Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? 5 Ways To Answer This Tricky Interview Question
So you need to find yourself a new job or career because you left your last one and unfortunately there's just no way of avoiding that dreaded job interview. As I'm sure you're aware, in order to do well in a job interview, preparation is key. Understand that there are many typical job interview questions that you can expect to be asked and one of the most popular ones is: "Why did you leave your last job?"
You will almost without fail be asked this question so before you go into your interview, make sure you know how you will answer it. The question is often tricky because many people leave their jobs not always on the best of terms and for reasons that are not going to make them look good in an interview. If you want the new job, you are going to have to make a good impression.
For example, if you left your last job primarily because you hated your boss, I would not suggest talking about this in your interview. Or if you left because nobody liked you, don't mention this either. Maybe you left because you found your last job overwhelming and had no idea what you were doing - again, don't mention it. I'm certainly not suggesting here that you lie in your interview but the point is that you need to find a way to sell yourself. You don't want to alert your future employer to potential problems about yourself that he might encounter if he hires you (again, I'm not suggesting that you lie but it's all about the way you present yourself and word your answer).
Obviously everyone's real reasons for leaving their last job are going to be different but if you're having trouble coming up with how you're going to answer this question in an interview, see if one or a combination of the following 5 ways can help you. I was once in a position where I left a job because I hated my boss and there was too much stress. Since I did not want to focus on this in my answer, I used these methods instead.
1. I loved ___ in my last job and want to do more of it
Let's say that helping people was a small part of your last job but a part that you were good at and really enjoyed. In the job you're interviewing for, you know that there is a much greater involvement necessary with helping people. Tell your interviewer that helping people is something you're good at, had a little opportunity to practice in your last job and are skills that you would like to further develop.
Of course, "helping people" is just an example and you should fill in the blank with whatever makes the most sense in your situation. You could use just about anything. A few more examples are: teamwork, working independently, being creative, troubleshooting, technical skills, sales - the list goes on and on.
2. The location was not ideal
Many people commute to work daily. For some, spending an hour or more to get to their job and then back home again is just normal. However, while many people live this way out of necessity, it's really not ideal to be spending so much of your day on the road or a train, etc. In fact, studies have shown that people who have long commute times to work report higher levels of stress.
So if you're one of these people and the job you're interviewing for happens to be closer to where you live, then by all means use this as part of your answer. Employers usually prefer to hire folks who live closer to the workplace anyway because their chances of staying long-term improve.
3. I am looking for more responsibility and challenge
While this one sounds good on the surface because it shows ambition, be careful. The problem is that from the point of view of your interviewer, you can end up looking like the kind of person who gets bored easily and just keeps moving from job to job.
With that in mind, if you're going to use this answer, make sure you put your interviewer's mind at ease by somehow slipping in that while you're also looking for more responsibility and new challenges that your intentions are to stay long-term (don't say it though if it's not true).
4. I worked at my last job for a very long time and honestly just need a change
Most people go through many job and career changes throughout their lives and your interviewer knows this and has probably done it herself. If you worked at your last job for quite a while - say, 5-10 years or more, then it's perfectly acceptable to state that you just need a change of scenery but that you certainly miss your former co-workers and are looking forward to being part of a new team of people.
Again, if you can show that you have a history of staying at your previous jobs for a while, then do it. No one wants to hire someone who is going to quit a few months or even a year later.
5. I did not like _____ about my last job but there is none of that required for this job
If there is something very specific that you did not like about your last job that is not a necessary part of the job you're interviewing for, then it's okay to use it as part of your answer.
Obviously, I'm not referring to bashing your previous boss or anything like that because in your new job, there will be a boss too. Also don't talk about how you couldn't get along with your co-workers because in your new job, there will be co-workers too.
Some examples of acceptable things you might be able to talk about depending on your circumstances are: too much shiftwork, too physically or labourally intensive, etc.
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I can't stress enough that you really should not lie in your interview. If you're trying to cover up the real reason why you left your last job and you're finding that it's just too big and you can't do it, then listen to your instincts and answer this question the way you feel most comfortable doing.
If something truly went wrong in your last job such as you did not get along with your boss, tell your interview that if you feel like you have to. You will have to be very careful and diplomatic with your wording but many (not all) interviewers will at least appreciate your honesty. Make it brief and be as positive as you can. NEVER disrespect your previous employer in an interview.
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