Reasons for leaving a job – the dreaded interview question!

Reasons for leaving a job – the dreaded interview question!


So why did you leave your last job?

OK, so you are an honest person and your gut is telling you to say, “my manager was a complete asshole – he spent too much time with his head surgically attached to the owners butt that he made life hell for me”. While that is a completely valid motive, you still need come up with something slight more diplomatic for your interview.


After all, although it seems they want to know why you are moving on – they really want to see how you deal with the question and that is the way you need to approach the situation.

To help you out a bit, I’ve knocked up a quick list of reasons you can give for leaving your last job – some of them are useful, and others…well, not so useful but if you are feeling cheeky you could go for it anyway! ;)

Good reasons for leaving your previous job

  • There was no scope for progression within the company.
  • You’ve heard good things about the job you are applying for and saw that a position was available.
  • You think this would make a good career move for you.

These are all positive responses in that they don’t in any way reflect negatively on you. This is important because although there may very well have been negative reasons for you leaving (or you got fired), you still need to be giving a good impression at your interview.

Reasons that could be a bit of a minefield, but still reasonably acceptable

  • I wasn’t happy in my old job.
  • I had some disagreements with my manager / coworker.
  • I didn’t like the company.
  • My contract wasn’t renewed.

While these aren’t inherently bad grounds for deciding to change your place of work – they are honest and frankly, they are reasons that everyone has at one time or another in their life – they still open the door to a series of questions that might get tricky.

Obviously if your departure from your previous employer wasn’t entirely amicable, then you need to be putting as good a polish on it as possible. That means possibly venturing into this territory, which could be difficult. If you find yourself in this position, you should definitely go to the interview prepared to be grilled on the subject. Usually the specifics of your answer won’t be that relevant to the interviewer (as long as you don’t reveal facts that you omitted earlier!) – the manner in which you answer will be relevant.

Pretty bad reasons for leaving your job

  • I was just bored and thought I’d try something else.
  • My manager was an idiot.
  • I had been late a lot and they let me go.
  • You pay more money.

Responses like this paint a very negative picture of you – even though that most people may have been in these situations before. You just can’t say that at an interview though – you will look uncommitted. Regardless of how you left your old job, you need to convince your new employer that you are 100% committed to them and if you get the job you won’t potentially cause problems later on.

The interview process is NOT them finding out more about you – it’s YOUR chance to build their confidence in YOU.

Never – I mean NEVER – criticise your previous employer. It doesn’t matter how pissed off you are at them or how “down to earth” the interviewer may seem – it will not go down well.

Absolutely terrible reasons to give…

  • I habitually urinated in my supervisors tea.
  • I called my pregnant colleague a “fat skank”.
  • I watched Fight Club then decided to reenact one of the scenes at work.
  • My boss caught me with his wife at the Xmas party.
  • I never liked working with children much – whiney little bastards.
  • The court said I had to stay at least half a mile from the premises.
  • Some stuff in my past came up and they wouldn’t let me teach anymore.
  • I went on holiday for 2 weeks and forgot to mention it to them.
  • Stuffy bastards wouldn’t let me enjoy a whisky with breakfast.
  • I didn’t realise the mute button on my phone was broken while I was mocking my client.
  • Too many (insert ethnic / racial slur).
  • I brought in my pet cougar for a laugh.
  • The company expenses account paid for these new teeth (then smile).
  • I won’t go into details, but let’s just say there was an incident involving a bucket of sand and a length of rope.
  • Screw you! Mind your own damn business!
  • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…
  • They were too anal about their “don’t steal from work” policy.
  • The corporate firewall started blocking porn.
  • They don’t know I’m gone.
  • Haha, good one!
  • They found out about… (awkward pause) … there was no scope for progression in the company.
  • I still maintain all offices should allow paintball guns in the mornings.
  • Friday afternoon in the pub ended Wednesday morning.
  • They just couldn’t deal with my fucking genius.
  • They are prejudice against people who enjoy swinging at lunchtime.

Good luck! :)


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