Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Chelsea Lawler

Depending on the circumstances of how you left your last job, this question can immediately trigger a negative or positive response in your mind. What should I say if I had a negative experience at my last place of employment? Or it could a simple question for you to answer. Maybe you had an internship or you were starting school full-time, and that is the reason you had to leave your last position. You may be currently employed and seeking a change in environment. There are many different circumstances that affect the answer of this question. We will explore the different scenarios and examples of how to answer the question.

Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Did you leave your last place of employment on good terms?
Explain if you are still in good standing and in touch with your former place of employment. Do you have a positive reference from your manager? This will show your potential employer that you were a positive employee and were able to maintain an encouraging relationship with a former employer.

2. Did you leave your last place of employment for a good reason or voluntarily?
Your potential employer will be able to gauge if you can handle a leadership or responsibility role, if you are a reasonable individual, and can perform the job, if hired.

3. Can you describe your work values?
Explain your work ethic and how you positively view a job. If you voluntarily left your last place of employment, ask yourself why? How did your work values relate to your former employer, and how will they correlate with your potential employer?

There are many factors that can determine why you may have left your last job.

It is important to remember that an employer is going to be listening for clues as to why you left your last position. If you were leaving to pursue new experiences or new challenges, an employer will want to know this. You may be currently employed and wish to pursue a new dream job at a new company.

The economic climate could be one of the factors as to why you may have left your last place of employment. Perhaps your former place of employment closed its doors. Maybe there were cutbacks and individuals were let go. For you, as well as many others, it may be difficult for you to nail down a new job due to the economic environment. For every new job opportunity, so many individuals apply for the same position, making the competition steep.

It’s important to be honest in your answer, even if the reason you left may be negative, to end the answer on a positive note. It is imperative to keep the answer positive, even if the circumstances were otherwise, as you want the employer to see that you are still a viable applicant. It is vital that you remain professional, motivated, and honest when you are providing your answer. Be sure to be prepared to highlight positive performances or accomplishments, and how they relate to the position you are applying for. As with any position on your resume, be ready to discuss any of your previous positions and why you left or wish to leave.

Examples
1. “I have truly enjoyed my time at Arts and Crafts World and I am so proud of the successful social media campaign that I have envisioned and managed. However, I feel it is time for a change in my life. Currently, there have been many management changes and many of our other campaigns were put on hold. I have been ruminating for quite some time about working for a larger company with more growth opportunities. The position appears to be a perfect fit for me, due to my experience, project management, and background in social media marketing.”

The prospective employee starts the answer off on an optimistic note, highlighting the positive aspects of their current employer. They shortly describe the current happenings at their position, and why they seek a new position elsewhere, while showcasing their strengths.

2. “There were new changes within our management department and it was evident the new director had expectations for the job that did not fit together with my strengths. Eventually, it was decided that someone with more experience would be brought in to replace me. This experience taught me that my real talents lie in (insert a strength). I am positive I would be an asset in a role like this one and I would be happy to tell you more about my experience in this area.”

It is clear the interviewee is explaining that he/she was let go from their position. It is important to remember that if you were fired from a previous place of employment to be careful where you place the blame. It is imperative that you avoid placing the blame on other individuals and emphasize the lessons you learned from the experience. Job expectations or requirements may have altered, which resulted in your termination. Perhaps it was due to your performance. Regardless of the situation, the potential employer wants to understand that this was a unique episode and you will not be a risk if hired. It is important to keep the conversation positive while highlighting your strengths and experiences.

3. “Unfortunately, the company I was employed had many clients that went out of business during the course of the year. This impacted our company’s revenue considerably; therefore, they had to eliminate several positions. I was among the ten individuals most recently hired to our department that was let go. I accomplished so much while I was there, and my former employer is one of my greatest references.”

The answer to the question, “Why did you leave your last job?” shows the employer the circumstances were out of the interviewee’s hands. A reference from the former employer validates the interviewee’s claim. Seniority and budgetary constraints were the reason for the termination, however, not the interviewee’s individual performance.

About The Author

Chelsea Lawler

Chelsea Lawler is a recent graduate of Philadelphia University with her Master of Science degree in Fashion Apparel Studies. She graduated from Mount Aloysius College in 2010 with her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Chelsea enjoys running her small jewelry business for vintage clothing, and traveling. With her writing at Career Igniter, she hopes to educate both students and job seekers on the various facets of the job hunting process.

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