interview questions

“Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” 3 Tips for Responding to this Common Job Interview Question

interview questionsYou’re nervously sitting through your first job interview since you left your last position, and the question you have been dreading has finally been asked – “Why did you leave your last position?” You know full well that how you respond will make or break the interview, but what is the best answer? The truth is, there is a lot more that goes into the reasoning why you’re no longer with your last job than simply quitting or being fired. Not every job fits every person, yet how do you condense the complicated situation into a couple sentences? Here are three tips to help you answer this tough job interview question:

Be Honest. 

Always, always, always be honest in a job interview. You never know who knows whom, and among reference checks, general networking and how connected we all through social media, it’s incredibly easy for an interviewer to learn if you lied. However, with that being said, if you were fired from your last job, how do you tell the interviewer without him/her instantly writing you off? This leads us to our next tip…

Stay Positive!

As I mentioned, there is no cut and dry, black and white reason why you’re not with your last position. However, there is probably a silver lining that emerged from the cloud, so focus on that! Maybe you were feeling like you hit a career plateau, and you needed a change in environment to take the next step. Maybe your work and your personal life both became overwhelming, and you took the time to sort out issues at home. Maybe you and your boss simply didn’t see eye-to-eye, and you needed a fresh start with the next step in your career. Focusing on the positive side of the sticky situation will give the interviewer a much better impression of who you are as a teammate. 

Don’t Trash Former Employer. 

Take the high road; don’t bad mouth your former employer. It’s highly unprofessional, and quite frankly, it makes you look at fault for your employment situation regardless if that is actually the case! If your former boss was difficult, only mention a difference in opinions. Don’t go much further than that.

The “why did you leave your last job”-question can throw many for a loop during a job interview. But if you remember these three things, you will answer it gracefully and can confidently carry on with the rest of the interview.

Have an additional tip for answering this question? Leave a comment! We would love to hear.

66 thoughts on ““Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” 3 Tips for Responding to this Common Job Interview Question

  1. I always tell the truth. I have nothing to hide. The reason im leaving Abilene Regional Medical Center is, I went through a divorce May 2015 and I have no family here in Abilene anymore.
    Both my Sons live off closer to were i want to move to.
    Hoping for this move is stressfull enough, and looking for another wonderful job with great pay as im leaving this one.
    It has been a hard decison, but the best i could come up with.
    I’m very excited to be on a new adventure.

  2. Always stay calm during a job interview, and remember the interviewer is a human being just like you.Also do Practice interviews, i think that helps as well.

  3. The reason I decided to leave my last position is simple. I was in an unhappy environment being moved from mornings to overnights. Also due to the fact that I had just become homeless as well. They are a great contracted company and I really appreciate them. Still I needed a change and fast so I came to Dallas Tx. I have a couple of interviews for art colleges and I am just focusing on bettering my self. This is a city full of potential and I can really make a better living. This position will be perfect for me to expand my mind and use my skills to solve problems and help customers. I have an extensive knowledge on devices and also study the schematics on new and old products in vivid detail. To ensure that each customer gets a complete understanding and knowledge on there devices and problems as well. Thank you all for considering me for my knowledge and talents.

  4. I would like to know how to answer the question. what is your weakness and strong points
    and how would you handle a difficult patient over the phone or in person, or have you ever
    had a difficult customer and how did you handle the situation.

  5. Molly Bullard

    MaxHealth

    (817) 355-8000 Ext. 126

    5207 Heritage Ave. Colleyville TX 76034

    http://www.MaxHealthMed.com

    This Group of induviduals are very nice, and care about the patients, as i do.
    It would be a great opportunity to work along side each of the doctors and employees.
    So back to the tricky questions. They are for the employer, to help base that persons applying to whether or not they can help the individual ( new employees ) training in that field.
    Not to disgrace in anyway that person applying for the job.
    I’m not sure which question we are disgusting, but I am curious.
    The only thing i could add to this comment is.
    It has been a hard dicision on my part to make this move.
    I truly want to be closer to my Sons and Granddaughters. Plus I have looked hard, at the jobs ive applyed for. Thank you for your help in your messaes, and websites.
    Patti Currie

  6. The reason why I decided to leave my last job was I no longer was intrested in banking, and decided to go into the medical field, it was a push that I needed to improve myself and doing something that I enjoy and that I’m passionate about. Helping others achieve good health.

  7. I am always looking to better myself for the sake of my family. In my case the contract job I took was supposed to go perm after a few months (never a guarrantee) but six short months into it they were bought out by a larger competitor. Now they will keep only the best emplyees of two great companies (heck I would too of course).
    I would say the reason I want to leave / or why I left was because I want a full time perm job with benefits. Lets face we all like a little paid time off. Vacation time, paid holidays etc. Plus you fell like you really belong and are not just some quickly replaceable worker.

    • Good morning!

      Thanks for that insight – I think your honesty will serve you very well in an interview. Just remember to focus on the positives of a permanent position rather than the drawbacks of your previous job.

  8. I did not leave my last job, I was fired for giving a raise to and employee because I was the office manager and I was not told that I could not do that. But while I thought I was fired for giving a raise, I found out that the Dr told unemployment I was fired for stilling overtime. I have nothing to hid. As the office manager I have dead lines and the only way to get it done was coming in early to get it done. And at that time I was not working on Saturday’s and so when one of the MA’s was out I was filling in and the Dr never said nothing, so this is why I’m no longer at my last job. Even though I’m no longer working there, I will recommend him to any one looking for a Pedestrian, because he is a very good doctor.

    • Hi Joanna!

      I’m sorry to hear that – that sounds like it was a tough situation. I think the best way to summarize this would be to tell a future interviewer that there was confusion/miscommunication with your previous role. Wishing you the best!

  9. I left my last job I had kids I was Anstay home mom house wife for 8 years an when I tried going back they needed more back ground degrees so I work part time now an it works around my schedule now but since I am getting devices to I wanted now I am looking for a full time job to take care of me an kids an everyday life Styles like everyone else needs to servive in this world so I will be on my own soon I am a good person tried to work for every job i worked an that I want to keep going I am still young so consider me for a full time job for moving on in a life longing career in your company Thank you Michelle G

  10. Hi,

    I have a question, I recently moved from Chicago to Dallas. I have had a very hard time with landing a job in a corporate environment pharmacy company. I often wonder what am I not doing right on my resume and cover letter? I’ve been turned down from two companies, in which I do have the experience! It’s becoming very stressful .

  11. My boss and I could not see eye to eye and I it was time to transition to a new career. Safety and ethical decisions have always been a priority for me and still are.

  12. What about if you are currently working and looking for a new job. Why do you want to leave your current job? What would be the best answer?

  13. Becouse i get married and i left my job in russia and i looking for a new job for coubles
    I and my husband
    To start a new good life together

  14. How would you answer as honestly as possible when you were asked to resign not because of performance issue or company policy violation but because of a clogged bathroom which is not part of your job description to resolve as HR Associate/Recruiter.

    • Hi V!

      That’s tough, but if it was me, I would say that my vision and goals for the job did not align with my boss’s, and there was confusion/miscommunication about my responsibilities. Hope that helps!

  15. I usually answer the question with a simple to further my career and move on in life. If they ask me why I simply say that I want to work with a company where I can apply my current knowledge and possibly move up in the ladder.

  16. I keep in mind that where there’s a well there’s away. The interview is to understand you and if you a great fit for the job. I want to know how to get a job in the field I went to school for information technology as a network administrator… Having problems

  17. When is the appropriate time frame to follow up after a job interview to check status? Also, what if you have called and you still haven’t received a call back? Do you continue to call or just assume you aren’t the perfect candidate for that company?

    • Hi Isaur!

      Great question – follow up is always tough. Generally, interviewers will give you a timeline of when you can expect to hear from them (if they don’t offer a timeline, just ask). Let’s say they told you they would follow up in a week. I would give them a week and maybe a day or two to call/email me, and then I would call or send a quick email asking about the status of the position and my candidacy.
      Your next two questions are tough, because there is a thin line between being persistent and possibly being perceived as “annoying.” If you did not receive a reply from your first follow up email, I would call a couple days later. And then vice versa, if you called for your first follow up, I would send a follow up email a couple days later if you did get called back. It’s tough, but use your best judgement in the situation. Hope this helps!

  18. I really only want honesty. From a co-worker or a supervisor. I don’t think feelings should get in the way of solving a work task or hiring the right employee. I left my last company for something more challenging, but after my wife became very ill I need to be full-time employed again. Not wanting to go back into IT- Finance I’d love to find an IT position in Healthcare. I’ve been touched by the personalities at the hospitals while caring for my wife.

  19. I never can get a job either temp-perm that they left me go after a week or month, what am I doing wrong I am a hard worker and try my best to do what I am assign to and they still leave me go.

  20. I am still currently employed with my employer. The reason I am leaving Tyson Fresh Meats; I recently had a demotion and a pay cut due to a work related illness that took me off my position. And it is not the most friendliest of places to work or safe. I am a college student studying Criminal Justice emphases in Human Resources/ addiction counseling. This is most important to me. Thinking I need a change, since I have one friend in Minneapolis, a change could be good.

  21. I would love to leave my current job where I feel as though I am underemployed; however, my EXTREME case of interview anxiety keeps me here. I was in the military for 9 years (Airforce) and when I got out, I worked in Afghanistan as a contractor for a couple of years. The contracting positions were based off of resume and word of mouth referrals so I never had to interview. Now that I am back “in the real world” I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to interviewing…I completely go blank and sound like an idiot. I have a Masters degree in education, but I’m currently doing social work. I bombed the interview to get this job, but the phone conversations we previously had saved me. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have managed to excel in any and every position that I ever held. I’m a hard worker and have the ability to pick up on things rather quickly. The only thing holding me back from a bright future being paid what I’m worth, is this issue I have with interviewing. Just the thought of it makes me throw up. Is there help for someone like me?

  22. I’m leaving my last job due to shoulder surgery and than hurting the same shoulder again i realise i’am no longer able to be a cna and i need a job less phyiscal also need steady shifts with school and having a family to focus on. I love help people but there other jobs in medical field where i can be a help to the others

  23. My last job was at J C Pennys. I did not leave I was told I was Laid off with about 3 or 4 other employees due to the sales went down the month of march 2015 due to weather conditions of ice and snow for about 3 weeks in a row and the sales went down. I was also told I would be called back as soon as business picked back up. I was also told what a good employee I was and what a great job I did. I enjoyed working there because I like helping people.

    Thanks,
    Viola Jackson

  24. I was doing job in Teva Pharmaceutical in India. I got Immigration visa for USA , so I came with my family to usa otherwise I don’t want to chance the job in Teva Pharmaceutical in India.
    so I am waiting for Job in Usa.I am Register Pharmacist in India.

  25. Hello,
    There was a question that caught my eye while scrolling through the tips that others have provided for answering “Why did you leave your last job?” but I didn’t see a reply to the dreaded question of “What are your greatest weakness/strengths?” and I wanted to answer that. I do apologize for not remembering who asked that question for being to lazy to scroll back up through the comments to find them, but this is is how I personally answer that question, depending on what position I applied for (mostly Customer Service, Call Center, Retail positions), but when I am asked that question (ALL THE TIME!! lol) I think about the different positions I’ve held through the years, and focused on what I learned from each. I used to be extremely Impatient (I still am, but I’ve learned to not let it show) and short tempered, but being in the Customer Service field, I have learned to be more humble about my accomplishments, and I’ve learned to practice patience on a daily basis. I try to live my personal life in a more positive way that translates into my work (Breathing exercise, some meditation, which doesn’t work for everyone) and finding something each day to be thankful for, whatever it may be. Being Thankful, and finding something positive each day is difficult, but I even found myself being thankful that I was getting invited for interviews! Being positive translates, no matter what you’re feeling inside, (nervousness, anxiety, boredom, frustration), whatever it is, I always think to myself “Never let them see you sweat”..I think that was a commercial back in the day, but I don’t think I answered the question.
    To answer that question of your greatest strength and/weakness and how did you overcome it?
    1. Honestly tell them a “short story” of your experience, tell them what the issue was that you ran into, and how was that issue resolved/fixed to get you to move forward in the company, if that applied. I always answer both questions with the same answer because it shows the interviewer that you are hard working, you are adaptable to change, and you’re willing to continue learning
    2. If you’re not into the short story telling mode, or you’re just shy, give them examples of your weakness (I talk too much, but I’ve learned to become and active listener being a call center agent, etc.), or examples of your strengths (I have assisted in training new employees in my capacity as a salesperson, which allowed me to become a store manager within the first 8 months of employment, etc.)
    Now, these may seem like extreme examples for newbies on the Interview roller coaster, but it only seems that way because people don’t always think that their normal, every day school life/experiences can be translated into a marketable experience. If you’ve ever been a babysitter, use that experience as an example to show your growth!! And I wish all job seekers everywhere ALL THE BEST OF LUCK!!! You’re all winners…You just have to show interviewers WHY you became a winner!!!

  26. It’s best to keep it simple and not blame yourself if the situation was unfair. Hiring managers and managers themselves need to realize that they can be the source of the problem and take advantage of their power. Thus the reason can be no fault of one’s own.

    It is better to say, that “the position ended.” “There was a new manager who brought in their own team.” Then focus on the current job being interviewed. If they elaborate, I state that “I was hired by another person” “I used my PTO to visit my sick father and when I returned the position was no longer available.” “My father shortly passed away so it gave me time to be with Mom” “Now I am ready to focus on the next best opportunity and I am happy to be…” continue talking about the company and focus on the interview.

    I would also ask a question about if there are any organizational changes, why the position is open, and if the person you are talking with is the hiring or reporting manager.

  27. I left my last job because I have now completed college and my field of study is not related to what I was doing at work. I also have to relocate to Washington DC area to unite with family and look for new opportunities. But it has been very stressful, it seems no company wants to hire a recent graduate with no experience and not even for internship position. I have a BSc in Health Physics. I have self studied Microsoft SQL Server, SQL Server Integration Service, SQL Server Reporting Service and know the stuff very well to work as a Data analyst. I have also gone a mile further by studying and getting certified in Quality Assurance Analyst(Software Testing). It has been difficult to fend for myself and my family. I have the potential to excel but no one is giving me the opportunity. I have always been honest with myself, hence, not faking my resume with fake job experience. Please do you have an advice for me.

  28. Why are you no longer at your previous position?

    Sometimes, you learn all that you can learn or sometimes you have helped who you needed to help and its time for you to help someone else and learn other things. Also all the things you learn along the way bring to where you are now and I believe with what I have learned at every position has given me the knowledge to be able to perform the functions of this.position well.

  29. I still think employers will second guess you for being honest. It depends on the maturity of the person conducting the interview. You need to think your answer through very carefully before explaining yourself.

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