Group of business people saying goodbye to a business man holding a box with her belongings

How to Explain Your Reason for
Leaving Your Job

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 01, 2020

Going through the job interview process is seldom easy. There are always questions that make you uncomfortable or just leave you a bit flustered. Questions like, Where do you see yourself in five years? and Why should we hire you? are always tough ones to answer on the spot. Invariably, if you were previously employed, you will be asked, What is the reason for leaving your job? Based on your individual circumstances, this can be a really loaded question. So, what’s the best way to handle it?

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How Not to Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job

Perhaps a good way to think about answering the question is to consider ways you should not answer it. Those include:

I was unhappy

Unless you can add some mitigating context about what you did to try to be happy with the job, don’t say this. After all, what would make your potential employer think you’ll be any happier on the job they’re offering?

You were not challenged in your last position

This might hint at the possibility that you were not able to do the job, or that you didn’t really try and your work quality suffered because of it.

You did not get along with your boss or coworkers

This might prompt your interviewer to think you’re the one who is unpleasant to be around.
In no way do you want to make it seem as if you are unmanageable, or that you tend to grow restless or bored in a job and begin to immediately seek new opportunities. You also do not want to give the impression that you are difficult to get along with and that you are not a team player.
Also avoid vague answers that leave too much open to interpretation. Saying something like “I wanted to grow” doesn’t explain much and might lead an interviewer to think there’s more to the story that you are trying to hide.
In most cases, interviewers are looking for precise reasons for leaving a job so they get to know about you.
“That’s all we want – an accurate picture of who you are,” explains Pierre Tremblay, the director of human resources at Dupray Inc.

How to Describe Why You Left Your Last Job

It’s always best to be honest and up-front when answering this question, so what to say will depend mostly on your specific situation. Here are some that might work for your circumstances:

I did not see my career progressing at my last job

This is a perfectly valid reason, as long as it’s stated in a way that does not appear to bash your former employer. It shows that you’re motivated to move up and take on more responsibility, and many employers will appreciate that. Be ready to elaborate.

I felt that I had learned everything I could at my previous job so I am now seeking a new challenge

This works well if you have already left your last job. You might explain that you no longer were focusing on that job and felt that leaving was the right thing to do. This shows integrity and honesty.

I am seeking to work with a bigger company that offers more opportunities for professional growth

This answer gives you the opportunity to expound on your own successes and to illustrate how passionate you are about growing in your career. Of course this only works if you are indeed interviewing with a company that is larger than the one you previously worked for.

In general, says career strategist Lidia Arshavsky, “redirect your answer to talk about why the job you’re applying to is a fresh opportunity to use your talents to the fullest. Focus on the fact that you are looking to grow by being exposed to new perspectives and new workplace mentors.”

Ultimately, you want to turn the question of why you left your last job into an opportunity to talk about why you’re a good fit for the new one.