Change is inevitable in life. You are not a tree, you can change your place whenever you want. At least if you are lucky enough to not live in some dictatorship political regime, or in a prison…. Employers are aware of this luxury on the side of job seekers, but they may still ask you about your reasons. Why do they do so?
First of all, it is for your own good. Maybe you missed something in your last job–challenges, good collective, opportunities to grow, team spirit, certain form of working environment, better salary, or simply a recognition of your efforts.
If you did, they wonder whether you would not miss the same thing with them. If it is the case, it makes no reason to give you the job--you would leave the company soon anyway. And they would have to repeat the same hiring process again, and again. That costs time and money.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. Below the answers you will find some important points you should keep on your mind while explaining your decision to leave the job.
7 sample answers to “Why did you leave your last job?” interview question
- Speaking honestly, I was looking for a better salary offer. I have a family and the salary was barely enough to cover our monthly expenses. And we do not live in a luxury or anything similar… I tried to explain this to my manager, because I knew that other companies in the field–for example your company, paid better salaries to the workers. But they didn’t want to add anything to my monthly remuneration, though I had great results in work. So I decided to leave them.
- I didn’t feel properly compensated in the company. Look, I’ve been with them for two years, this is a highly competitive industry, and they didn’t offer me a raise once. I believe that with my skills and all the value I brought to the company I deserved better. But we had an offshore management, they took all the decisions, and I couldn’t even talk to them face to face. I decided it was a time to leave, and offer my skills to someone else.
- I felt I wasn’t learning anything new in that corporation. Surely I had a fancy job title, and worked for a big name, but in reality I was carrying out the same simple transactions each day, week after week, month after month. I want to try also something different in my life, I want to take care of a variety of duties, and use my creativity at work. That’s why I quit, and now I am looking for a job in a marketing and advertising industry.
- It just wasn’t the right field for me. I thought it was when I applied with them, because I had an unrealistic expectations of the job. In reality, I spent most of my days in the office, working on papers, while I dreamed of working with clients, outside, directly. They could not offer me such possibilities.
- That’s very simple. New owners took over the company, brought their management onboard, and massive downsizing followed. I was one of the victims, perhaps because I wasn’t long enough with the company. I would love to stay with them, but it wasn’t possible. That’s okay with me, I wish them best of luck, and now it is time to move on…
- They fired me. I made a mistake, a big mistake in my calculations. It costs the company a lot of money. I do not want to hide anything in front of you. Everyone can make a mistake, and I learned from mine. I honestly think that they should have had better control mechanisms in place, that someone else should have checked my numbers. But it didn’t happen, they lost a lot of money, and I learned my lesson. Here I am, humble and honest, surely more experienced than before, trying my luck with you.
- I simply needed a change–new faces, new places. The collective wasn’t bad but I didn’t quite fit in, for reasons I still don’t really understand. It was more of a gut feeling, and I followed it.
If you left your job involuntarily they want to know what exactly happened
It is important to explain why you were forced to leave the job. Maybe they simply terminated your contract–crisis arrived, company went bankrupt, or they were downsizing or reorganizing the place, and you were the one who had to go. All these reasons are perfectly fine for your prospective employer, and there’s no reason to hide the truth.
A completely different situation is when you were fired. On a spot. You broke the rules, you did something extremely stupid, you came to work drunk, repeatedly. Or you had a bad argument with your boss, or, or … there are hundreds of reasons why they can fire you, and I do not want to make this article too negative mentioning them all.
Now, these things can mark a showstopper in the eyes of the interviewers. Certainly they won’t help you getting hired. But it is not what happened, but how you explain it in an interview that matters.
* Special Tip: “Why did you leave your last job?” isn’t the only tricky question you may face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, using logic, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Be honest, at least when you can afford it
If you left out of your free will (lacking better salary, career growth options, interesting projects, good colleagues, etc) you should honestly describer your reasons.
We live in a world of lies. Just look at the social media profiles and blogs of your friends and relatives. The image they present there has very little to do with the actual reality of their life. People play their stupid games daily, and honesty became a highly sought article in the interviews–simply because it is rare…
Do not be afraid to honestly admit that you didn’t feel respected, recognized, rewarded. That you missed something. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should throw dirt on your last employer. Companies of all sizes and philosophies exist on each market. The one you chose before simply didn’t meet your expectations.
Their working environment may suit many other people perfectly, and that’s why they still work there. You left, but not because there’s something wrong with you or with the company. It simply wasn’t the right match.
You do not have to tell the whole truth when they fired you
Will your future employer do a background check on you? This really depends. It is a misconception to believe that every company does background checks on each new hire.
Surely, when we talk about managerial jobs and big international corporations, the chances of a background check are quite high. But if you apply for a job in a restaurant, retails store, or for example for an administrative role in a smaller company, the chances that they will do the background check are less than 30%.
And these are exactly the cases when you can risk telling them a lie–especially if you know that the truth will likely be a showstopper. Let me give you some examples.
Examples when you can lie about the reasons of leaving your last job
You have problems with alcohol, and though you try hard to beat your addiction, you drank two or three times in your last job. And they eventually found out and fired you.
Or you started a fight with an unbearable colleague, a complete idiot or ignorant, because you had a bad day and it just happened. You would take it back if you could, but you cannot turn back the clock. You punched them in the face, and the company fired you.
In instances like these, you can risk telling them a lie. Because if they hear that you are addicted to alcohol or fight with your colleagues in the workplace, they won’t hire you anyway… Hence you can make something up, for example that you didn’t like the salary, or didn’t get along with your boss, or felt like you needed a change, etc.
Of course, if they do the background check (they may or not), they won’t hire you. But if you tell them the truth (about your drinking or fighting habits) they won’t hire you either. In such cases (and only in them) lying about your reasons for leaving is better than telling them the truth.
Final thoughts, other tough interview questions
Leaving a job or even changing a career is something normal in 21st century. You shouldn’t be ashamed of leaving any employer, even for such a prosaic reason like searching a better salary. After all you have bills to pay and dreams to follow. Just like your employer…
What matters is how you explain this in an interview. To say that you wanted more money for your children to pursue good education, or simply to have enough money to pay your bills, sounds differently than saying that you simply wanted more money, or wanted to buy a new Porsche.
Honesty and good words about your former employer is a way to go, unless they fired you for some serious breach of rules (stealing, drinking, fighting). In such a case (and only then) you can make something up, taking a risk that they would not do the background check. Because that’s your best bet to succeed.
Read the sample answers again, and use them as an inspiration for writing your own answer to “why did you leave your last job” question. Once done, continue your interview preparation with us, learning to answer other tough questions:
- What do you like the least about your job?
- What changes in your approach would you like to make in your next job?
- Aren’t you overqualified for this job?