How to answer the job interview question, Why did you leave your last job?

This can be a trick question. This question gives you an opportunity to complain. But, in reality, you should never complain.
Here is a quick guideline to help you explain yourself and increase your chances of success.

1. Always put things into a positive light. It might be difficult to find the silver lining in a difficult work situation or put a positive spin on a troubled relationship with your boss, but it’s important that you try to do so.
2. Show that you made a positive contribution.
3. Show that you learned something from your experience with the company.
4. Tell the truth.
5. Admit to your faults and weaknesses.
6. Highlight your intelligence and understanding of the job you held.
7. Less is more. Be succinct and to the point.

Here are a few examples:

« I’m looking for a new career challenge. » (This is one of the most positive and easiest answers you can use. The interview is going to ask you why and what kind of challenge you’re seeking so be ready to respond. ) Or, you can elaborate a bit, « I’m looking for a new challenge. I’ve dedicated the last 3 years of my career to customer service and I think I’m ready to move to supply chain because….. (show the interviewer you know what supply chain is) I’ve discussed this with my manager but unfortunately, at this time time, there is no opening in their supply department. I’m willing to be flexible and wait a few months but not 3 years. »

« I’m looking for career advancement but I’ve reached a ceiling in my career. While I’ve reached most of my KPI’s for the last 2 years (you can briefly highlight them), I’m afraid that I’m no longer learning anymore. I feel it’s time to move on. »

You may be at a crossroads. You want to shift careers. So, how do you tell the interviewer that you want to change while at the same time persuading him that the credentials you have earned, the experience you’ve acquired and the added value you contributed should all be taken into account even if you’ve never held the kind of job you’re applying for.

« I’m interested in changing industries even though I’ve learned a lot in this role. I’ve been working the insurance/banking sector for the last decade but I realised that my real passion is the environment. In insurance, I specialised in evaluating risk. I’ve very analytical and good with figures. From my research, I’m convinced that assessing environmental risks requires many of those same skills. You need to separate out aberrant phenomena from cyclical and structural patterns – that’s what I’m good at. »

Or, it could be you just want to make life a little easier for yourself and even though you may doing well at your job the extra mile is no longer worth it.

« I made the difficult decision to quit the job I had because I was looking to shorten my daily commute. I was offered a great role as a senior billing analyst with a big boost in pay but frankly I couldn’t see myself spending 4 hours stuck in traffic, daily. « 

Maybe you just want more money. Or, you were not given the promotion you thought you deserved. If you come out and say, « well, I wasn’t promoted and I felt I deserve it….that might open a can of worms. The interviewer will wonder why and probe you and you will probably end of complaining. Here is an idea,

« I feel stuck. I’m still in the same position and my salary has barely budged. I’ve contributed greatly to the success of the new product launch (or the new software app-explain how)….and I don’t feel my contribution has been recognised. I know my worth and I want to be given a chance to really prove myself while also feel appreciated. »

What if you didn’t get along with your boss? You want to be honest but so honest that you hurt your entire chances of getting hired. Saying that you couldn’t stand your boss will set off alarm bells. Maybe even that boss is a tyrant and no one liked him/her but the interviewer might get the impression you don’t get along well with people, particularly people with authority. So you can try this,

« Even though, I achieved my objectives, my manager and I had different points of view on how to implement our strategy for ……..segmenting the market, implementing the sales tool, selecting new suppliers, building the software»

But what if the interviewer isn’t satisfied with this response and continues to probe. They ask, « What was your boss’s point of view and what was yours ? »
This is where you have an opportunity to really show you shine and were greater than your boss. For example,

« My boss’s strategy was to target directly consumers instead of working exclusively through our distributor channel. I was afraid though that if we marketed directly to consumers, we might jeopardise our successful, existing profitable business with our distributors. »

To sum up, when the interviewer asks you why you left your last job, you tell the truth, but you put it into a positive light. Be brief and show you made a positive contribution to the company. The most important point is this one: You want to convince the interviewer that whatever the reasons you left (or are hoping to leave)a job it’s because you are looking forward to new opportunities and challenges. You don’t want to give the impression that you are still looking back with disappointment and resentment.

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