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How to Answer the Dreaded Question- Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

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If you’ve ever searched for a job, you know that you will be asked many different questions. One question you can be sure will come up is “why did you leave your last job?” or, if still employed, “why do you want to leave?”. Employers will want to ensure you have good reasons for leaving your prior employment.

Reasons for being Unemployed:

Happens all of the time for many reasons (business is off, company is closing, company is acquired by another company, etc.) Getting fired happens to the best of us. Whether it was for “cause” or not, it can and does happen.

You Were Fired

If you were fired from your last job, avoid using negative words like “fired”. If you were fired, try to find out from your former employer’s HR department what will be communicated when someone calls for a reference check. Maybe have a friend call asking for a reference so that you will know how it is being presented.  This will help you prepare for this question during the interview.

If you've ever searched for a job, you know that you will be asked many different questions. One question you can be sure will come up is 'why did you leave your last job?' or, if still employed, 'why do you want to leave?'. Click To Tweet

You Were “Downsized”

It is not uncommon to be let go due to a downsizing (stores closing, plants closing, trying to “save” money, etc.) If you were “let go”  because of a downsizing, it is an easier story to tell.  It may have been reported in the news and it is certainly something that can be checked.

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You had to quit due to a personal or family tragedy

Maybe you were needed to care for a sick parent, spouse, or sibling or maybe there was a death in the family and you needed to step in to help.  Obviously not an easy thing to manage and certainly an explanation that is acceptable.

You quit to find a better opportunity

While it is always better to find a new job while you are still employed, sometimes you need to quit in order to have the time to find your new opportunity. Even if you were miserable in your last job, it is best to only say that you were looking for new opportunities.

Typical Questions (and Answers):

Understanding your reasons for being unemployed or why you are considering leaving your job is important to potential employers. Following are some common interview questions.

Why are you looking to leave (or why did you leave) your current job?

  • Looking for better opportunities.
  • Your current company is downsizing (moving, closing, etc.).
  • You were not looking to leave your current job, but are really interested in this opportunity and the company.
  • You want to make more money (should not be the main reason).
  • Limited Opportunities at your current employer.
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Did you leave voluntarily or were you let go?

  • If you were let go, try to keep the answer short and to the point.
  • Focus on the job not being the best fit for you and your skills (have examples).
  • Maybe you were asked to take on responsibilities that your employer felt you could not handle.

Stay Positive:

Whatever your reasons for leaving (or being let go) from your current job, it is important that you don’t say anything negative about your former employer or company. Focus on the positive aspects of your prior role (the skills you learned, what you achieved, etc.)

If an employer questions why there are any gaps in your employment history it’s a good idea to be well prepared to answer that question. Whatever you do, if a job really ended badly and you want to leave them off your resume, don’t try to fudge the dates of other jobs to cover the space you created by not listing that job, you may eventually be found out and that is simply not going to get you a job.

Good reasons for gaps in your employment history would be staying home with the family such as taking care of someone who is sick or raising the kids. Other reasons could be for moving to a different town.

However, even if you really did take time off to say travel or say write a book, may to you sound OK, it may not sound so good to a prospective employer so you might not want to use that as a reason, even if it is true.

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12/07/2021 07:46 pm GMT
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