What to respond to why did you leave your previous job?

What to respond to why did you leave your previous job?


This is it. This is the very moment people freeze during interviews. This is an unavoidable question that outplaces multiple job applicants worldwide. But why is that? If you’ve got some previous work experience and have either applied to new positions or are in the process of doing so, be prepared.

Recruiters will most likely want to know why you left your last job. What to respond when asked why did you leave your previous job? Many people get stuck in this question and start stuttering, but if you check out this article and keep an open mind, this will not be you! 


Here are some things to keep in mind when mentally preparing your response:


  • It’s normal to change jobs when finding your career path.

  • Leaving your previous job doesn't necessarily imply something negative.

  • You won’t be less valuable for having left your last job, it might be the opposite. It shows you’ve got background experience. 

  • People are expected to have different work experiences during their lifespan.  


Now that we’ve understood we’ve all been there and done that, let’s check a few responses on how you could answer what’s your reason for leaving your last job. But here is a quick reminder, all responses can be modified to better fit your circumstances. After all, the whole idea behind this blog is to serve you as a base for future interviews. 


Why did you leave your previous job? “I was looking for a career shift.”


This answer is quite famous and obviously a very short one. Therefore, make sure to back it up with examples on why you are looking for a career shift. This way it won’t seem like you’re trying to avoid the interviewer’s inquiry. 


One example could be that maybe you were working in your previous company for a while and after discussing your goals and objectives with your supervisor you noticed that sector or role wasn’t for you. Or maybe, you weren’t happy with the direction your career was heading in that company as you had something else in mind, and because of that you’ve decided to apply to positions that match your expectations. 


In any case, if this is the response you’re going with, make sure to have facts to support it. Truste me,  recruiters don’t like to be fooled around, let alone hear some cliche or false statements. Recruiters have many other candidates to interview and have heard it all, so it’s good to try to be as authentic as possible in order to stand out. 


Why did you leave your previous job? “My previous job was an internship, which served me as a base to understand what I now wish to pursue as a career”


Yes, this is the perfect response for students and recent graduates applying to a traineeship,  part-time or full-time position. It can be used for all candidates with little labour experience wishing to kick-start their career and successfully answer what’s your reason for leaving your job. 


Most students about to start their first internships won’t be asked about their previous job experiences, but will be asked about their studying program, projects they’re involved in, and events in which they’ve participated in. This is used by recruiters to evaluate the students’ interests and their motivational level, which is usually the biggest indicator for eagerness to learn and take on different activities during an apprenticeship.


However, if you’re a recent graduate and have had some previous internships under your belt, you can say that they were useful to apply all the theory you learned in university and that it opened up doors to learn about different industries and sectors. This being said, you’ve now a clearer picture of what you wish to pursue as a career. 


Important tip: companies hiring for entry-level positions are aware that the chances of you working for them forever are overall tiny, but they want to see your initial commitment to stick around as they will also be investing in you with training and work experience. Afterall, life is about exchanges, so make sure to show off your skills, prove there is a two-way exchange, and nail this particular question many tend to get stuck on.  


Why did you leave your previous job? “I noticed I wanted to work for a company, which service/product is something I’m really passionate about.”


Okay, before you go with this answer, let’s make something clear. You actually need to be passionate about the company’s product or service for which position you’re applying to. If not passionate about their products/services, then strongly connected with their mission and motto. Why? Because it will reflect on your next responses and everyday work production. 


When using this answer, you have to make sure to express how you feel linked to the institution. Ultimately, if you’ve applied for a position with them, the company will want to know why you chose them and not another company. What makes them so special? Just like you wish to be chosen by them, they want to know why you’re choosing them. 


If the following question you’re asked is why do you want to work here? An advice would be to browse their website, company reviews, check out their employees on LinkedIn, and any news about them online. Doing so will assist with facts to reinforce this response and will help you understand if you really want to be a part of their team. Also, make sure to go over the job description one more time to make sure your statements correlate. 


Why did you leave your previous job? “I relocated from X to Y for Z reason and believe my background knowledge will be very valuable in this company because of …”


This one goes for all expats out there wishing to have an experience abroad. And if formatted in different ways, can better express your current situation. For instance, whether you’ve just moved to a different town or country, or if you’re planning on doing so soon, this answer is a very suitable way to respond to why you are looking for a new job


An example could be: “I relocated from Sofia (BG) to Barcelona (ES) to expand my European market knowledge, become fluent in Spanish, and continue to grow as a professional and person. I believe my background in finance and accounting will be very valuable in this role due to my previous experiences in …” 


How do you feel about this response? Remember, you can always edit it and make it closer to your real situation, add details, and your touch to it. 


Why did you leave your previous job? “Although I loved my job and team, my previous company wasn’t able to promote career growth opportunities.”


Here is an elegant way of saying you’re an ambitious candidate and wishes to take on new challenges and responsibilities. 


It could be the case that you loved your job, your team, and the company you worked for. However, the facilities and organization's operations didn’t allow you to climb the corporate ladder. Therefore, in this case it’s more than okay to state that “although I loved my job and team, my previous company wasn’t able to promote career growth opportunities”. 


On the other hand, it could be the case that you actually didn’t like your team. But the thing is, you don’t have to be brutal or arrogant in order to say your previous company wasn’t it, or your co-workers weren’t team players. There are other ways of explaining why an organization didn’t match your projections. Make sure not to be that candidate that speaks badly about others, nobody likes them or wants them in their team. 


Why did you leave your previous job? “Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the company suffered drastics changes and more than half of the team was laid off.”


If this is your case, I’m sorry to hear it. But know that you were not the only person being laid off due to covid-19. Many lost their positions or were exposed to substantial changes because of external reasons, causing corporate restructuring. Some employees were affected in the following areas: salary, relocation, schedules, and many others we can’t begin to imagine. 


Many interviewers have received this response since 2019-20 and are very understanding when it comes to it. After all, it's no one's fault. 


Once you respond to this question mentioning you were laid off, you can state your role in the company, projects you were responsible for, things you’ve achieved, anything that will assist the interviewer with moving on to the next questions. No need to continue in the “what’s your reason for leaving your job” for longer than necessary. 


Why did you leave your previous job? “The company’s job expectations were different from mine, which is why I no longer work there anymore.”


This is a response that can be used in case you were fired from your previous job. Yes, I know, not the best one to go with, but if it’s the case, you might as well try to be honest. 


For instance, let’s say you had applied for an Account Manager position, which usually entails you dealing with already existing clients and upsales. During the interview, everything seems to make sense and follows the job description. However, once you start working, you notice that you end up being more of a Sales Acquisition/Business Developer Executive, which is mostly cold calling. You wish to try either way, but you can’t seem to match the role and you don’t want to seem silly by having this conversation with your supervisor after weeks working there. And then, as an aftermath, you end up finding yourself applying to new jobs. 


You’d be surprised, but many people go through similar situations and either keep it to themselves or end up having to search for new positions all over again, which is why the interview process is as important to the recruiter as it is to you. 


A sample response could be: “I now realize there was miscommunication from the beginning, which led both sides to create different expectations on the position and goals that had to be achieved. This served as a lesson, which is why I’m happy to be here today with the opportunity for a fresh start and to clarify any questions or concerns upfront.” 




All right! These were a few ways to respond to “why did you leave your previous job?” and are looking for new ventures. If you have any other good ones in mind, make sure to share it with us in the comments below, so that no one gets stuck on this question during an interview. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate in contacting us at [email protected] . We’d love to hear more from you! 


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