If you’ve had your fair share of job interviews, you have definitely heard the common “Why did you leave your last job?” question. It’s a tricky question, and it’s even trickier to answer.

Generally, the best way to answer this question is to be respectful. Whether you had a good or bad parting with your last job, it is important to know how to answer the question respectfully, and that can be challenging.

So, to help you out, we have created a quick guide on how to answer “Why did you leave your last job?” and what you should keep in mind while answering.

Key Takeaways

  • “Why did you leave your last job?” is one of the most common interview questions.
  • The top 10 reasons for leaving a job include: the lack of growth opportunity in the profession, being a better fit at another industry, wanting to work at another position or different role.
  • Some reasons why you could have left your last job are: you got fired, you got laid off, or you wanted a role or profession change.
  • While answering the question, it is important to tell the truth, not overshare, stay professional and in no circumstance, talk badly of your previous employer.

Why Do Employees Leave Jobs? woman searching job in newspaper

Leaving a job is not an easy task for anyone, although it is sometimes necessary for many reasons. But it’s important to talk about why employees leave their jobs to begin with.

Simply put, employees usually leave their jobs because they sense that there is no option to grow professionally, they got a better offer somewhere else, or they just want to switch the industry.

If you look up answers to the question “Why did you leave your last job? on Reddit, you’ll see that many people left their jobs due to low compensation or because they believed they didn’t fit in with the other coworkers.

Usually, while you are at your interview, the employer will simply ask: Why did you leave your last job? But you can hear it phrased differently, such as:

  • Why are you looking for new opportunities?
  • What happened at your previous job?
  • Why are you looking for a change?

 

These questions all mean the same thing, and your answer should focus on explaining why you left your previous job.

Depending on your position at your previous job, this question can also look like this:

  • Why did you leave your last job as a teacher?
  • Why did you leave your last job at the call center?
  • Why did you leave your last job as a software engineer?

 

Keep reading for a list of reasons and answers you can use for your next interview.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job: Reasons & Answers

“Why did you leave your last job?” is considered a tricky interview question. This essentially means that it takes some skill to answer it correctly.

Here are some examples of reasons and answers that you can use to answer this question.

Fired

Getting fired is something that nobody expects, but it is more common than you think.

Studies have shown that around 91% of people around the world are able to find a job immediately after they get fired. So, if you are one of them, you are definitely not alone.

Whether you got fired because you stood up for something or because you went against company policy, it is important that you remain professional when you answer.

So, what is the best way to answer why you got fired? Let’s check out some sample answers to help you out.

Reason: The job was not for me.

Possible answer:

Back then, I was in desperate need of a job and was ready to accept any offer. But, once I got there, I realized that this job was nowhere near anything that aligned with my personality or my beliefs. This made it impossible for me to click with my employer, and I therefore got fired in the end.

I realized that it was a mistake of mine because I should have been more careful when researching opportunities, and I should’ve examined the job descriptions more thoroughly. Feeling comfortable in my role is what’s most important, and that is why, in this case, I have done proper research beforehand.

Naturally, you don’t need to follow this to the letter, but it is the best approach to consider when you answer because it shows your sincerity and your ability to take responsibility.

Reason: I had a misunderstanding with one of the coworkers.

Possible answer:

I am aware of the mistakes I made when I had to deal with a conflict with one of my coworkers. If I could go back to that moment, I would definitely approach my coworker in a more respectful manner and ask to discuss the matter privately together. Finding a middle ground is important because we need to remember that we are all working towards the same goals.

This is a great example of how to answer the question, as it shows that you are able to grow as a person while taking other perspectives into consideration.

Laid Off

Many people believe that getting laid off and getting fired are the same thing. To clear up the confusion, it is important to know that they are in fact very different from one another.

You get fired because you did not fulfill the company’s requirements or you failed to follow the company’s policies.

On the other hand, getting laid off happens because the company is facing a financial struggle and wants to decrease the number of employees.

Here’s the best way to answer why you got laid off from your last job:

Reason: Staff got laid off because of COVID-19.

Possible answer:

Our staff sadly got laid off because of COVID-19. The company had an urgent need to downsize in order to stay afloat, and that meant laying off most of the employees. This is something that can happen, and I did not take it personally as it was something that had to be done so the company could survive.

This is a great way to answer, as it shows the recruiter that you are not holding a grudge against your last employer and that you understand that the company is the number one priority.

Reason: The company was moving, and our branch was closed.

Possible answer:

Our company decided to move to a different country, which meant that our branch was being closed permanently. This was because the company had to cut costs, and moving to a different country was cheaper for them. Around 25% of the employees got laid off, and I was part of that percentage.

This is a good approach because you can show the interviewer that you did not take the lay-off personally, as it did not only happen to you but to your coworkers as well, so it was inevitable in the end.

Unemployed for a Long Time

Unemployment is a more widespread phenomenon than you might think. Though it is a tough thing to admit, unemployment is something that most people have to go through at least once in their lives.

While answering questions about yourself in your interview, mentioning that you were unemployed for a long time is not something you should be ashamed of.

Remaining positive is important, especially when you want to let the recruiter know that you are aware that you haven’t worked for a while but are ready for a new start.

Here are some sample answers you can use to help you out:

Reason: Took some time off for personal reasons

Possible answer:

I realized that I had to take some time for my family and some personal matters. I was having some issues back at home, and I noticed that I was not working efficiently because my mind was constantly somewhere else. Now that everything has been taken care of, I’m ready to give my full attention to the job.

This answer shows your sincerity, as well as the fact that you are aware that work requires more focus and attention, which you are now able to give properly.

Reason: Difficulty finding a job in this field.

Possible answer:

After my coworkers and I got laid off at our last job, it was difficult to find a decent job in this field of work. I am therefore grateful for the interview opportunity here, and I am positive that I will have the opportunity to showcase my skills even though I have been unemployed for some time now.

This answer gives the impression that, although you were not able to work for a long time, you are still very keen on working and you have not lost any skill sets that will benefit the company.

Changing the Industry

It is never too late to find out what your passions are, and changing your field of work is something you should definitely not be afraid of.

Changing the industry is very common, as people usually find out what they really want to do after they have experienced a couple of different positions.

So, mentioning that you changed the industry during your interview should not be difficult.

The best way to answer why you changed the industry is:

Reason: I realized I’m a better fit for another industry.

Possible answer:

“While working as a project manager, I realized that my mind was constantly wondering about my chances of becoming a designer. It was something I didn’t know I wanted to do but later realized I had a burning passion for. Therefore, I knew that I had to undergo a change in order to get to the point where I love my job and enjoy what I do for a living.

This is a great way to answer, as it shows your passion and how it led you to prioritize yourself, and finally, that you know where you can utilize your skills in the best way possible.

Reason: I want to try a new approach in a different industry.

Possible answer:

I am a true believer that change grows a person and that it is necessary to develop your skills both personally and professionally. I have heard many positive things about the design industry, and that prompted me to try something new as I believe I have the right skills for the job.

This answer shows that, although you felt confident and safe in your last job, you are ready for a change that you believe will benefit you more in the long run.

Changing the Role

Reason: I want to grow professionally.

Possible answer:

Working as a team leader has been a great job opportunity, especially for my career. However, I realized that my last job did not offer an opportunity to grow professionally, and I really see myself working as a project manager instead.

Remember to talk positively about your last job. This example states that although you appreciated the last job for the benefits it offered, you are looking for a different career path.

Reason: I’m looking for new challenges.

Possible answer:

I believe that I have honed all of my skills when it comes to managing projects, and I am looking for a change. I have heard many exciting things about designing projects, and I believe that my previous skills are a perfect start for tackling this new challenge.

Explaining that you look forward to new opportunities and new changes shows that you are ready to take on new responsibilities and move forward with your career.

Changing the Job

Reason: I’m looking for more flexibility.

Possible answer:

My previous job has given me the best opportunity to kickstart my writing career, and I’ve had a chance to work with clients from all over the world. However, I believe that I would operate better as a freelancer, as it would allow me to have more flexibility both in terms of working hours as well as the writing process in general.

Reason: I had different work values from the previous company.

Possible answer:

The last company I worked at was very open about their values and their requirements, and I was fine with them when I began working there. However, as I dove deeper into the company, I realized that some of my work values were completely different from the ones of the company, and that’s when I knew I needed a change.

Showing that you have grown as a person and that your values have changed shows your sincerity and maturity, and that is why this answer is a good way to tackle the question.

Job Hopping

Job hopping is a very common practice that has become popular among younger job seekers. This is because they believe that there is a better opportunity waiting for them out there.

Although job hopping allows you to get a fuller resume, it is often looked down on by recruiters. That is because they believe that you are not serious about staying in a job for a longer time.

The best way to approach this answer would be:

Reason: My last job moved offices.

Possible answer:

Since I have lived in a rural area until a month ago, it has been a big difficulty for me to get to work on time as I have had to take more than one train in order to get to the office. I also realized that the travel route was both time and money-consuming, so I decided to job hop until I found the perfect opportunity. Recently, I have moved closer to the city, so the travel aspect is not an issue anymore.

This is a great approach to consider since it provides a valid reason for job hopping—excessive travel expenses.

Reason: The last company I worked for went bankrupt.

Possible answer:

I had the wonderful opportunity to work at my previous company as a software engineer, and I was sad to hear that it would be closing soon. On the flip side, I was able to learn quite a few things there that I am ready to fully utilize at your company.

This is a good approach, as it acknowledges the reason for leaving the previous company in a positive light while highlighting the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience.

Follow Up Questions to “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job” why did you leave your last job

Besides answering the main “Why did you leave your last job?” question, employers will most likely ask you some follow-up questions that you should be ready to answer.

Depending on the reason you give in your answer, the employer will ask you to elaborate further.

Some follow-up questions to “Why did you leave your last job?” are:

  • Was the lay off something you agreed with? Consider answering with “yes”. It is important that you show that you agree with the company’s decisions.
  • Did you have a chat with the CEO after you got fired? You could answer with “yes” and that the CEO wished you luck in your next job and how they are more than willing to be your reference. .
  • Are you able to prioritize work before any private issues? The best bet is to answer with “yes”. Showing that you are able to focus on work without letting personal matters intervene is very important.

Do’s and Don’ts when Answering “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job”

Let’s look at some important dos and don’ts when you’re answering this question.

Best Practices

  • Keep your answer short. The more you expand on your answer, the less interested will the interviewer be. Answering way longer than necessary might make it seem like you want to hide something by over explaining.
  • Practice your answer. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” Practice different answers, to find out what way of answering works best.
  • Be professional. Keep in mind that being professional and staying positive in your answer is the best way to answer the question. This shows your character and lets the employer see that you have remained professional no matter the reason for leaving your last job.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Don’t lie. Lying is definitely not the way to go, no matter what the interview question is. Employers can run a background check on you and that also includes contacting your previous employer to see whether you were telling the truth or not.
  • Don’t overshare. Oversharing often means you are overcompensating for something. If the question is simple, your answer should also be . Make sure to answer shortly while mentioning the main reason why you left your last job.
  • Don’t badmouth your previous employer. Any type of negativity in your answer can make a bad impression on the recruiter. During your interview, it is best to avoid talking badly of your previous employer as the recruiter will believe that you will do the same in the event of leaving this job.

Final Thoughts

You have made it to the end of the guide, which means that you have read everything you need to know to nail it the next time you answer the “Why did you leave your last job?” question.

Although giving a good answer as to why you left your last job can get tricky, as long as you stay confident and answer positively, you will have no trouble.

We hope this guide has helped you find the answers you were looking for, and we wish you good luck on your next interview!