How To Answer The Why Did You Leave Your Last Job Question

Posted by Andy Dunscombe on Aug 24, 2015 7:53:00 AM


Recently, we discussed How To Answer (And Not Answer) The Greatest Weakness Question. This often comes up as one of the hardest questions a candidate will have to answer in an interview. Another tough question, depending on your situation, can be explaining why you left your last job, or why you are planning to leave your current job. This can also apply to any job listed on your resume. You may have spent a short time with a company, which would lead to a hiring manager asking why.

Again, depending on the situation, there are a few ways to answer this question. The first thing to keep in mind when answering why you left your last job is to never badmouth a former employer or boss. It is not professional, plus, you never know who is LinkedIn together. It is a small world, afterall.

Reasons for no longer working at a company can commonly include: you left for a better opportunity, were fired, or were laid off. In an article on, author Pamela Skillings writes that hiring managers ask this question to find out if you left for a good reason (did it make sense career wise?), if you left voluntarily, if you left on good terms, and what your work values are. She also gives some great examples on how to handle answering the question for these three instances.

Leaving For A Better Opportunity

If you are currently employed, and entertaining switching to a new company, Pamela suggests formulating your answer as "leaving to move toward a better opportunity" and to never "position it as fleeing from a bad opportunity." Let the interviewer know what about this new position excites you.

If You Were Laid Off

If you were laid off from your last position for reasons unrelated to your job performance, the article on BigInterview suggests making this clear and "to emphasize your accomplishments on the job." Being able to provide references from that job helps to back up your claim.

If You Were Fired

This is the toughest one to answer. Ms. Skillings suggests you "avoid putting all of the blame on others" and to "make a point of highlighting lessons learned from the experience." It could be that the job in question was not a good fit for your skills, or the job requirements of expectations changed after you were hired. Be honest, cite any lessons learned, and describe the situation without negativity or defensiveness.

By practicing and preparing for the "Why did you leave your last job?" question, you will be able to get through that portion of the interivew with no problem at all.

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