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Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? Why It Is Asked and How To Answer [With Sample Answers]

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In every interview you go on, the interviewer will ask, “why did you leave your last job?”

Unfortunately, even though everyone can expect to hear this question, some people still struggle to answer.

Since many people struggle with explaining why they left their last job we’ve created this guide to help you perfectly answer this question during an interview.

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

Employers always ask, “why did you leave your last job?” because they want to know about your professional ethics.

A hiring manager wants to know the reason you left your last job because they want to ensure the same reason doesn’t apply to their company.

What Is the Interviewer Looking For?

The most important thing an interviewer is looking for is to know if you left your last job voluntarily.

However, if you didn’t leave voluntarily, don’t lie about it.

An interviewer is looking for what aspirations you have coming into this job.

If your last job didn’t give you room to grow, they hope their company will help.

How To Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

A hiring manager is going to have your employment history in front of them during an interview.

Therefore, remember to keep things cordial between your previous job and the job your applying for.

When you answer this question, you want to ensure you’re directly answering the question and not transitioning into a new topic.

Also, make sure you confidently state your reasons to prove to an interviewer that you’re proud of your decision.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

“Why did you leave your last job?” is an open-ended interview question, allowing you to show your excitement about starting a new job.

Here are a few reasons for leaving a job that you should focus on:

  • Returned to school to pursue higher education.
  • You were passed over for a promotion.
  • You wanted a more senior role.
  • Your priorities have shifted.
  • You’re looking for hybrid, remote, or in-office work.
  • You’re relocating for non-work reasons.

Everyone needs to have a valid reason for leaving their previous job.

However, you want to ensure that you remain respectful to your former employer.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

An interviewer looks for red flags when hearing a candidate answer this question.

Here are a few things to avoid when answering this question:

  • Don’t badmouth your former company.
  • Don’t say rude things about your boss.
  • Don’t talk about how you didn’t get along with colleagues.
  • If you were fired, don’t sound bitter about being let go.

No one wants to be stuck working a dead-end job, so it’s essential to put your best foot forward during an interview.

Examples: How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

We’ve compiled a few examples of answers to help you showcase the skills of a great interviewee.

With these example answers, you can workshop responses to help you stand out from other candidates.

Example Answer 1

“To be honest with you, I was fired.

There were multiple instances of miscommunication between my supervisor and me.

After being released from my position, I worked hard to improve my communication skills to ensure I didn’t make the same mistake in the future.

The experience taught me to review my expectations because an employer is going to expect my best, and I want to ensure I work hard to achieve my goals.”  

Why This Answer Works

Getting fired from a previous position may be embarrassing or a red flag to a hiring manager.

However, the sample answer works for assuring an interviewer that being fired was an isolated incident.

The same answer works because you’re not blaming others for the mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions during your job.

Also, it’s essential to highlight any lessons you learned from this experience and show how you will do better next time.

Example Answer 2

“I’m ready to embark on the next challenge in my career.

During my time with [company], I worked with amazing people on various projects, and they’ve become friends more than colleagues.

However, throughout my two years at [company], I realized that I wasn’t being challenged as I wanted.

So, I want to work for a company that helps me improve my [work field] skills.

Furthermore, I’m afraid of letting myself get too comfortable in a position that doesn’t allow me to climb the ladder over time.

This is why I’m pursuing this new position that will enable me to grow as a professional.”

Why This Answer Works

First, this answer works because you’re noting positive aspects of your last job, including the projects you’ve completed, the people you’ve worked with, and how long you worked there.

Also, it’s important to highlight specific achievements and accomplishments you’ve collected during your time with a particular company.

Finally, you want to prove to the interviewer that you will apply your new skills to this job.

Example Answer 3

“I worked at [company] for over five years, and in that time, I’ve retained new clinical knowledge and developed skills that refine my work.

Throughout these last five years, I’ve excelled at my position, completed multiple projects on time, been successful for the company, and achieved multiple personal milestones I set out to reach.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given a promotion to a management position that I’d been working towards since the start of my career.

While this was demotivating, I knew that I needed to find a company that offers more growth opportunities.”  

Why This Answer Works

This sample answer works well for a potential employee because you’re describing your displeasure in not getting promoted.

In addition, we like this answer because you’re mentioning accomplishments you achieved in your time with the company.

No matter the reason for being passed over, this is a valid reason for wanting to switch jobs.

Don’t be afraid to inform an interviewer that you are qualified to receive the promotion.

Additional Tips for Impressing an Interviewer Asking: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

We’ve compiled a few additional tips for impressing an interviewer asking, “why did you leave your last job?”

1. Be Honest

Remaining truthful shows that you’re an honorable candidate willing to lay your cards on the table for an interviewer to understand why you’re leaving your current job.

Whether you’re looking for additional money, you didn’t get along with colleagues, or you need a new challenge in your life.

A diplomatic response needs the exact reason you’re leaving while including a positive attribute to your previous role.

2. Create a Positive Frame  

Honesty is different from badmouthing the company you’re planning to leave.

Always remain neutral about coworkers and the company because you never know how much the interviewer knows about them.

Also, another tip for framing things positively relates to turning the negative aspects of your previous job into a positive life lesson for yourself.

Finally, explain how these new experiences could be your chance for professional growth.

3. Choose Which Details You Share

 While remaining honest about your departure, you must establish which details about your previous job are the most important to discuss.

Holding back on the negative aspects of your last job demonstrates respect and professional courtesy of your former colleagues and supervisors.

One thing to remember is that there are many reasons a person may leave their job.

Some of those reasons are beyond your control, so you shouldn’t be ashamed to mention that to the interviewer.

If you weren’t an exemplary employee in the past, be sure to tell the interviewer all the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career and how you plan to improve in this new role, you’re applying for.

Additional Questions to Be Aware Of

Now that you can confidently answer “why did you leave your last job?” during an interview, you’ll want to make the most of every interview.

Check out these additional questions to be aware of during an interview.

  • Two Truths And a Lie: This question is a fun icebreaker during an interview. A hiring manager wants to know your personal information to see how well you’d fit in with your colleagues.
  • Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?: This question is asked because there’s a long list of reasons why you may leave. The interviewer only wants the truth about why you’re leaving.
  • Tell Me About a Time You Failed: This question is asked because everyone has failed in something in their lives. An interviewer wants to hear how you faced a setback and how you have grown from an inevitable failure in your life.
  • Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake: This question is asked to uncover how self-aware you are, and the interviewer wants to know what you learned from that mistake.
  • What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?: This question is asked because an interviewer wants to know what relevant work skills you have that would be valuable to the company.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you still struggling with this common interview question?

Then, we have the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to help further your understanding of the best way to answer “why did you leave your last job?”

What is the best answer to “why did you leave your last job?”

The best answer to “why did you leave your last job?” includes a positive reason for leaving a job, without assigning blame or saying bad things about another company.

Also, the best answer includes details about conquering challenges and what you’re looking forward to achieving in a new position.

How should you answer this question if you were fired?

Being fired is nothing to be ashamed of; many people have been fired throughout their careers.

You should never lie about why you were fired, and you should never lie about being fired in the first place.

Also, you should mention the experience you learned at your job and the lessons you’ll take with you into a new job.

Wrapping Up

“Why did you leave your last job?” is a common interview question because any interviewer is cautious about who they’re looking to hire.

Finally, as a potential candidate, you want to ensure that you put your best foot forward.

Therefore, to answer this question to the best of your ability, you should formulate a concise response ahead of time.

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