During the interview, the hiring manager will ask: Why did you leave your previous job? Because they want to know what factors led you to this decision. For example, they want to know if you left because you were fired, are looking for something more challenging, or have decided to make a career shift. Whatever the reason, you must be prepared so you don’t get caught off guard during your interview. You see, the key to answering the question: Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job? is to explain briefly why you left or your motivations for leaving, then quickly shift to the value you can provide here in this new job. So, now the question is, how do you structure your answer?
To find out, stay tuned; we’ll even provide you with some of the BEST sample answers to use as a template when preparing yours.
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The interviewer wants to understand your motivations and career goals. For example, if you left your previous job to pursue a management position, it indicates to the interviewer that you have aspirations to move into an executive role. It also gives the hiring manager a clear indication of how much you value what you do professionally. Think about it: someone genuinely passionate and invested in their career will do whatever it takes to gain more experience and move up in their profession…right? With that said,
By asking this interview question, hiring managers can quickly determine if you are on good terms with your previous employer (why or why not) and if you are leaving because you were fired; if so, they want to learn more about what happened because this will determine if you are the right fit in this job and if you will be an excellent cultural fit for this company.
Whatever the reason for leaving your previous job, you have to be able to communicate the reasons behind your decision and describe the value you will bring to this job. For this reason, it is essential to structure your answer perfectly so you hit all the main points. For example, structure your answer so you don’t focus too much on why you left your previous job because the word “leaving” is often associated with negativity, etc. In turn, focus more on what you are trying to accomplish by leaving and why you chose this company to further pursue your career goals. With that said, we recommend using this template:
First, keep your answers positive and do not talk negatively about your previous employer. Next, steer your answers to show your ambition. For example, “I was limited in my growth and wanted to gain more experience in my niche.” Or “My employer limited my ability to step outside the box. He refuses to implement some creative processes I introduced, and I know will save the company time and money.”
It’s also good to mention reasons for leaving your previous job the hiring manager can resonate with and are legitimate. For example,
The company is making you work long hours, which is affecting your overall productivity long-term.
Restricted mobility within the company or your growth path is limited.
You have decided to relocate to another city, or the job wanted you to relocate, and you couldn’t because of personal commitments.
You decided to upgrade your education and enrolled in a training program.
If your reasons for leaving include a career change, the hiring manager will understand your decision. But, you have to back up your answer with why you decided to change careers and what experience you have “now” that will be an asset in this job. Either way, you should phrase your answer stating you wanted to work in a more challenging job that will allow your natural skills to shine. Then, mention some of your strongest strengths; for example, you are a natural team player or leader or have always been good at analyzing reports (reading numbers). The strategy is to read through the job description and mention your skills that align perfectly (and are relevant) to the job you are interviewing for.
If you are changing careers because you were fired from your last job, you want to ensure you keep things as positive as possible. No one likes talking about why they were “fired” because they fear it will negatively impact their character. But you have strategies available that will leave a positive impression on the hiring manager. To learn more about these strategies, read the following: Why Were You Fired from Your Last Job? With that said,
Here are a few tips to help you out. First, always be honest because the hiring manager can do a reference check to find out the truth about why you were fired, and if you are dishonest, it will eliminate you as a candidate. Second, never detail why you were fired because the goal is to steer the conversation back into positive territory by explaining what you learned from the situation and what you are doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
You have to remember that as long as you were not fired for egregious misbehaviour like stealing, fraud, abuse, etc, you will be fine, but you must prepare a solid (value-filled) answer beforehand.
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Here are some popular sample answers you can use as a template when preparing your own. Of course, these templates should be customized to match your previous job experience, skills, and qualifications.
“I decided to pursue this job because it will allow me to apply my other KEY skills. At my previous job, I couldn’t perform at my fullest potential. It’s not because my manager or team restricted me in any way but because my job was solely focused on a specific set of KEY skills, and I believe I have so much more to offer in this industry. While working for (ABC company), I did enroll in training courses to build on my current skills, and after completing the required examinations, I am ready to apply what I learned here in this job.”
“While working at (ABC company), I wanted to grow within the company but was limited because I did not have the experience and skills to apply internally for these positions. So, I decided to return to school and enroll in an advanced apprenticeship program to obtain the necessary skills/educational requirements to improve my chances of transitioning into other progressive roles in this industry. Unfortunately, (ABC company) did not offer a program where I could take time off to further my training, and the current structure in their department does not offer part-time job opportunities, which I can transition into until I complete my education. So, I quit my job to pursue my educational training/certification. Now that I have successfully graduated from the apprenticeship program, I am here interviewing for this job.”
“I left my previous job to explore a different career path altogether. While working at ABC company, I was given the opportunity to be part of a project outside of my department, working in a completely different industry. Once a year, the ABC Company allows its employees to explore different types of jobs in their company because they encourage their employees to explore beyond their potential. I had such an opportunity where I was able to transition outside of marketing into sales which was a blessing in disguise. I have always been a people person and a problem solver, so I excelled in this position. However, after my internship/project was completed after six (6) months, I wanted to change career paths immediately, but no job opening was available at my previous employer. So, I am here interviewing for this position because I believe my passion for building relationships while solving a customer’s problem will be an asset in this job and within your company.”
If you are laid off, you can use the following answer:
“Unfortunately, the company I was working for was acquired by another company. After acquiring my company, the new leadership team decided to do some restructuring by combining specific departments. My job was relocated to the new corporate headquarters in (name of the place). Due to my commitments here at home, I could NOT relocate at the time, so I was laid off from my job. However, this was a blessing in disguise because instead of finding a job immediately, I returned to school for three (3) months to achieve certification in (certification name) and completed it successfully last month. I am now here interviewing for this position because I feel my experience and skills align perfectly with the type of candidate you are looking for.”
If you were fired from your previous job, you could use the following answer:
PRO TIP: Don’t use the word “Fired” in your answer because of the negative association with it. We recommend using the word “Let Go.”
“The job description and requirements did NOT align with what I was hired to do at my previous job. And when I voiced my concern, I was “Let Go,” but this was a blessing in disguise because it gave me the opportunity to take time off and re-evaluate what I am looking to achieve in my professional career. Now whenever I apply for a job and am invited in for an interview, I ask specific questions that clarify what I will be doing and the entire scope of the job. By asking “specific” questions about the job opportunity, I can identify if my experience and skills fit the job requirements I will be performing.”
To learn how to structure and answer the interview question: Why Were You Fired? View the following – Why Were You Fired from Your Last Job? (With Samples)
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