How To Answer The “Why You Left Your Last Job” Question

how to answer the "why you left your last job" question.

One of the questions that pop up during an interview is “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job”. And, unless you are new in the career world, you need to prepare well for this question. This question comes up for various reasons and a lot of people do not know how to answer why you left your last job question. In this article, we will discuss how you can answer the “why you left your last job” question. However, before then, let us talk about the reasons why interviewers ask this question.

Read: 20 Tips for a Successful Job Interview

Why does Interviewer Ask The “Why You Left Your Last Job” Question?

Interviewers ask this question to evaluate your reason, they want to know whether you left the job;

For a good reason: the interviewer wants to know whether the reason why you left is good or not. If the reason sounds odd, they will question whether you are loyal or whether they can trust you to work for them.

Voluntarily: another reason why this question comes up is so they can know whether you left voluntarily or not. If you are laid-off or fired, they will want to know whether you are fired due to poor performance or lack of integrity.

On a good term: they also want to know whether you left on a good term. If you left on a good term or even if your previous employer is one of your references, it will further boost your chance of getting the job. 

How To Answer The “Why You Left Your Last Job” Question

Now that you know the reason why the interviewer asks this question, then you need to know how to answer it. You should know that your answer to this question will go a long way to determine whether you will ace the interview or not. Here are some answers you can give to the “why you left your last job question”.

Change of Career Path

If you are looking for a change in career path, then you can tell that to the interviewer. Frame your answer like this;

” The opportunity I’m looking for is not available at my previous job, so I’m looking for a new opportunity where I can put my XXXX skills into use “.

Looking For A Position With Better Career Growth Opportunity

Another reason why people leave their job is that they are looking for where they will have a better career growth opportunity. However, be careful not to give this reason to your interviewer in a way that would feel as if you are badmouthing your previous employer. You can say:

“I felt like there is limited opportunity for career growth at the company so I decided it was time for a change”.

When you answer this way, you are not painting your previous employer bad.

Transition into a New Industry

In the career world, people make transitions from one industry to another industry. For instance, I’ve seen some Doctors that have become software developers. So this is not something new to the interviewer. You can put your answer like this;

“I’m looking for an opportunity in a new industry, so I broaden my skill set and I’m ready to use my new skillset to make this company grow ”. 

Looking For New Challenge

If you left your last job because you feel you are not maximizing your skills, then you can highlight it as the reason why you left. Frame your answer like this;

“I felt like the job was not utilizing my skills to its maximum potential or challenging me effectively”. 

When you are not challenged enough, you might be bored and not be motivated to work. So it is quite understandable that you are looking for a new challenge. However, you should not answer this question is a condescending way; that will affect how the interviewer sees you.

You want a Higher Pay

Another reason people leave their jobs is that they want higher pay. And there is nothing wrong with that. But, if your reason for leaving your last job is because you want higher pay, then you have to be careful how you present your answer. You don’t want to appear greedy to the interviewer. You can answer like this;

“I’m excited about exploring new opportunities that involve what I’m passionate about, and the pay is also a great motivator”.

This way, you are not making it about the pay only, but also about your passion.

Family Or Personal Emergency

If your reason is that you left because of a personal or family emergency then let the interviewer know. How detailed you will be about this explanation is up to you. But I’ll advise you to keep it short.

You were Laid-off or Fired

Perhaps you were laid-off or fired, do not lie about it, come clean to the interviewer.

If you are laid off, you can frame your answer this way;

” I was affected by the merger and acquisition that happened with my previous company as I was unfortunately laid off. But I’m excited because this opportunity offers some part of my last job that I enjoy”. You can then go ahead and list those parts.

However, if you were fired, tell the interviewer you are fired without blaming your previous employee. For instance, your answer could go this way.

” I was fired, and that is because I and my previous employer have different expectations. However, I was able to reflect on my time at the job and I could see some things I could have done differently. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I can’t wait to explore this new opportunity.”

Tips on How to answer the “Why You Left Your Last Job” Question.

Be Honest and Clear

The first tip on how to answer the “why you left your last job” question is that you should be honest and clear. You should know that the company you are interviewing at might contact your previous employer. And if the detail you give is different, then this could affect your chance. Hence, it is essential that you are honest about your reason.

Be Positive

The next tip is that you should be positive. The fact that your previous employer fired you unjustly does not mean you should badmouth them at the interview. You should always find a way to positively answer questions related to your previous job.

Keep your Answer Short but Not Vague

Another tip on how to answer the “why you left your last job” question is that you should keep it short. Don’t ramble on and on, just give your precise answer and move on. But, this does not mean you should be vague either. Make sure you clearly answer the question.

Practice Your Answers

Since this question is one of the common interview questions, you should prepare your answers before the interview. Practice how you will answer till you could almost say it in your dreams. This is because if you hesitate in answering during the interview, the interviewer might think you are thinking of how to lie.

Final Thoughts

Here you have it, the tips on how to answer the “why you left your last job” question. It is a normal thing to change jobs. The interviewer might have changed jobs at one point or the other as well. All you need is to prepare and practice your answer, be positive and keep it short.


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