Job Interview Question & Answer: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Why Employers Ask About Leaving Past Jobs

Employers understand employees come and go. Some stick around for long periods of time, while others enjoy brief tenures, for whatever reasons, and move on shortly after hire. Interviewers often ask, “Why did you leave your last job?” to get a sense of what led to the change in position/company/field. The types of answers candidates offer may provide glimpses of professional work habits or how the applicants feel about previous employers behind closed doors. The question also sheds light on the amount of respect candidates demonstrate in the workplace, such as potential attitudes toward management and prospective coworkers, if hired.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Don’t Air Dirty Laundry
While the first inclinations most applicants feel in preparing responses to, “Why did you leave your last job?” may include providing honest detail about the events leading to the change in employers, workers should avoid spending too much time on the truth of the matter and focus more on professional desires and motivations. Potentials should never mention sanctioning or termination for behavioral or procedural infractions as reasons for leaving past jobs. Admission of such penalties or shortcomings only hurt the chances of candidates, regardless of qualifications. HR professionals consistently warn against talking negatively about any aspect of employment during job interviews. Airing grievances against employers or coworkers and using the conflicts as reason to leave shows inability to get along with others and may represent a risk to potential employers.

Onward and Upward
Hiring managers regularly look for motivated and dedicated individuals to join existing teams. Play into the tendency by focusing on the responsibilities held in previous positions and talking about wanting new challenges. If simply changing from one position to another or one industry to another, mention the excitement and challenges first felt when entering the field or a specific job title and feeling as though no new challenges looked apparent in the near future. Framing a response to, “Why did you leave your last job?” related to challenges shows a go-getter attitude and often impresses hiring personnel, when other candidates mention specific details about past jobs not fulfilling personal or social needs.

So, You Got Fired
Sometimes employment opportunities work out other than planned. In the case of getting fired, interviewees should remember to remain as polite as possible regarding the situation or situations and focus only on the details without giving too much away. Spend as little time as possible explaining a past termination or firing. The more time spent talking about getting fired the more likely candidates become of spilling more information than intended. Emphasize the job not representing an ideal fit and due to the circumstances resulted in a parting of ways between employer and employee. Never reveal why firing ended up the necessary course of action. Instead, mention getting let go and how the opportunity provides room for personal and professional growth.

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