A potential employer may ask why you left your last position to determine several things. The first thing they want to know is if you were fired. Then, they are interested in whether your previous position fulfilled your needs and wants, and finally, how you may perform in this new role.
Though the hiring manager may rephrase this question in different ways, it is essentially asking why you are searching for a new job and why you are no longer working at your last one. Phrasing your answer correctly is vital in presenting yourself in the best light in your job interview.
5 Tips for Your Answer
- Use positive statements instead of negative examples
- Be concise but brief
- Include specifics that will convey favorable attributes for the position, including loyalty, professionalism, and integrity
- Stick to concrete facts and do not exaggerate
- Prepare your answer ahead of time
5 Mistakes to Avoid
- Do not place blame on a past employer, supervisors, or co-workers
- Avoid making your decisions all about money
- Refrain from being defensive
- Do not use blunt answers, such as “I didn’t like it,” or “It wasn’t a good fit”
- Avoid responses that make you sound like you do not know what you want
25 Best Reasons for Leaving a Job Interview Answers
Finding ways to relay good reasons for leaving a job can be challenging if you do not prepare for this common interview question. Your response to this behavioral interview question should incorporate what the prospective company’s current role requires in an employee.
Example #1: Seeking Further Learning Opportunities
After working at ABC Company for many years, I had outgrown my position. While I enjoyed my time there, I want to expand more into the advertising market and build on my skill set as I advance my career. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to do that at ABC Company.
Why this works: This answer gives the hiring manager detail about your focus on the advertising niche where you want to fine-tune your current skills with their company.
Example #2: Seeking More Career Advancement
While working in sales for the past 15 years, I realized that I have so much to offer a sales team as a mentor and team lead. As a result, I want to take on a management role while remaining in the sales department to share my knowledge and help others be successful.
Why this works: This example answer exhibits good things, including your motivation to advance your career while helping others in the company to achieve success. If there aren’t opportunities in a mentor role or a team lead role at your current job (or previous job if you’ve already left), you will want to mention that because it shows loyalty to your previous employer.
Example #3: Personal Break for Medical Reasons
That was a time in my life when my well-being impacted my career. As a result, I had to take some time to focus on my health issues so that I could eventually return to working full-time and give my job the attention it requires to be successful.
Why this works: This sample answer does not go into specific details such as whether it was mental health or physical health, and you do not need to reveal the specifics of your situation. Still, it gives a prospective employer enough information because it tells them that you are now healthy enough to return to work and be effective and successful.
It also tells them that you are self-aware enough to know when your health negatively impacts your job, and that you take steps to prevent the company from being adversely affected.
Example #4: Leaving for Further Education
As you can see in my job application, I was with XYZ Company until I left in September to return to school. I planned to work there temporarily until I went back to school, and my manager was aware of my goals. My employer at the time wholeheartedly supported my decision to advance my education so I could continue my career path as a marketing director.
Why this works: This answer highlights that you worked at the current position until leaving for school and that you involved your employer in your decision to continue your path of career growth. This way, you do not appear to leave a company without giving them ample notice or preparing for your departure.
Example #5: Passed Over for a Promotion
In my previous role with the BEX Organization, I ran for a management position in the accounting department. When my supervisor offered the job to a co-worker, and this structure change gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate my career goals and where I wanted to be in five years.
Why this works: By spinning your answer as a way for you to re-evaluate your career goals, you are staying positive and not blaming your previous employer or your co-worker for taking a promotion you wanted.
Example #6: Your Work and Home Life Balance Was Not Ideal
While working as the floor manager at ABC Company, I consistently faced obstacles when it came down to balancing my career and home life with my family. I am a very hard worker, and am dedicated to what I do with the utmost excellence.
As much as I tried, I could not maintain my family relationships with the workload I had. So instead of continuing to struggle at my old job and my family relationships, I am seeking a new position where I can balance both, so my work is productive and I am attentive to my family’s needs.
Why this works: This example answer did not blame your employer when they asked too much of you or expected you to work too much. Instead, it shows how you are committed to doing your job well and, naturally, need time with your family. Be prepared for the employer to find different ways to try to ask you whether you will think their position will demand too much of your time, like your last job.
Example #7: Previous Salary Was Too Low
I started as an entry-level bookkeeper at my previous position, which was a terrific first step in my career path as a certified accountant. Unfortunately, the company I was with could not accommodate a salary increase due to their limited resources as a relatively small business.
Why this works: The best answer for this situation shows that you are motivated to advance your career path, do not hold any ill feelings against your former employer, and understand why your former employer could not offer you more money.
Example #8: You Were Fired
Unfortunately, I was let go as the customer service rep at ABC Company. This situation brought to light some things I needed to work on to improve my customer service and communication skills. After I was let go, I took an online course that gave me access to some vital tools and resources to use in my next position as I work towards becoming a much better customer service rep.
Why this works: This response is completely honest and is not overly negative. It does not include any anger towards your previous employer and focuses on how you used a difficult situation to improve yourself and become a better employee.
Example #9: You Quit Because You Did Not Like the Job
Although I held the dental assistant position at the ABC Clinic after graduating from college, it was clear that the job was not suitable for me or the company’s needs. After discussing this with my manager, we collectively agreed that it would be best to explore opportunities outside of the organization that may suit my career aspirations better.
Why this works: This answer is brief and does not include specific details that make you look petty or demanding. It also shows how you had an open discussion with your manager to see if there was a resolution before you took steps to leave your position.
Example #10: You Were Laid Off
The last quarter was quite difficult for my employer due to changes in the industry. Unfortunately, I was part of the sales team that was let go due to budget cuts in the western district.
Why this works: This answer tells future employers that you were let go, but this circumstance was common for other employees due to budget cuts. Furthermore, you do not blame the company or have any negative remarks within this response, making it neutral and concise.
Example #11: You Did Not Like Your Manager
After some restructuring at my last job, I was under the direction of a manager who previously worked in a separate office within the organization. Although he was quite successful in his position, I found that his goals for the team did not align with my career path. Therefore, after some discussion, it was beneficial for me to step away to pursue a position that would match my goals while he took the team in a different direction.
Why this works: This response shows a potential new employer that while you had different ideas from your new manager, you do not hold negative feelings and used your circumstances as an opportunity to realign your career path.
Example #12: Leaving Due to a Long Commute
Although I enjoyed working at ABC Company for the time I was there, the long commute each day took a lot of time away from my family and my personal life. As a result, I left to search for a position closer to my home which would allow me more time with my family and hobbies.
Why this works: This example shows that you enjoyed the time at your last position, but it was restrictive due to the time spent getting to and from work each day. Indirectly, this answer also lets the interviewer know that work-life balance is important to you.
Example #13: You Were Recruited to Another Company
During my time at CBA Organization, my previous colleague from another company approached me with a job opportunity that would use more of my accounting education. Although I was excited about the new opportunity, I wanted to help ensure my team’s continued success and so I took the time necessary to help recruit and train my replacement before I left.
Why this works: This is a great answer for explaining job hops on your resume. Even though you state that you left for a job that was more in line with your educational background, this answer shows you were dedicated to your current employer’s success. Furthermore, it shows that you did everything possible to make the transition as easy as you could before your departure and left on good terms.
Example #14: The Company Went Out of Business
Unfortunately, the company I worked for previously went out of business, closing all three Atlantic locations. As I’m sure you know, the restaurant business can be tough, and I am confident that the skills I gained while working at ABC Kitchen during those challenging times will benefit the team here at ZYX Restaurant.
Why this works: This answer shows that the company went out of business through no fault of your own. Additionally, you draw on your previous skills during your employment to move forward in a positive light with new opportunities.
Example #15: The Job Duties Changed
Working as the pharmacist at the ABC Shop was a terrific experience for me, but after a few years, my job duties included fewer pharmacy tasks and more front-counter duties within the shop. Since I wanted to explore a career in the pharmaceutical industry, maintaining a position as a stock clerk for the drug store was not in alignment with my career path.
Why this works: This response gives just enough detail to show how your job changed, but you leave out any negative remarks and focus on remaining positive on advancing your career goals.
Example #16: Left a Toxic Work Environment
I do not take leaving a job lightly and spent a great deal of time contemplating my departure from ABC Company. However, due to an unhealthy work environment, I felt it was the best choice to seek employment elsewhere to focus on more positive career growth opportunities.
Why this works: It can be challenging to tell a hiring manager that you left a toxic work environment. This answer shows that you do not jump from job to job, and you carefully consider serious decisions such as quitting a job. You end your response by explaining how you are looking for a positive way to grow your career, showcasing your solid work ethic instead of ending on a negative note.
Example #17: Your Partner Received a Job Promotion in Another City
Although I wish I could work with the team at XYZ forever, my partner was offered a position in this city, making relocation necessary for both of us. I would love to use the knowledge and skills I gained while at XYZ here at ABC to continue my teaching career.
Why this works: Responding with positive elements about your current company shows your loyalty and dedication to your present employer. Seeking out a new company that can provide the same environment because you must relocate is an acceptable and favorable answer to this question.
Example #18: You Are Changing Industries
After a successful teaching career for the past 20 years, I chose to switch focus and enter the real estate industry, hoping to learn and develop new skills that I can continue to use for many years.
Why this works: This answer is an excellent way to show how changing industries is not a negative move for your career and can open new opportunities and advancements in your life.
Example #19: You Did Not Get Enough Sustainable Work Hours
Even though I enjoyed working with the team at ABC Company, our target audience was limited to the local region, making it challenging to receive full-time hours. Unfortunately, their needs did not necessitate a full-time employee, which I currently need.
Why this works: This response speaks favorably about your previous employer and how their limitations of only part-time employment did not align precisely with your career goals or your needs.
Example #20: You Did Not Receive Enough Training or Mentorship
Working as the receptionist at XYZ was a terrific entry-level position when I graduated. As I mastered that job, I began to grow out of it and wanted more training opportunities, but none were available during my time in that position. Fortunately, I was able to find a role in human resources administration where I would be challenged.
Why this works: This sample answer is great for explaining job changes on your resume. It shows how you appreciated your previous position but aspired to advance your career by learning new skills.
Example #21: You Felt Undervalued or Underappreciated
While working at XYZ Shop for the past six years, I regularly met my deadlines and hit all the sales targets for the sales team. Unfortunately, the recognition for consistent dedication and hard work went unnoticed by many managers in the office, even after my direct supervisor gave me a glowing yearly review. As a result, I felt it was in my best interest to seek employment where I feel valued and appreciated for my contributions in helping to build a successful team.
Why this works: Although this response does touch on management not appreciating your efforts, it includes that your supervisor documented your hard work and contributions to the organization. In addition, this answer contains details about how you want to work in an environment with a team of individuals who openly support each other and appreciate everyone’s commitment to the job.
Example #22: The Company Merged with Another Organization
After ten years at ABC Organization, the industry went through several drastic changes, and the company merged with XYZ Company. After the merger, many corporate changes happened which were no longer in line with my career goals or aspirations as a physical therapist in ABC City.
Why this works: This answer briefly describes your previous employer’s changes and shows how you are dedicated to your career goals and want to keep a position that aligns with these aspirations.
Example #23: You Were No Longer Enjoying the Position
My time at ABC Shop was an essential part of my career path as a computer programmer. However, while I learned a great deal over the past five years there, I got to the point where there was no challenge in my role, and I started not enjoying working on the company’s only platform. As a result, I am committed to finding employment where I work on several platforms so I can continue to be exposed to various problems needing solutions.
Why this works: This response shows that you gained exceptional knowledge and skills from your previous job but are committed to advancing your skills and building your career.
Example #24: Job Responsibilities Became Increasingly Difficult to Manage
Working under the IT manager at ABC Organization was a terrific experience for me. However, when he went on medical leave, the company asked me to fill his position in his absence. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet those job expectations. As much as I wanted to, without the proper training and education, I was unprepared and could not perform the job as my manager had done.
I approached my boss about his expectations since I knew that I could not fulfill them. My boss determined that he indeed needed a qualified replacement for my former manager, and that my previous position was not vital to company operations. So I left after the company was able to find someone to fill my former manager’s role.
Why this works: This sample answer shows how you recognize your shortcomings when given more responsibilities and how you approached your boss to find a solution. Even though you had to leave the company, it puts the situation in a good light because it was the best decision for that circumstance.
Example #25: You Were Not Being Challenged Enough
During my past job as a hairdresser, I took pride in meeting my clients’ needs and achieving top sales each month. Unfortunately, because of the salon’s location, the clientele was not as robust as I would have liked. In addition, it did not give me enough exposure to various types of hair and styles that I wanted to work with, making a career change necessary.
Why this works: This response puts your previous employer in a positive light and focuses on demographics and location rather than their inability to draw in more customers for their hairdressers. As a result, you focus on building your client base and growing your skills.
When preparing for the next step in a job search, nailing the interview process is critical to securing a new position. Unfortunately, the job interview question asking why you left your former job can make some job seekers anxious or nervous and it will raise red flags if they do not answer correctly. Thankfully, with some preparation, crafting a good answer can put you at the top of the hiring manager’s list.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.