Interview Questions: Why did you leave your last job?Thursday, 11 May 2017
The reasons for why you left your previous job can be an indication of your future behaviour. Whether it was your decision to leave or your employer's decision, your reasons can reveal positive or negative things. Everything you say in an interview should be geared towards making you look like the right choice for the job. Sometimes though, due to frustration or anger at a previous employer, or the desire to explain themselves, people say things that make them look like a risky choice.
Part of acting professional is knowing that there are things that are okay to say and things you shouldn't say. If you were treated badly at a previous job it's understandable that you're not going to have warm feelings for it. However, bad mouthing your former boss, co-workers or workplace is a bad choice. This sort of behaviour raises questions about how you're going to behave or what you're going to say do the track, if you're hired.
The reason it can be risky to mention negative things even if you think you have the moral high ground is, there are two sides to every story. When you say that you're boss micromanaged everything about your job, the interviewer could be thinking, was there a reason your boss had to micromanage everything. Did the quality of your work raise concerns that required it to be checked constantly? Maybe the type of work required a lot of oversight and it had nothing to do with you, or maybe you don't know why your manager micromanaged everything.
Basically, when you talk bad about your previous job, the thought will be, was there a reason for their manager's actions that they aren't telling me. Whether you're in the right or not, the interviewer won't know whether you're being truthful, so it's best to avoid putting doubt into their mind to begin with.
There are plenty of reasons why you might leave a job.
- Caring for a family member
- Looking for a job with more responsibilities or new opportunities
- You want to use new skills or make the most of your current skills
- You're looking for something more stable
- Looking for better pay
- Something closer to home
- A job with better working hours
Unfortunately you might have hated your job.
- The work culture might have been toxic
- There may have been problems caused by your manager or co-workers
- You might have been let go because of performance issues or let go because you were a troublemaker
These are the things you have to discuss carefully. How you phrase your answer and how much detail you go into will make all the difference.
I left my previous job because the company was restructured. My boss changed and so did several of the people I was working with. My new team wasn't helpful and my new boss was no better. I didn't enjoy what I was doing there anymore and found it boring working with those people. I was beginning to hate the job, so I figured it was a good time to quit and find something better.
I've given a lot of information here, and by going into detail I have mentioned information I shouldn't have. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to an interview, but you can be honest without going into detail when you're talking about negative reasons for why you left a job.
For the last example, instead of venting my frustrations I could have said, I left my previous job because the company was restructured and it felt like a good time to move on and look for new opportunities.
Both of these example are saying the same thing, but the second one does it without a negative tone. Try and be positive, even if there are negative aspects to what you're talking about.
It's fine to use generic reasons for leaving a job such as looking for new opportunities, or wanting more of a challenge. However, if you're going to use something generic like this, you need to be prepared to answer follow up questions.
If you say,
I left my previous job because I felt I had no more room to grow and I'm looking for new challenges, the interviewer may ask,
What sort of challenges are you hoping to face or
What do you think will make this job different to your last
Give some thought to what you would say if you were asked to further explain why you're leaving or have already left your job. Once again avoid the negative.
Interview preparation should involve some practise. It's good to know what you're going to say if a question is asked, but you want to avoid sounding like a robot when giving your answer. If your answers sound too rehearsed they can end up hiding your personality and not showing who you are as person.
As well as not sounding like a robot, you also need to sound genuine. If you're full of anger towards your previous job that you grit your teeth while saying
I left to find new opportunities, this is going to prompt further questions.
Don't give interviewers a reason to think that you're a risky hire by what you say about a previous manager, co-worker or workplace. Stay positive and show that your reasons for leaving won't create problems for them in the future.