How to Answer the Question ‘Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?’ in an Interview

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Written By Ron Cooper

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If you’ve been job hunting for a while, you’re bound to get asked this question in an interview at some point: “Why did you leave your last job?” And while it may seem like a simple question, it can actually be pretty difficult to answer.

It’s a perfectly valid question for a potential employer to ask, and one that you should be prepared to answer. After all, if you left your last job voluntarily, that says something about your work ethic and attitude—two things that are extremely important to any employer. Here are three possible reasons for changing jobs—and how to explain them in a way that will make you look like a top candidate.

  1. You’re looking for more challenges
    In today’s job market, it’s not uncommon for employees to feel like they’ve hit a dead end. If you feel like you’re no longer being challenged in your current role, it may be time to start looking for something new. When explaining this reason for wanting to leave your job, focus on the positive. For example, you might say something like, “I’m looking for an opportunity to take on more responsibility and expand my skill set.”
  2. You’re seeking a cultural fit
    It’s important to feel like you fit in with your workplace—after all, you’ll be spending a significant chunk of your time there! If you don’t feel like you fit in with your company’s culture, it may be time to start looking elsewhere. In an interview, you can explain this by saying something like, “I’m looking for an organization where I can share my values and be part of a team that I gel with.”
  3. You’re ready for a change
    Sometimes, people simply need a change of scenery. If you’re feeling burnt out or ready for a new challenge, changing jobs is a great way to shake things up. In an interview, you can explain this by saying something like, “I’m at a point in my career where I’m ready for a new challenge.”
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Be honest. The worst thing you can do is try to come up with a fabricated reason for why you left your last job. Not only will this make you look bad in the eyes of the interviewer, but chances are they’ll be able to see right through your lie anyway. So, be honest and open about the real reasons why you decided to move on from your previous role.

Be positive. Even if the real reason you left your last job was that you couldn’t stand your boss or because the company was going through some tough times, try to frame it in a positive light. For example, rather than saying “I couldn’t stand my boss,” try “I was looking for an opportunity where I could have a better working relationship with my supervisor.”

Don’t badmouth your previous employer. No matter how much you disliked your previous job or boss, resist the urge to badmouth them in an interview. This will make you look unprofessional and like someone who holds grudges. If you’re asked about a negative experience, again, try to reframe it in a positive light.

Answering the question “Why did you leave your last job?” during an interview can be tricky—but it’s definitely doable as long as you’re prepared. The key is to be honest, positive, and professional in your response. And if you’re still struggling to find the right words, remember that practice makes perfect. So role-play with a friend or family member until you have an answer that feels natural and comfortable.

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