Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Be Prepared to Answer in an Interview

During any job interview, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll be asked about your last job. The interviewer will want to know why you left, and under what circumstances—usually in order to minimize the risk that you may leave your new job the same way if you’re hired.


It’s important to be prepared to answer this question, especially if the circumstances of you leaving your last job were less than desirable. Here are some tips to help you get ready for the “big question,” and leave your interviewer impressed.

Stick to the truth

If you were fired, or you quit for reasons that were important to you but don’t sound that way to anyone else, it can be tempting to flat-out lie in response to this interview question. Resist the temptation—because it’s relatively easy for the interviewer to find out the truth, and lying won’t land you the job.

This doesn’t mean you have to respond with “I got fired.” There are more creative ways to communicate this, letting you demonstrate that while you may not have been the right person for your last job, you are the right person for this one.

Avoid badmouthing your boss

You might have worked for the stingiest, most incompetent and unfeeling person on the planet (at least from your point of view) at your last job—but that’s not something you want to discuss with an interviewer. It will make them concerned that you’ll talk the same way about their company when you leave.

If you launch into a tirade about your ex-boss, you’ll look unprofessional at best, and at worst like a bitter and uncooperative person who was rightfully fired. These are not the images you want to project. Instead, make sure you have a calm, reasonable prepared answer about why you and your last boss failed to see eye-to-eye—or choose another reason to emphasize why you left.

Sample answers for the interview question: “Why did you leave your last job?”

If you were fired:

  • I was desperate for work, and I took the first offer I had without thinking about the long-term effects. It’s a mistake I won’t make again. I’d prefer a work environment where (your own preferences that match the hiring company’s culture).
  • Unfortunately, my abilities were not the right match for my previous employer. I believe that my personal competencies are a good fit with your company, because (what the hiring company does and how you can meet their needs).
  • Things simply weren’t working out, so my boss and I came to a mutual agreement that it was time for me to move on, in order to get a better return for both of us. I’m ready to add value to your company.
  • My former company brought in a new manager who preferred to work with his own team, so several of us were let go to clear the way. I’m glad to have this opportunity to apply with your company.

If you were downsized or otherwise let go, but not fired:

  • The company was scaling back, and unfortunately my position was among those eliminated.
  • I was laid off from my previous job when corporate restructuring eliminated our department.
  • My former job was outsourced to another country. It was unfortunate, because the people I’ve worked with say my work is superior.
  • The company was in the process of downsizing, and it made sense for me to seek another job before my position was eliminated.

If your last job just wasn’t working out:

  • I’ve decided that I’d like to take my career in a different direction, and my former employer didn’t have the opportunities I was looking for.
  • I found that I was bored with the work and seeking bigger challenges to grow my career, and it didn’t seem ethical to use my former employer’s time for job hunting.
  • I’m looking for a new challenge that will allow me to use my skills to the fullest potential, in a different capacity than my former position.
  • I left my last position to (reasonable cause, such as spending more time with family). My circumstances have since changed, and I’m completely ready for full-time employment.

Keep in mind that honesty is the best policy. If you have understandable reasons for leaving your last job, such as a move or relocation, personal issues, or an illness in the family, go ahead and explain those reasons briefly.

In any case, having an answer to this question prepared will help you get through your job interview smoothly and confidently. For more information or to discuss your career needs, reach out to a top behavioral health recruiter at PsychPros today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at info@psychpros.com.

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