How to Explain Reasons for Leaving a Job at Interview

Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2022 by The InterviewerNo comments

The reasons as to why you’ve left a permanent or temporary job can really vary. However, it will almost certainly form the basis of an interview question. Knowing how to explain this whilst presenting yourself well is important.

Why does an employer want to know?

Employers need to ascertain if you are going to be a good fit for their role in their business and if you’ll be a long-term prospect. Recruitment can be an expensive and time-consuming affair and they don’t want to make a mistake.

As such, they want to figure out if you left your employer voluntarily and why, or whether there were performance-related issues leading to dismissal. By asking about why and how you are leaving your current employer, they can also gather information about your character and work values. Importantly, it helps them learn if you are a good fit and if your career aspirations match the opportunities that they have available.

How to explain why you’re leaving your job positively

Assuming that you aren’t looking for a new job because you were dismissed (which will require a lot of careful handling), you are usually either looking for a new career opportunity or have been made redundant. Even if it’s the latter, you can frame it as a positive opportunity for yourself and that the situation aligned with your goals.

Rather than focusing on why you are leaving your previous employer, try to flip it on its head: why do you want the new role? Think about what the new role objectively has over the previous one. Is it to do with the company values or perhaps your career goals? Answering in this way puts a positive spin on things. For example, if you are leaving because you’re frustrated that your boss was a micro-manager, you can instead rephrase it into wanting more opportunity to work autonomously.

Even if a negative reason is driving your leaving, stay positive about the situation and your past employer. Remember, your interviewer wants to see how you handle challenges. Remain professional, but be authentic and honest. Reasons for leaving are often confirmed in references, so you don’t want to be caught out.

How to positively frame why you are leaving

It’s worth giving some thought to how you will frame your answer before the interview. Some good examples include:

Looking for career growth: Explain why opportunities lie outside of your existing employer and how you want to develop this within the realm of the prospective employer. Remember to show gratitude to your previous employers.

Career changes: Especially with the consequences of the pandemic, many people are changing careers altogether. Explain what you are looking for from your future career and what you’re excited about.

Change in environment: Again, explain how you’ve benefited from your existing role and how you are now ready for a new challenge.

Importantly, don’t broadcast things such as poor working relationships or wanting more money. It can also be tricky to talk about working hours and flexibility in a way that doesn’t paint you in a poor light. However, these things can be carefully worked into other answers or developed upon later in the recruitment process if necessary.

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