How to Explain Why You Left Your Last Job

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There comes a time in almost every employment interview when the hiring manager asks, “Why did you leave your last job?”

It’s often a tough question to answer. People leave jobs because something didn’t work out. They got fired. Or they quit because they were afraid of getting fired. They couldn’t get promoted. Or they just couldn’t get along with co-workers.

Here are strategies you can use so you won’t be at a loss for words if and when this difficult question arises.

What if you got fired?

First, be honest. If you were fired, say so. Chances are, the hiring manager is going to find out anyway. The last thing you want anyone to think about you is that you are dishonest. Most companies will not hire someone who knowingly lied to them.

Whatever you may have done to lose your job, frame it as a learning experience. Try to stay calm and practice speaking in an objective tone of voice. And be brief. If the interviewer wants to know more, let them ask the questions.

And remember, almost everyone gets fired at some point in their career. More likely than not, your prospective employer will understand.

What if you quit your job?

Even under the best of circumstances, by the tine you quit your job you have probably developed a long list of complaints. Employers hear enough gripes from workers they have already hired. They don’t want to hear yours. Take your honest reasons and reframe them to be positive.

  • You were underpaid? Say you’re looking for a positions where you can contribute more and be of greater value to to your new employer.
  • You didn’t like your boss? Say you’re looking to join a company that emphasizes teamwork.
  • Your were bored? Say you’re looking for a challenging environment where employees are held accountable for achieving results.

What if you got laid off?

Getting laid off means your employer didn’t need you anymore, not that there was an issue with your performance. Hopefully, you got a letter of recommendation from your boss before you left that validated that you were a good worker and explained why you were let go. If not, go back and ask for one, even if your boss is no longer employed by your former company. Don’t expect employers to just take your word fro it.

What if the reasons are personal?

Maybe you had to quit to take care of a family member who was ill. Or maybe you had to resign to start a family. You may have needed time to recover from an injury or an illness. These are all common reasons why workers quit their jobs and they don’t reflect badly on you.

On the other hand, if you had a nervous breakdown or needed to go to drug rehab, your can be honest without going into the unflattering details. Once again, the secret is reframing. You can say that you wanted to take some time off to reconsider your career goals. Or that you were feeling burnt out and wanted to get back your enthusiasm for your work.

Whatever your situation, if you are honest and reframe negatives as positives, you will be able to answer the question “Why Did You Leave Your last Job?” with ease.