Often when interviewers ask a simple question, they have an ulterior motive. They are testing you based on how you answer a seemingly innocent question. So be careful not to fall into the trap!
It is important to understand what interviewers are actually asking you. With the complexities of today’s interviews that include both traditional or behavioral questions, you really do need to be fully prepared.
To help, let’s take a look at the best answers to “why did you leave your last job.”
- Variations of the Question
- Why Do They Ask This Question?
- Answering If You Were Made Redundant
- Answering If You Left Your Last Job
- Answering If You Were Fired from Your Last Position
- Things to Avoid
- Examples Of Suggested Answers
- Need More Interview Info And Advice?
- Final Thoughts
Variations of the Question
The interview question, “why did you leave your last job” can be asked in many different ways. Despite this, they are all asking the same basic thing, so you can similarly answer these questions. Look out for questions such as:
- What did you not like about your last supervisor?
- What did you not like about your last company?
- Who was your worst boss?
- What would you change about your last job?
- What made you leave your last employer?
Why Do They Ask This Question?
Employers ask this question for various reasons. Firstly, they do want to know why you left your last job, were you fired? Did an event lead you to leave? These are all interesting things for a future employer to know and can reveal a lot about you.
They can also learn about your loyalties to a company, was your reason to leave valid, and did you try to solve the issue before leaving? However, this is a negative question.
Keep your answers positive…
As an interviewer is just getting to know you, if you continuously use negative language around them, they could form the impression that you are a negative person. Therefore, it is important to put a positive spin on all interview questions, even the ones that are negative based.
It is essential, to tell the truth during an interview, but you do not have to disclose the whole truth.
Answering If You Were Made Redundant
If you were laid off at your last job, it is okay to disclose this in an interview. However, you need to spin this in a positive light. The interviewer wants to hear that you want this job or this company in particular rather than that you are desperate for any job.
Mention that your previous company was downsizing, and if multiple people were laid off, it is also worth mentioning this as it will highlight the fact that there was nothing specifically wrong with you as an employee.
Neutral reasons only…
You could also state the scenario that led up to this, such as some bad investments or products that didn’t sell well. But do not mention the scenario if it can be linked directly to your department! Remember to keep your reason neutral and do not portray yourself as a victim.
Answering If You Left Your Last Job
Once again, it is okay to disclose this in an interview, but no matter how awful that role was, you must be optimistic! It is important to take ownership of the situation and not to blame others. Start by talking about what interested you in your previous role and that you are now looking for a company that can offer you something new.
This could be more opportunities for growth or personal development. More resources to take on bigger projects or even an environment that is the right cultural fit for you. Finally, point out something about the interviewer’s company that you like that fits into this narrative. Your interviewer must know you are ready to do more in your career and that you are being active about it!
Answering If You Were Fired from Your Last Position
This situation can be tricky to navigate. Most recruiters believe past behavior is a better predictor of future performance than current impressions. So, stating that you were fired from your previous employment could put you out of the running for a job position.
You cannot lie in a job interview. However, try to avoid volunteering this information, especially during early-stage interviews. If you must talk about it, focus on the problems that led up to you being fired. For example, perhaps the management of the company changed. Or the new direction the company was moving in didn’t play to your strengths nor interests.
End with a positive spin…
Remember to end with a positive spin, such as this reaffirmed your interests in a particular role and led to you finding companies in which you could use your talents in this area. Focus on your strengths and how you can apply them to this current role.
Why is Answering Correctly Important?
This seems like a very simple question. However, it can be very damaging to the interviewer’s perception of you, especially if you answer it in the wrong way. Often recruiters will ask this question to gauge if you are the type of employee who would criticize your previous employer or company.
They need to be aware of this because if you are willing to bad mouth your previous employer, you may say negative things about their company. So overall, never say bad things about your past employers; only say good things!
Things to Avoid
Do not spend too much time on this question; they do not need to know your entire history with your previous company. Interviews are short periods in which you need to convince your interviewer you are the right fit for the advertised position. Do not waste time talking about the past! Spend time on questions about your skills and achievements instead.
Do not name specific people in your answer! You never know who knows who, and often the industry is much smaller than you think. Also, avoid unprofessional reasons for leaving your job. You may have felt undervalued or underpaid but do not say it.
Examples Of Suggested Answers
Here are some examples you can use and adapt to fit your situation and answer the interview question “why did you leave your last job?”
Read more: Signs an Interview Went Well or Badly
“I thoroughly enjoyed working at my previous employment. The culture and people made it a wonderful place to work. But I am looking for more responsibility with new and fresh challenges.
I have worked on and successfully completed several projects from start to finish within the past three years. But currently, advancement opportunities are scarce at my current job. It’s important for me to keep my career consistently moving in a forward direction in alignment with my career goals.”
“Unfortunately, departmental changes and corporate restructuring have made it difficult to keep on track with my career goals. As a result of these changes, advancement opportunities are limited, and I no longer see a future for myself with this company.”
“After working there for four years, I have learned a great deal about the company and the ways it conducts business. As much as I enjoy the relationships I have developed, it is time for me to move on to a more progressive organization with new opportunities and challenges.“
“For the past few months, the company has been restructuring due to the fact that revenues were down. This was caused by new competitors entering the industry. There had been several rounds of layoffs, and my team was heavily impacted by this reducing from twenty-five to only four staff members, and unfortunately, this resulted in my position being eliminated.”
“I was hired for one role with my previous company, but over time it evolved into something else that was outside my skill set. This has helped me revaluate my skills, and I want to pursue opportunities that fit both my skill set and my passions, which is why I am so interested in this position with your company.”
Need More Interview Info And Advice?
Firstly, let’s check out my interview advice on What Are You Most Proud Of, How Would You Describe Yourself, Why Do You Want To Work Here, how to Answer Why Best Candidate Position, or How Do You Handle Stress, What Are Your Career Goals, as well as Why We Should Hire You, How To Answer What Are You Passionate About, What Makes You Unique, and of course the Best Questions To Ask In An Interview to get you started.
If you’re not feeling quite prepared yet, we’ve found some amazing guides for you, such as How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions, Amazing Interview Answers: 44 Tough Job Interview Questions with 88 Winning Answers, and how about Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent available online in 2023.
Furthermore, we also have the INTERVIEW with DESIRE and GET HIRED!: How to Ace the Interview, Sell Yourself & Get Your Dream Job, or my favorite Get That Job!: The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview to help ace that interview.
Lastly is the all-important STAR Interview Method. Just check out The STAR Interview: How to Tell a Great Story, Nail the Interview and Land Your Dream Job, as well as The STAR Method Explained: Proven Technique to Succeed at Interview.
Practice makes perfect, and that is also true of interview preparation. The STAR METHOD INTERVIEW: Interview Journal: Notebook designed for job seekers to use as a guide for interview prep and as a tool for interview questions and answers during interviews is the ideal notebook for that.
We also have the NURSING Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers: 50 Top Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers for Nurses + STAR INTERVIEW METHOD EXPLAINED if you’re interviewing for a nursing position.
Once you understand exactly what your interviewer is asking you, it becomes much easier to answer these seemingly innocent questions! Overall, keep your answers positive and do not speak badly about your last employer or anyone you worked with personally.
Most importantly, do not spend too much time on this question. I recommend you use one of my suggested answers to “why did you leave your last job” as your basis and keep it nice and simple.
All the very best with your next Interview!