How to Explain Why You're Leaving a Job

How to Explain Why You're Leaving a Job

One of the most challenging interview questions is, “Why are you leaving your current job?” It probably feels like a trap, because there’s almost no way to answer this question without badmouthing your previous employer or making yourself look bad. Fortunately, you don’t need to let this question destroy your interview. Follow these tips and answer the question in a way that leaves the hiring manager hoping you take a job offer from them.

Know What’s an Acceptable Reason for Leaving

The first step to answering this question is to understand what an employer wants to hear. There are a handful of acceptable reasons for leaving, and even more unacceptable reasons for leaving. When you answer this question, you should be sure that your explanation is acceptable.

Here are some good reasons for leaving a job:

My values don’t align with the company’s anymore

I would like better compensation

The company is no longer in business

I need more challenges

Often, I feel undervalued

I want to switch careers

There aren’t enough opportunities for growth

I don’t like the schedule

Health complications forced me to leave, but I’ve resolved them

I was laid off

What to Include in Your Explanation

Whether your reason for leaving was listed above or it was something else, you should give a detailed explanation. Here are a few tips to help you explain the scenario:

Be Clear, Not Ambiguous

Because this is an uncomfortable topic, job applicants tend to be very unclear about their reasons for leaving. However, being ambiguous could hurt you. Ask yourself why you left, and then think about whether or not it’s an acceptable reason. If it’s not an acceptable reason, think about whether or not there were other reasons you decided to leave.

Once you have a satisfactory reason, write down the details. Was there a shift in the company that changed the company’s values? Did an adjustment in the company’s structure result in your duties changing? Include these details in your explanation.

Be Concise

At the same time, you should keep your answer short. Generally, two sentences are sufficient and get you the best results. The more you talk, the more opportunities you have to say the wrong thing.

Be Positive

If you had a falling out with your previous employer, you might find this tip difficult. After all, you probably want to show the hiring manager why you left. But being too negative can hurt your chances of a job offer. If you want to make a positive impression, don’t dwell on the negativity.

Employers want to be certain that you can solve problems and handle challenges.

If you just complain about your manager, the interviewer will think you can't handle conflict. Focus more on the future than the past.

Be Truthful

Most hiring managers can tell when a job applicant is lying to them. Although you might want to come up with a little white lie about your reasons for leaving, remain truthful. You don't need to go into too much detail, and you probably shouldn't.

Examples of What to Say

Here are a few examples of reasons for leaving and what you can say to best explain them.

I'd Like Career Growth

It’s not unusual for job applicants to cite this as a reason for leaving. If your company doesn’t offer enough opportunities for career growth, explain this to the hiring manager. You could say something like this:

“I love my job and my coworkers. However, I’m at a point in my career where my employer no longer has any opportunities for growth. Your company seems to have ample opportunity for career growth.”

I Want a New Career Path

There’s no rule that says you need to have one career path and stick with it. If this is truly your reason for leaving your employer, you can explain it this way:

“I’m seeking an opportunity that doesn’t exist in my current industry. I believe that this opportunity will allow me to grow and contribute in many ways.

I Want to Pursue a Better Opportunity

This is code for, “I’m unhappy with my current employer.” Since it’s ill-advised to speak badly of your former employer, this is a safe answer. Consider saying something like this:

“I learned quite a bit with my company. But from my research, I can see that this position would be a better fit for my career goals. I particularly like how you focus on teamwork.”

I Left to Pursue a Higher Degree

If you have a gap in your resume, a hiring manager might question that. It’s nearly impossible to work a full-time job and be a full-time student simultaneously. You can easily explain this to a hiring manager by saying:

“I enjoyed my previous role but felt the desire to improve my education to pursue more advanced positions. After going back to school, I’m now excited to go back to a long-term career path.

I Was Offered a Job by a Colleague

If you’re big on networking, you could receive a job offer from a former colleague. Because you weren’t actively looking for work, this excuse is in your favor. You could explain:

“I had been with my employer for four years and felt I was as advanced as I could go in my role. When a colleague offered me an interview, I was excited to grow my skills and advance.”

I Was Laid Off

There's no shame in being laid off. If your employer laid you off, don't hide it from the hiring manager. Tell them the truth, and explain what you learned. For instance, saying this might help:

"Looking back, I understand my former employer had different expectations regarding success. I learned a lot and look forward to using that knowledge in my new role."

Start Off with the Right Answers

If you answer this question well, you can ace the interview. Just show up confident, prepared, and ready to explain why you left your last job.

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