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How Do You Explain "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?" - Top Answers.

Comfortable shoes and the freedom to leave are the two most important things in life. —Shel Silverstein

Jared Fox is interviewing for the position of senior analyst at Amazon. He is leaving behind a position at a lesser-known firm at the same level. But his reasons for leaving are not what the average hiring manager would be pleased to hear.

He wants to quit his old company because he can not seem to get along with his boss and coworkers. But Jared knows that if he lets out the real reason, the offer is as good as gone.

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. Why interviewers ask your reasons for leaving a job
  2. Prepare yourself: this question is coming
  3. Common reasons for leaving a job
  4. How to answer "Why do you want to leave your current job?"
  5. Trivia
  6. Framing your reasons for leaving a job
  7. Good reasons for leaving a job
  8. The worst reasons for leaving your job
  9. Tips and mistakes to avoid when answering why you left a job
  10. Preparing for follow-up questions

So what does he do?

Instead, Jared lets the hiring manager know that he is committed to growth and wants to spread his wings under a new banner as he has learned everything he could at the old post.

The hiring manager likes this explanation and invites Jared to participate in the next round of interviews.

When wondering how to answer why did you leave your last job or how to answer why do you want to leave your current job, do not go with your gut and spill the truth unabashedly. Even if the reason is you have a terrible boss or cannot cope with the rigors of the job, you do not have to let the new recruiters know this. Tailor your answers in such a way that you sound extremely positive and eager for a change.

Do what Jared did, and you will be able to make a seamless transition to the new post.

So, if you are wondering how to answer the question “why do you want to leave your current job” or how to answer the question “why did you leave your last job,” this article is for you.

Why interviewers ask your reasons for leaving a job

Interviewers and recruiters have every reason to ask this question. They need to know why you want to make the transition so that they can work to satisfy those requirements of yours. For example, if you'd like more pay, they can offer you more compensation. If you want a stimulating work environment, they will look out for exciting projects to offer you.

Do not think the interviewers' queries are to dig up dirt on you. They are coming to you from the right spirit. They genuinely want to know what they can do to provide a seamless employee experience at the organization.

Another reason recruiters ask this question is to check that you are consistent in answering questions. For instance, if you say you would like a more challenging work environment, but mention that lack of pay at your old job was a bit of a bummer for you, the recruiters' ears will prick up at the inconstancy.

Read on to find out how to answer why you left your last job.

Prepare yourself: this question is coming

You cannot escape answering how to answer why you left your previous job when the question is asked. Instead, prepare yourself for the right way to answer.

Some sound career advice can come into play here. Always remember that you must not complain or give them the slightest clue if you had any negative experiences at your previous workplace.

Sound positive, do not blame anyone, and if you were laid off, there is no need to get emotional when you tell them the truth.

Common reasons for leaving a job

To make it easier for you if you’re wondering how to answer why did you leave your last job and how to answer why do you want to leave your current job, we have come up with a comprehensive list of reasons you can use to answer the delicate question.

Here they are for your perusal!

  • The company and you diverge on the mission. What this explicitly means is you are no longer heading in the direction the company wants to take. It is a very nice way to answer how to answer the question of why did you leave your last job.
  • You want a hike in pay. This reason is easily the most common reason why people try to switch jobs.
  • Your company had to shut down because it could no longer stay competitive.
  • You think you deserve more from your current role.
  • Your old job has ceased to stimulate you mentally, and you are looking for a new mountain to climb.
  • Your old job had no room for growth. It was the same mundane, repetitive work day in and day out.
  • There were family reasons. Either you became the primary caregiver or old parents or had to leave to take care of your kids. Sometimes, how to answer why you left your last job can be quite honest.
  • The working hours at your last job did not agree with you. They had a rigid time limit you had to adhere to, and that was not working out for you since you prefer a flexi-time.
  • Another very valid reason for how to answer why you left your last job is to explain that you have now moved cities and are looking for work in your new position.
  • You are looking for an entry into a new industry and want to switch jobs.
  • You left your last job to pursue your Masters' degree
  • You felt that your personality did not align with the company culture at the last job.
  • You fell ill, and that illness has since been cured. It could have been something as serious as cancer or an accident.
  • You were laid off from your job.
  • There were cutbacks at your last workplace, and you had to be laid off as you were the last to join.
  • Your department has been downsized.
  • You were laid off because of the economic downturn.
  • Your old job role was a contracted position.
  • You wanted more responsibility which was not being offered to you in the old job post.

Hopefully, after reading through these reasons, you have some idea of how to answer why did you leave your last job and how to answer why do you want to leave your current job.

Your situation is unique to you, and you can pitch in the real reason without sounding too complaining or discourteous to your old workplace.

How to answer "Why do you want to leave your current job?"

People usually look up how to answer the question why did you leave your last job, because they want a way to answer it without additional follow-up questions being asked. While you do not have to hide your reasons for leaving, you can answer in a way that will invite no further blowback.  

  • Why do you want to switch jobs?

Sometimes, the only way how to answer the question why do you want to leave your current job is by being honest with yourself.

Why do you want to make the change that could affect the way you are presently living your life? Do you want growth, or do you want more challenges? Are you after higher pay?

Or, are the working hours ticking off a big checklist? Sit down for a while with pen and paper and navigate these feelings. Often, when wondering how to answer why you are leaving your job, the answer lies within you alone. And when you hit on the right answer, present it in a positive light that helps them respect your choice rather than question it.

  • Keep your answer short

When asked this question at the interview, remember to keep your answer as concise as possible. You do not want to give in more room to the interviewer to interrogate you along these lines. Explain your answer briefly, then steer the conversation back to why you are the best candidate for the job. Interview preparation courses might help you to understand how best to make the segue.

  • Stay positive

Even if you are leaving your old job for negative reasons, always paint the situation in a positive light. For example, if you are leaving because you could not get along with your manager, you need to explain it to your recruiter in a vastly different way. Either say that you are looking for new growth or want more responsibilities.

Employers want to know that you are not the kind of person to quit if a challenging situation is placed your way. What they want is a team player and someone who can handle differences in personalities. Interview preparation courses often help you answer these difficult questions, such as how to answer why you left your previous job, in a simple manner.

  • The devil is in the details, but please be honest

Future employers may check with your past employers to verify the start date and the nature of your work with them, so try not to flub at the interview if you were laid off then better to express the truth. And how to answer why you are leaving your job becomes more comfortable if your reasons are genuine. Then there is real weight behind your answers.

When you are asked these questions, however, do not get into the details. Glaze over the problem and try to get back to why the present job is a better fit for you.


According to the Harvard Business Review, people quit their job for three main reasons:

  • They do not like their job
  • They want to be promoted
  • They want better pay

Framing your reasons for leaving a job

When contemplating how to answer why did you leave your job, you need to pick and choose your words carefully. You must never, never, complain. You have to sound positive and hopeful instead of feeling wronged.

  • How to explain being laid-off

Firstly, a layoff because of the economic downturn is not your fault. You had to be let go for practical reasons, and the hiring manager will understand that. Please give them the bare facts and the details of how the layoff came to be. Include the number of people who lost their jobs. To explain how your role in the organization was impacted, you can say:

  1. There was no longer any work to keep my position relevant
  2. My department was the first to be downsized
  3. Once the organization was restructured, my job was made redundant
  • How to explain being fired from your job

Being fired may be a bit of a touchy topic, but you have got to be honest about it. First, discuss with your previous HR department what they term the "firing" since it has a lot of legal implications. Then use those same terms to convey the message to your new employer. Here are some ways you can tell them how to answer why you are leaving your job.

  1. I was let go
  2. I could not succeed at this job because I lacked the necessary skills
  3. I learnt a lot on the job, but the job was not the right fit for me
  • Keep it short and crisp

When wondering how to answer why did you leave your job, take this bit of career advice: answer short and classy. Do not ramble when providing the new recruiters with the reason, as that will seem like you have a lot to hide.

Maintain eye-contact and answer genuinely. Temper your words and be subtle. Then quickly steer the conversation back to the new job. Do not, however, sound mechanical in answering as if you were delivering a speech but prepare some answers beforehand.

  1. I left my job because I am currently looking out for more meaningful work
  2. I left my old job because I was not the right fit for it
  3. I quit my job because I am looking for newer responsibilities
  • I do not like the company

While this can seem like a blunt reason, there are usually a couple of reasons why people do not like their old workplace. It may be because of the nature of work or the nature of people or their manner of doing business. Whichever reason it is, use these ways to answer.

  1. I have seen full growth at my present organization, and now it is time for me to explore new horizons
  2. I want to do more with my time, and the resources at my past workplace were limited
  • I would like more pay

This reason is the trickiest answer on how to answer the question, “Why do you want to leave your current job?” You never know how the recruiter is going to perceive this. You may come off as determined or greedy, depending on who is interviewing you. So to temper your responses slightly, you can use the following ways:

  1. I am motivated by big rewards
  2. Compensation plays a motivating factor in my work ethics
  3. I see new responsibilities on the personal front, for example, a new addition to the family, and I would like a better package
  • I do not like the work or I am bored at the job

When you give this answer to the interview questions, you are highlighting a genuine problem area. You were not feeling motivated enough to continue at your last job since the work attached to the position was not mentally rewarding. Employers will take notice of your answer. But be prepared to explain why you chose that job in the first place. If you can answer intelligently and coherently, this is a sufficiently good reason to give.

  1. My role in building games does not mentally stimulate me any longer, and I want to switch to something more demanding
  2. I have learnt everything I could at networks, and now I would like to shift to cloud computing
  • I do not like the timing at my job

If your old job did not have a proper work-life balance, interview questions about why you are leaving your last job could get a bit tricky. How should you answer this question? The aim here is that you do not come across as lazy or unwilling to put in hard work. While family life is also essential, you have to frame your words in such a manner that the recruiters understand that this is the real reason behind your quitting.

  1. There was no clear-cut distinction between my work and home life
  2. While I am committed to achieving my targets, I also cherish time spent with my loved ones

Good reasons for leaving a job

Interview preparation courses will usually prepare you to answer why you should leave your job in a clear, compelling, and concise way. Opt for some free mock interviews, and you will be able to strategize a solid answer. Here are some examples of good reasons to leave your job.

  • Companies are built in such a way that employees get sufficient scope for growth in their workplace. But if that option is cut off for you at your old workplace, specify this reason as a reason for wanting to switch.
  • A great career move, one that employers like, is someone who wants to experience various careers and different types of jobs. So if you want a change in your career path, employers will look kindly at you.
  • One of the best reasons to change jobs is the motivation for better opportunities at your new workplace. If this new job beats the old one in terms of compensation and work, employers will understand why you want to make the change.
  • If you have had to relocate because of your spouse or for your parents, employers tend to be more understanding of your reasons to switch jobs. After all, it is a legitimate reason.
  • As explained before, the options for promotion at your old workplace may have been limited and interviewing questions may reveal this to your new recruiters. Be candid about wanting to make the switch to management roles. Say that you are interested in more responsibilities, and managerial opportunities at the new firm are what attracts you to the post.
  • If you personally feel that you are better suited to design than coding, make sure to hint at the reason. Honestly say why you think that design is your cup of tea and how you are an excellent fit now that you have had your fill of coding.
  • In case you have been working toward a promotion that has never come, you can mention this. Employers tend to be sympathetic toward the underdog.
  • You may feel that you are underutilized at your present job or else overqualified for it.
  • While interview questions are probing about why you want to quit, health reasons, valid and provable ones, are often looked at with a considerate eye.
  • If your organization was restructured, and you lacked the requisite seniority, you may have been laid off. Or else your department was downsized, and you had to be let go. All these are understandable reasons for wanting to quit your job.

Some of the best career advice you will receive is this: do not quit your job if you cannot get along with your colleagues. Learn to appreciate differences and try to work at smoothening them out instead of taking a drastic step. You do not want rumors of your animosity to leak out through the grapevine.

Free mock interviews are useful for those who are still feeling shaky about their answers to the question: why do you want to leave your job? Take a couple and feel confident about your role!

The worst reasons for leaving your job

Here are some of the worst reasons to mention at any job interview.

  • I hated my boss and colleagues. This reason is nearly the worst reason you could give for wanting to change your job. No matter what your personal opinion on your boss or colleagues is, there is no need to wash dirty laundry in public as it reflects poorly on you and your inability to handle interpersonal relations.
  • I was let go for harassment. While it may be true, it is not the right answer to make. You may have even learned your lesson, since, but let the recruiters figure out the truth of the story on their own. You do not need to bring it up. They will eventually find out so, be prepared to talk about such issues.
  • Boredom with the company. Feeling bored at a company can mean that you are a rolling stone that gathers no moss. Your resume should reflect that you can hold down a job for long and that you do not leave on the flimsiest of excuses.
  • Poor performance is not a reason to quit your job and look for change. It would help if you tried to improve your performance at a current job before applying for a new one.
  • I want to do an easier job. This explanation will make you seem like a person who is tired of working. Also, you will be considered lazy, which does not bode well for you.
  • I was going through a rocky marriage. Marriage should be no reason to have quit a job unless you were moving states. An explanation like this means you cannot handle your personal life.
  • I could not commute to work. If the conveyance is a problem for you, how will your new recruiters know that you will be able to make it to their job?
  • Overtime was required. Every job has its demands, and employers generally compensate for overtime, so you cannot use this as an excuse.

Along with some technical interview prep, throw in some practice of candid questions you may be asked at the interview, and you will ace that round for sure!

Tips and mistakes to avoid when answering why you left a job

Here are some tips to make sure you avoid leaving a wrong impression while answering why you left a job.

  • Do not ramble when answering. The recruiter may think you have something to hide. Be clear and crisp, but do not dwell on the subject for long though. As soon as possible, steer the conversation toward the new role.
  • Have only positive things to say about your last workplace even if the experience was not a good one. Badmouthing anyone reflects poor taste in your personality.
  • Avoid giving inaccurate information. If you were laid off but you say you resigned, employers have a way of doing a background check on you, and they will find the real answers. So have nothing to hide.
  • Do not contradict yourself. For example, if you are leaving because you want a more significant compensation, do not say that money does not motivate you. Employers are quick to pick out inconstancies like that.
  • Try to use neutral language instead of harsh language like 'love' and 'hate'.  Express yourself moderately, and it will create the impression of maturity in you.
  • Mention the great relationships you built at your old job as that will project that you have excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Mention that this new job suits your passion, and it is fulfilling, something that the old one was not. Doing so reiterates your love for work and recruiters pick up on enthusiasm.
  • Prepare yourself for any follow-up questions from whatever you try to reveal. What you let slip could lead to several potential questions that stem from it, so prepare for adequate follow-ups.
  • Avoid getting defensive or angry. If you are pulled up on your bad behavior, admit it, instead of getting angry.
  • Do make it look like you left the job on good terms, and there were no hard feelings between the team and you.

Preparing for follow-up questions

Remember that your interviewer will have tons of follow-up questions to ask you. They will want to know if you considered applying for a similar job at your workplace, or if you can resolve the issues that led you to quit. They will ask you how you will work out miscommunication issues at your new job.

What they are looking for is a candidate that will transition into their team with the least hitches possible.

Your interviewer has also probably changed jobs many times, so they will understand where you are coming from. Be ready.

Happy job hunting!

Last updated on: 
October 27, 2023

Swaminathan Iyer

Product @ Interview Kickstart | Ex | Business Management - XLRI Jamshedpur. Loves building things and burning pizzas!

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