Reason Why To Quit Last Previous Job | What To Say ? What Not To Say ? | Common Mistakes | Tips For Answering
Reason Why To Quit Last Previous Job | What To Say ? What Not To Say ? | Common Mistakes | Tips For Answering
How to Answer: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Let’s look at how to handle this question in its three most common forms:
1) Why are you looking for a new opportunity now?
This is for candidates who are currently employed. If you’ve got a job, why do you want to leave it?
Annoyingly enough, you’ll usually fare better in the job search if you already have a job. However, your potential employers will ALWAYS want to know why you’re thinking about bailing on your current gig.
There are many good reasons to leave a position — some that should be discussed in a job interview and some that absolutely should not.
The general rule here is that you should always be leaving to move toward a better opportunity. You should never position it as fleeing from a bad opportunity.
Your interviewer wants to feel like her company is wooing you away from your current employer. The ideal answer from their perspective: You are only thinking about leaving because this new opportunity (and the company offering it) is just SO awesome. Maybe you weren’t even looking. Maybe you’re content in your current role, but just could not resist this interview because the position is your dream job.
- Did you leave for the right reasons? Are you a person who is solid and reliable or are you flighty and impulsive? Did you leave because you were offered another position at another company or did you wake up one day and decide you were quitting to pursue your dreams of alpaca racing? Ultimately an employer wants to know are you loyal, stable, responsible and/or reasonable. This can also roll into your work values. Did you leave your job because you felt underutilized or unappreciated? Was that a result of your overblown sense of importance or because you had truly achieved as much with a company as you could possibly achieve. Did you outgrow the role professionally because of your skills and abilities or did your ego outgrow the role?
- Did you leave on your own or were you asked to leave? If you left on your own, again, the employer wants to make sure it’s for the right reasons. If you were asked to leave, was it because of performance or integrity issues, or if it was due to other circumstances like downsizing, mergers, or a whole host of other, non-performance related issues.
- Did you leave as a professional? When you left, did you do it in such a way that you are still on good terms with your former employer or are you officially “persona non gratis?” Were you escorted out of the office by security? Best case scenario: your former boss is one of your references. Worst case scenario: Your boss is the star witness in your upcoming criminal case.
This is always a great way for a potential new employer to figure out that not only are you a good employee, but that you’ve got solid positive relationship skills, something which is always a highly sought after quality in the professional world.
Obviously, you want to avoid laying this on too thick and seeming insincere. You should never lie in a job interview. However, you should highlight the positive reasons for considering a new position and avoid talking about any negative ones if you can.
In some situations, it will be necessary to talk about negative reasons. Perhaps your company is eliminating your department. Maybe the firm has been acquired by a competitor and massive layoffs are rumored.
Even in situations like these, it’s a good idea to emphasize the positive and what you like about the open position. You may want to address the negative situation briefly or you may want to avoid getting into the dirty details. It depends on the situation.
Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
Your reasons for leaving a job are always relevant for a potential employer. Here are some things your interviewer is likely looking for:
- Did you leave for a good reason? — If you left on a whim or for an odd reason (perhaps you suspected your boss was a space alien plotting your death), the interviewer will wonder if they can trust you to be responsible, loyal, and reasonable.
- Did you leave voluntarily? — If you were let go, your interviewer will want to try to determine if it was because of performance or integrity issues.
- Did you leave on good terms? –If you can state that you are still in touch with your previous manager (even better, he is one of your references), that will go a long way in demonstrating that you were a good employee and have good relationship skills.
- What are your work values? — Your reasons for leaving a position can say a lot about you. Did you leave for positive reasons or because you felt slighted or unappreciated? Sometimes it makes sense to leave a job if you’re not appreciated, but be aware that this reason should be expressed skillfully so you don’t appear to be a diva.
2) Why did you leave your most recent position?
If you are not currently employed, your answer to this question is even more important. It’s unfair, but many employers make assumptions about unemployed candidates. If you’re so great, why hasn’t somebody else snapped you up yet?
Again, I believe this is unfair bias. In the current economic environment, fantastic employees lose their jobs and it can take time to line up a new one. There is more competition for every opportunity.
1. Another Company Offered You A Better Deal
Leaving a former employer to take on work with a new employer should never affect your application status. If you left one job to take a position with another company for an increase in pay, a promotion, or simply because you wanted to work for a different company, those are all very valid reasons. When answering this question, you don’t need to list those reasons, simply keep it short and sweet:
“I was offered a position with another company and accepted.”
“I was offered a promotion with another company and accepted.”
Short, sweet, and without too many details. You don’t need to tell the potential employer how much your raise was, or what the promotion was…
2. You Didn’t Like What You Were Doing
Maybe the job wasn’t one you enjoyed doing, or the job changed from what you originally anticipated it to be. Maybe you just woke up one day and said, “Being an accountant isn’t really what I want to do with the rest of my life, I think it’s time to finally try being what I was always destined to be, a free range squirrel wrangler.” More power to you! In this case, you want to make sure to avoid words like “quit” or “walked out.” Instead try the following:
“I reevaluated my career goals and am looking for other employment opportunities.”
“I am interested in pursuing other possibilities within my chosen career field.”
“I am currently looking for a position better matched to my skills and long-term career goals.”
“I am looking for a position within a company where I can contribute and grow.”
However, it’s good to be aware that this bias exists when addressing the question of why you are available. And if you have been between jobs for a long period of time,you should be prepared to describe the proactive steps you have been taking to improve your skills — training, volunteer work or consulting projects.
The subject of why you’re leaving is a bit trickier in this case because you probably don’t have the luxury of keeping your answer 100% positive. If you left and didn’t leave for another opportunity, there was obviously an issue of some kind.
Maybe it was your issue or maybe it was the company’s issue. Either way, you have to be able to explain why it was a reasonable separation and why you are a fantastic and very attractive candidate.
Resist the temptation to trash talk your previous employer. Even if the company was totally dysfunctional, you should avoid sounding too negative.
3. You Have Other Life Goals You Want To Accomplish
It is perfectly acceptable to leave a job because you realize that you have other goals you want to accomplish. Prime examples of this include quitting a job to go back to school, travel, work on outside interests or hobbies, or even try self-employment for a time. Although changes like this might leave large gaps in your work history (especially in the case of going back to school) those gaps are not a reason for an employer to be concerned…especially if the ultimate goal was a desire for self-improvement!
“I went back to school to pursue a master’s degree program.” (especially strong answer if what you’ve gotten your degree in relates to the job you are applying for!)
4. Your Old Boss Is No Longer With The Company And You Don’t “Vibe” With Your New Boss
This scenario is not unusual. As the dynamics in any company changes, it can mean working with individuals who might not see eye to eye with you. Of course, we go back to our earlier comment about always keeping your answers positive.
“I am looking for a position with a company where I can be challenged and grow.”
“When my boss left, it made me realize that it was time for a change and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to move on as well.”
What If You Were Laid Off?
If you were laid off for reasons unrelated to performance, just make that clear and be sure to emphasize your accomplishments on the job. Many amazing and brilliant people have survived a layoff (or even two or three).
Most interviewers won’t judge you negatively for being downsized — especially if you weren’t the only one affected. Just keep your explanation concise and skip any ugly details. Keep in mind that your interviewer will probably be on the lookout for red flags — that is, any information that makes you look unprofessional, unmotivated, or dishonest.
What If You Were Fired?
If you were fired for performance reasons, you should mention any extenuating circumstances, but avoid putting all of the blame on others. For example, if the job requirements or expectations changed after you were hired, make that clear. Sometimes, expectations change as a result of new management, budget cuts, or a shift in strategy.
If you were fired for any reason, you should make a point of highlighting lessons learned from the experience. The goal here is to assure the interviewer that it was an isolated incident and that you would not be a risky hire. (For more read: How to Explain Being Fired)
3) Why Did You Leave Position X?
Remember that your interviewer is going to be interested in ALL of the career transitions on your resume. Again, your reasons for leaving a job can say a lot about you and your fit for the new position.
As you walk your interviewer through your resume, be prepared to address your reason for leaving each position. Follow the advice above in terms of how to answer.
1. You’ve Been Working Toward A Promotion That Has Never Come
Man, that sucks. Being at the same job for years and never experiencing a promotion or feeling challenged can be incredibly frustrating. Rather than letting future employers know about that frustration, turn it into a positive!
“I realized that the opportunity to grow wasn’t available to me and that in order to continue to improve myself professionally, it was time to move on.”
“I achieved everything professionally that was available at my last employer and feel that in order to keep improving myself both personally and professionally, that it was time to move onto a new company with more room for growth.”
“I’m interested in a job where I can be given more responsibility and will challenge me.”
2. You Are Overqualified and/or Under-Utilized
We are all on the quest to find the perfect job that satisfies all our needs…but there are also times in our lives when you’re forced to take a job because, well, you need the money!
“Although it was a good job, I felt as though I had learned everything I could and wanted to move on to a new company where I can continue to grow professionally.”
“The job was a good fit for who I was when I initially accepted it, but as I have worked there, I have realized that where I want to go and where the company is going don’t align.”
3. You’re a Part-Timer or Freelancer Looking For Full-Time Opportunities
Being a freelancer is a little different. You’re usually hired for the duration of an assignment and then free to accept other work once that assignment is complete. In this case, a simple “Completion of Freelance Assignment” is perfectly acceptable on a job application. When faced with this question in an interview, you can add a bit to that simple answer.
“As a freelancer, I am contracted for only as long as it takes to finish the task I have been assigned. At this time I’m looking for employment with a company that allows me to use my professional experiences and skill sets in a long term, mutually beneficial professional relationship.”
4. You’ve Had Personal Issues To Deal With
Family always comes first and there are times when you have to step back from a job in order to take care of personal situations. This can be everything from personal health issues to taking care of other members of your family.
“I left my last job in order to take care of a family issue. The circumstances have changed and I now find myself in a position where I’d like to reenter the workforce.”
“I decided to take five years off to start a family.”
“I accepted a position with another company that was closer to home.”
5. You’ve Been Laid Off
Hey, It’s okay. As long as you weren’t laid off due to reasons related to performance or integrity, a potential employer isn’t going to hold it against you…especially if you weren’t the only one laid off from the company at the same time. With mergers and restructuring, it’s not unusual for a company to let go of a group of employees, regardless of performance or skills. Just be honest and let your potential employer know.
“My position was eliminated and I was let go. Although I no longer work with the company, my former manager is one of my strongest references and would be happy to answer any questions you might have about my performance and skills.”
6. You’ve Been Fired
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, you got fired. Trust me, you’re not alone. Some of the best, most influential people in the world have been fired. As they say in Hollywood, “You’re nobody until you’ve been fired at least once.” Unfortunately, some employers see being fired as a red flag, regardless of what the reasons might be, so saying “I was fired” is not something you want to do in an interview or on an application.
DON’T LIE! But at the same time, there are ways to answer this question without either tanking yourself or talking smack about your last employer (neither of which is a good idea!)
WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT BAD MOUTH YOUR FORMER EMPLOYER. I will say it again…DO NOT BADMOUTH YOU FORMER EMPLOYER. I don’t care if you were kept in the worst conditions ever where you were underpaid, forced to endure humiliating situations, and had a clown come into the room every three hours and kick you in the gut…DO NOT BADMOUTH YOUR FORMER EMPLOYER.
If you left a job voluntarily, follow the guidance provided in explaining why you want to leave a current position. You should emphasize the positive reasons that prompted you to leave — seeking new challenges, pursuing new experiences, pursuing a dream job, taking on new responsibilities.
If you were laid off or fired from a previous job, follow the advice in the section above. If you have performed well in positions since the layoff or termination, the details won’t be as important to the interviewer. In fact, the more evidence of accomplishments and positive performance, the easier it is to counter any concerns about a termination.
For positions that you held in the distant past, you can provide fewer details. The interviewer will always be most interested in your most recent work history. However, you should always be prepared to talk about any position listed on your resume — especially those that were short tenures (less than a year), came before gaps in your resume (indicating that you left suddenly or were let go), or both.
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