you leave your last job? You’ll see how to answer the question and sample answers you can tweak to develop a robust, relatable response you can use. Bear in mind that the question may not always come this way. The recruiter may use other variations which may require almost the same answer from you. Some of the popular variations to the question are:
- Reasons for leaving your last job?
- Why did you quit your previous job?
- Why are you looking for another job?
- Why were you fired?
Why do Recruiters ask this Question?
As mentioned earlier, it feels like recruiters are setting you up to fail by asking why you left your last job, but this is not the case; recruiters want to know specific details that will help them make a more informed decision. With this in mind, here are some reasons recruiters ask why you left your last job:
1. They Want to Know if You Were Fired or You Left Voluntarily?
This may seem unimportant, but it is a vital piece of information in the employment scene. Recruiters want to know this information as it helps them decode how you left your last job.
Were you fired? Employers want to know if it was performance-related or other circumstances like when a company is downsizing or underwent a merger. If you left on your own, they also want to know if the reasons are justified.
2. They Want to Know if You Left for the Right Reasons
Here they get a peek into your thought process and what you may bring if hired. Employers want to know the reasons why you left so they can see if you’re dependable and loyal or just another person chasing after the next shiny job.
Asking why you left your last job can be a good way for recruiters to analyse your values. Did you go because you felt underutilised or undervalued? Maybe you were offered a new job, or you just woke up and decided to chase a pet project of yours.
3. They Want to Know the Circumstances on Which you left
How professional are you even in difficult situations? The question will reveal your professionalism and how you handled leaving your last job. Did you go most professionally or made enemies on your way out?
What is your current relationship with your last boss? Did you leave with their blessing, or do they have an outstanding court case against you?
4. They Want to Know Whether You’re Running Away or Chasing a New Opportunity
There’s a fine line between the two, and you may unconsciously place yourself as someone running away from a job. Recruiters want to know if you left because you were chasing a new opportunity to grow or you couldn’t handle the job requirements.
This will let them know if you would bulk under pressure and also show them your goals and if they align with that of the company.
How to Prepare Acceptable yet Truthful Answers to Why You Left a Job?
Preparing yourself to answer this often uncomfortable question will help remove the uncertainty and instil confidence in you. It will also help you avoid statements that can spoil your chances of getting the job. Remember, you want to provide an acceptable answer but remain truthful. So how do you prepare for this answer?
If You Left
- Put down all the things you didn’t like about the last job: you can use a note and pen or your notepad to put down everything you can think of that put you off in your previous position. It doesn’t matter how little or significant it was; you want to get it off your chest
- Filter the list by removing personal and negative reasons: you do not want to mention personal reasons when answering this question, so filter these. You can also remove or modify negative reasons to a more positive outlook
- Zoom in to a robust and positive reason: focus on a powerful but positive basis for why you left your last job. This can be in search of a new opportunity or challenge
If You were Fired/Laid off
- Put down every possible reason why you were fired: you want to think of every possible reason why you were fired if it was not stated. Put down all the reasons in your note or notepad
- Zoom in to non-performance related issues: you should focus and mention non-performance associated problems, if any, as these are more acceptable reasons for getting laid off. Like when a company is downsizing or underwent a merger and laying off some staff
- Mention the reason you were fired in the most diplomatic way possible: do not try to deflect; state the reason why you were fired but do it in the most diplomatic way possible. Assure the recruiter you have learnt from the experience and that you are not problematic
If You Haven’t Left Your Job
- Be truthful: stay truthful and let the interviewer know you haven’t left your job yet.
- Mention how the new job is the next step for you: you should focus on how the job opening feels like a good opportunity for you to grow
Best Reason for Leaving Your Last Job (Answers)
While there are no perfect reasons for leaving a job, there are acceptable reasons that can allow the recruiter to focus on other parts of the interview; here are some of the sufficient reasons you can mention:
“I was laid off from my last position alongside some other employees because the company was downsizing, and the company eliminated my role. I am actively seeking new opportunities.”
This is perfect for people that were laid off. It is short and straight to the point.
“I recently completed my certification, and I would like to apply this skill in my next position. I couldn’t achieve this in my last role, so I’m looking for new opportunities.”
This shows you are ambitious and seeking to improve. It also shows you as an employee looking to help the company and not hide in the background.
“I was offered a promotion in another company and accepted the offer.”
Concise and to the point. This reason is acceptable and does not reveal too many details, which is good.
“I am looking for a company where I can contribute more to their growth by leveraging my skills.”
This portrays you as ambitious and a person that looks to effect real change rather than hide in the shadows.
“My supervisor retired, and I felt the time was right to seek a new opportunity also.”
This is also an acceptable reason as long as it is kept positive. It shows you reflected on the situation.
“In the course of the job, it became clear that the job requirement and what the company hired me for was not the same, and the company let me go. I have since learnt from the experience and now looking for an opportunity to take a new path.”
This is perfect if you were fired from a job. It truthfully states you were let go and noted the experience you took from it and your desire for another opportunity.
With the help of this guide, answering the question, “why did you leave your last job?” should no longer be an uncomfortable topic. You should be able to spin it into a positive conversation that will help you land the job.