How to Explain Why You Left Your Last Job

Leave a job that wasn't great? Here are the top 15 answers to use to explain why you left a job in your next interview.

Leaving a job that wasn't great is hard enough. Explaining why you left or want to leave can be challenging in the interview for your next job. It's hard to stay positive when your last job was terrible, but it is important to focus on the good things that you have learned. Our recruiters pulled together all of the best ways to handle this tough job interview question. Here are the best examples of how to answer why you left in your next job interview.

I was recruited out to an opportunity that I couldn't pass up.

This could have been the result of an external recruiter, a colleague, or some other reason that made you want to take the leap. Be careful in using this answer to explain why you made the move and how that fits into your work values. Remember, the person interviewing you now wants to know why you want their job and that you will stick around to do it.

The company was bought and was preparing for restructuring.

Any time an organization is sold it can make a huge impact in the company, its culture, and the structure of your job. This change alone can prompt a lot of people to look for concerns of stability or future opportunities. If the sale isn't public yet, be careful about using this answer.

Be clear that you expect changes in the ownership. And, remember, that you need to explain what you want in your next job. Hiring managers don't want to select you if you are only interested in having a job. Instead, remember that they want someone that wants to do their job.

I did what I came to do and it was time for a new challenge.

You may have taken the job to complete a project or to help launch a new business line. Whatever the reason that you decided to make the move, be ready to talk about what you wanted to do, how you did it, and what you want to do next if this is your answer about why you want to leave or why you left the last job.

I had to leave to move up.

Looking externally can sometimes be the only way to advance your career. Going after the title or opportunity to gain more experience is a logical reason to make a move. Doing this frequently or less than a year after you start can create a warning signal to recruiters and hiring managers that you may be a job hopper. So, be smart about why you leave and own that explanation in the job interview.

I was offered a significant pay increase.

Money matters. Recruiters and hiring managers will understand why you may have left for a pay increase. But, money isn't everything. So, be clear about what else the job offered and why you decided to move or to consider moving on from the role.

My former boss recruited me.

Finding a great boss can make a huge impact in your career. So, it makes sense that you may decide to follow that person to their next organization. Explaining the strengths of that person and why you decided to follow them to a new organization can be a great way to identify what you want next. And, if that person is working at the organization where you are interviewing, it can make the process that much easier.

Leadership changes made me realize that it was time for me to look at options.

People make the difference in every organization. A change in leadership or management can also make the difference in whether you want to stay or not. This shift in people can also make people nervous about whether there is an ability to stay. So, providing some context on that leadership change and desire to look at options is a fair answer to why you are looking or why you left an organization.

I was hired to do a specific job. However, the job changed and it was no longer a fit for my skills and career goals.

This happens all the time and most recruiters understand that. It could be that your title never officially changed or that there were changes because of leadership changes or turnover. Whatever the reasons for the change, explain how it impacted you and why you decided to leave. Incorporate some details about what you want now and how that connects to the job that you are interviewing for.

The culture of the company changed and no longer matched with my priorities.

There are lots of reasons why company culture changes. Avoid sounding negative when using this answer and stay focused on what you want next. Identify the things that are important to you in the company culture where you work and how that fits with your skills.

I obtained a new certification and I wanted to gain experience using it.

A new certification can help you to advance or to move into a new career. Looking for a job that puts that certification to use makes it easy to answer the question about why you want to leave. But, this answer only works if the certification is actually relevant to the job that you are interviewing for.

I completed my degree and there was no opportunity for advancement.

Getting your degree or an advanced degree makes you more marketable. Explaining that you are ready to put that to use in your career now makes perfect sense. This can also help you to qualify for the job that you are interviewing for. So, make sure to explain how the degree is an asset for you as a candidate for the open position.

The company required everyone to go back to the office, but it no longer makes sense for me.

The back-to-office mandates aren't for everyone. Many people don't want to go back to the office full-time and other employers are using this as a chance to land the best talent. Be honest about your reasons to look and what you want your next job to look like. This will also make it easy for the hiring manager to see why their open job is a better fit for you now.

The pandemic created childcare challenges. My kids are now back in school and I can now return to work full-time.

The school closures and mandatory quarantines wreaked havoc on many working parents. The reports in the news about people leaving the workforce are well understood and acknowledged by most recruiters and hiring managers. This makes it a lot easier for parents with kids that are over 5 to explain their decision (or really lack of choice in many cases) to stay home to raise the kids. This also makes it clear that you are ready and able to return to work now.

My last job was eliminated and I was laid-off.

There has been a lot of restructuring due to the pandemic. People will understand now more than ever that this happened. Using this answer to provide a bit of context of what the restructuring was and how you were impacted is a straightforward answer to why you left. If it has been a few months since you were laid-off, be ready to include details about what you have done since that time to stay sharp.

I was fired.

Tell the truth. Explain what happened and what you learned. Own the mistake and focus on how you have improved as a result of the situation. If it's a sticky situation, then be smart about how you cover the details. Stay focused on yourself and remain forward-looking in order to stay positive and look ready to move on.