How to Explain Why You Left a Job

How to Explain Why You Left a Job

Leaving a job can be a difficult decision. It can be even more difficult to explain that decision to potential employers during an interview. As a job seeker, you might be a little unsure about how to position your departure from a previous employer. In this blog post, we review some excellent tips on how to explain why you left a job in a way that is truthful and professional–without negatively impacting your chances of being considered for the role.

Tips for Preparing a Good Explanation

  1. Start your process of explaining why you left a job by first listing all the reasons you left your previous job. Having all the reasons in front of you will help organize a good explanation.
  2. Circle one or two main reasons that stand out as being more professional rather than personal.
  3. Write your response down but don’t rely on notecards (or notes) when explaining why you left a job. Make sure your explanation is short and easy to memorize.
  4. Be as honest as possible without oversharing. Remember, you need the explanation to be short but you still want to give enough context for the interviewer to get a full picture of why you left.
  5. Remain positive throughout the entire explanation process. Employers want to hire optimistic problem solvers–not employees who focus on the negative.

Examples of How to Explain Why You Left a Job

Crafting an explanation is easier when you have examples to pull from. Here are some of the best explanations job interviewers are looking for when asking why you left your previous position.

Example 1) I’m seeking opportunities for advancement

Interviewers want candidates who are driven and ambitious. Leaving a previous position for a more advanced opportunity demonstrates that you value professional growth. For example:

“My last/current employer helped me build a strong foundation but I’m looking for a company with more opportunities to lead. From what I’ve researched about your company and this position, it seems like an exciting career move!”

Example 2) I’m driven to change my career

It’s common for employees to change career paths or jobs a few times throughout their life. About 29% of people have changed their careers since starting their first job after college.

“My previous/current employer did not offer the type of opportunities I’m currently seeking. For instance, I’ve been upskilling to become a web developer during my personal time. I’ve even worked on a project portfolio to demonstrate my capabilities. And, I believe this position is an excellent next step that better aligns with my long-term career goals.”

Example 3) I experienced being laid off

Being laid off stirs up anxiety in many former employees but don’t let it distract you from your job opportunities. About 40% of Americans have either been laid off or terminated from a position at least once in their career.

“My previous position was impacted by a company restructuring that ended in a loss of ~20% of their workforce. It was definitely unexpected; however, the situation has allowed me to carefully consider my next career move. I’m excited about the prospect of a career with your company because …”

Examples of What To Avoid

Just as important when explaining why you left your previous position is what not to say to future employers. Here’s a short list of phrases you never want to utter in any interview (ever):

Example 1) I didn’t get along with the managerial staff

Employers want candidates that bring experience and not drama. Even though 79% of employees quit due to a lack of appreciation, never mention your dislike of management or superiors. Your potential employer will assume it will transfer to the new position.

Instead, say something like:

“My skills grew significantly during my last employment and it became clear I wanted to attach these new skills to a mission that aligned with my own personal values. I believe I’ve found that in this opening.”

Example 2) I wasn’t getting paid enough

Being underpaid is understandable, especially since 77% of Americans think they are currently being underpaid, but you need to be careful about how you explain this to future employers. Focus on what you can do for a company in order to earn higher compensation.

Instead, say something like:

“My skillset has allowed me to contribute more to a company’s growth and I’m looking for an opportunity to be compensated for my value.”

Example 3) The position was boring

When a position becomes boring you are more likely not to be challenged enough. Communicate how you’d like to take on a role that keeps you engaged–instead of explaining how bored you were.

Instead, say something like:

“My previous position became a series of tasks I had become highly efficient at completing. My research for this role has piqued my interest because of the challenges and growth I will experience.”

Looking for additional tips on how to prepare for your next job interview? Partnering with a recruiter is one of the best ways to ensure you’re applying interview best practices for a successful outcome. Take a look at Why Recruiters Are Your Key To Successful Interview Preparation and be sure to reach out if we can help!

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