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Job Interview Tips-Why did you leave your job?

Posted 3rd February 2020 • Written by People First •

Job Interview Tips-Why did you leave your job?

Another tough question to answer, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to be asked it in one form or another.

With a lot of interview questions the interviewer is more interested in how you answer than in the actual content, but this is one of the few interview questions in which the interviewer is genuinely interested in your answer. They really do want to know why you left.

When you answer it is very important to not say certain things and the most important are:

 

  • Don’t criticise your former company / boss – it suggests you have problems with other people;

  • Don’t make yourself look like a victim;

  • Don’t be indecisive, unclear and vague – it makes it sound like you don’t know what you want;

  • Don’t say, if you’d only been there six months, that you had learned everything you could;

  • Don’t go into too much detail – once you’re given a chance to talk you might find yourself going into a rant;

  • Don’t lie.


Reasons for leaving (the toughest first): 

You were sacked

You can’t avoid it, but talk about it as professionally and diplomatically as you can. Don’t blame someone else BUT show what you learned from the experience and how it has changed and improved you so it won’t happen again

Redundancy

If you were made redundant then it wasn’t your fault, but make clear you weren’t the only person affected, and that you were good at your job and you can apply that to this new job. 

You’ve been Unemployed for a period of time.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself by saying you applied for 100s of jobs and went to 10s of interviews (because they will wonder why you were unsuccessful), instead show that you spent that time as productively as possible, by learning new skills, or keeping your existing skills and knowledge up to date.

You want to change your career/industry

You need to work hard to show your enthusiasm and passion for the new direction, talk about the training you’ve done in your own time to make the transition easier and also why the skills and experience from your past can be applied to this new role. 

You want a more junior job

Employers are often scared of people with lots of experience (you may want their job!) but you might have a good reason for stepping backwards.

You need to show why you want to do that, it might be because of the hours and pressure in your last job.

You also need to assure them you won’t want a promotion quickly to get back to the level you used to be at, by showing them that the knowledge you have acquired can help you, the team and the company at this new level. 

You’re a Job Hopper (you have left several jobs after a short period of time)

On the whole, employers do not like job hoppers, but you can convince them otherwise.

Some industries, eg. IT, often employ people on a contract/project basis and employers in the same industry know this, but if you’re in a different sector, or working for a company that you know prefers stable employees then you will need to go into more detail. If your jobs were 3/6/12 month contracts, then make that clear on your CV and in the interview, so they know you had a reason for leaving.

But, if they were permanent jobs then it’s trickier and interviewers will worry if you will leave them quickly too.

You need to stop them thinking you left because you were bored, or didn’t fit in, instead show them that each move had a positive element for your development and career. Then explain why this new job and company have exactly what you are looking for and what you can bring to them. 

If you took time off to raise children, or because you were looking after an ill relative.

Tell them that exact reason. They may have experienced the same themselves and may admire you for putting your career on hold for someone else.

Show what you learned in that time, especially if you were able to continue your studies.

 

In summary

You know, 100%, that you will be asked this question, so prepare and get your answer ready.

Don’t lie, don’t criticise, don’t make yourself out to be the victim and don’t be vague, don’t give them a reason to think you’ll leave or make the same mistakes again.

Deal with it as swiftly as possible and then talk again about why you’re the best fit for the new job.

Click to see more interview tips to help you in your search for a job with Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Multilingual or in Supply Chain.