Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Job Interview Question & Answer: Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Employer?

Why Employers Ask About Leaving Past Jobs

Employees quit or lose jobs for many reasons. Interviewers ask, “Why did you leave your last job?” because they want to know what made an applicant want or need to change positions, fields, or companies. A candidate’s response tells them whether they left voluntarily and if the reason for leaving was reasonable and respectable.

How to Answer

When discussing why you want to leave a current employer or left your last job, focus on your professional motivations. Talk about what you look forward to in a new role compared to the responsibilities of your previous position. Emphasize how the job you applied for is a better match for your skills and experience.

If your last employer fired you, that changes how you should answer questions about leaving a former position. Remain polite about the situation and spend as little time as possible on the details of what occurred. State that the job was not an ideal fit, so it was an understandable decision to let you go. Always use positive language.

What to Avoid

Job hopefuls fired from previous jobs should never discuss poor behavior or rule-breaking as a reason for termination. Avoid speaking negatively about past employers or blaming them for causing you to want to leave. This shows unprofessional behavior and gives the interviewer the impression you are high-maintenance and have a hard time getting along with superiors.

Tips for Answering “What Made You Leave You Last Job?”

Hiring managers often ask job seekers, “Why did you leave your last job?” If you have no work experience, this question does not apply to you. Those who held a job before must answer this question in a way that proves they are still a promising candidate for the new position. Here are some tips to help you respond to this common interview question:

  • Direct your response to the new company with a compliment about their reputation or the opportunities you see in the position.
  • Show you are accepting of new challenges when applying for a career outside of your realm of expertise.
  • If laid off due to downsizing or outsourcing, just say that, providing a matter-of-fact response that avoids emotions.
  • For those just entering a career related to their college major, show enthusiasm to learn new skills and use your knowledge to demonstrate how this role is in-line with your education.
  • Keep your response short and simple so you can avoid giving away too much information that could lead to more follow-up questions you aren’t comfortable discussing.

Sample Responses to “Why Did You Leave Your Previous Employer?”

A good way to prepare for a question about leaving a past job is by reading through examples of how other people responded. Here are a couple of sample answers to this common job interview question:

Sample Answer 1 – Salesperson at a Car Dealership

“I loved working as a cashier through high school, and it worked great with my school schedule. I even moved up to working a customer service position at the store. But, after graduation, I was ready to move on to bigger challenges. I have a lot of interest in sales, so combined with my passion for cars, this job seems like the perfect fit.”

Sample Answer 2 – Delivery Driver at a Pizza Shop

“The place I worked for previously was a small, family-owned restaurant that, unfortunately, went out of business. However, I’m still looking to use my skills and background in the industry. I hope to apply and build on my previous training in foodservice through exploring new but related roles.”

Always Be Honest

Whether you quit your job or the previous company let you go, it is crucial that you are honest when asked, “What made you want to leave your last job?” The employer could check your references or contact your past supervisor and find out if you lied. A truthful, positive response proves to the new employer you are a professional who wants to excel in your career goals.

Video Tutorial

Video Transcript

This was a great answer. He explains the type of role that he is after and how he possesses talents to perform it. He then wraps up the answer by expressing his interest in the company and how the position matches his skills.

With a question like this, you want to touch on your skills and experience and show a desire to grow further professionally. That could mean you want to develop your skills further or pick up new responsibilities in your next role. Be as specific as you can about what you are after.
There may be things you hate about your current job, but you don’t want to bring them up as reasons for why you want a new job. Focus on the fact that you want to grow professionally and your interest in the opportunity.

If you stay focused on the positives, you will have an excellent response to “why are you looking for a new job?”

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