“Why did you leave your last job?” is one of the most common interview questions you’ll receive and that’s why you should be fully prepared for it.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question

It’s a good idea to think about why interviewers ask “Why did you leave your last job?” before you practice how to answer it. Despite how it sounds, the hiring manager doesn’t want to hear you badmouth a previous boss or tell them how awful your former company is. In fact, going down that path will do more harm than good!

There are a few reasons you hear this common interview question.

Primarily, interviewers genuinely just want to know why you left (it isn’t a trick question). People seek new jobs all the time. If that weren’t the case, you wouldn’t be in your current situation. But your reason for leaving your last job is a pretty crucial detail.

Did you leave on your own volition, or were you terminated? That’s a significant detail that hiring managers want to know. Being fired doesn’t necessarily hurt your chances of landing your next big opportunity, but it can change the discussion and give the interviewer more questions.

Ultimately, the goal is to determine if you left on good terms with your previous company and whether the departure was for valid reasons. That last part can be a little confusing to jobseekers. It might seem subjective, but hiring managers are perfectly within their right to decide if they deem your departure reasonable.

What would an interviewer think if you stated that you were bored, tired of the job, or simply hated the people you worked with? While those reasons might be valid for you, it doesn’t put you in the best light.

Asking you why you left your last job helps the employer understand you – your motivation, how you handle challenging situations, and your goals. They are looking for any red flags that may eliminate you such as reoccurring issues with bosses. Sometimes, they want to know what motivated you to leave or look for a new job. Companies want to hire people they can rely on and having someone leave due to seemingly arbitrary reasons isn’t ideal and if you did it once you might do it again and recruiting staff can be expensive, so the hiring manager will want to be sure they are taking on someone who will be around for a while.

“Why did you leave your last job?” is a question that can unveil many things about who you are, what type of worker you can be, and what you have to bring to the position. It also gives insight into your past work history and how you might perform in this position. It’s a multi-layered question, so putting careful thought into your response is essential.

The key thing to remember is that the interviewer is assessing what kind of employee you will be if you can do the job and if you have the motivation to do the job.

How to Answer, “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

This question can be tricky to answer. Your current situation will dictate the angle you take, but the primary goal is to show maturity and professionalism while providing all the information the interviewer wants.

Follow these tips, and they will help you in developing an answer to “Why did you leave your last job? that impresses.

1. Stay Positive

If a poor experience at your last job is your reason for leaving, it’s incredibly tempting to badmouth your previous employer. The urge is even greater if you don’t leave on good terms. But it’s vital to remember that it’s not your responsibility to disclose negative details about your old job. If you do, it’ll likely come back and reflect poorly on you!

Do your best to keep things positive. It doesn’t matter how awful things were at your previous job or what kinds of experiences you had. Keep it light and try to find some of the good you took from that stage in your career.

There’s always a positive you can pull from that experience. It might take some reflection, and you may have to dig deep. But find those positive things to say. Maybe you learned something about yourself (like what motivates you), or you gained a new skill. Whatever the case may be, bring it up!

Discuss the good that came from that job. Even if you were terminated, you need to lean on positivity rather than dip into the less-than-flattering parts of your experience.

2. Be Honest but Don’t Overshare

Here’s a big one: Don’t lie! One of the biggest mistakes you can make is being dishonest. It doesn’t matter how awful things were or the situation surrounding your departure. Resist the urge to lie.

Lying when explaining why you left your last job will only make things worse. Hiring managers will do their due diligence before extending a job offer. If you lied, they could easily find out. There’s no quicker way to get yourself out of the running than to lie to a potential employer!

Be honest, and don’t paint your old job as something it wasn’t. This question can be difficult to answer if you don’t leave on the best terms. Some interviewers will also press for more details than you initially provide, making it feel like pouring salt into a wound.

Don’t let that deter you. Be honest and factual. The easiest way to avoid lying is to eliminate opinions from your response. Focus on the facts and remove your emotions from your answer.

All that said, you should also avoid oversharing. Going too much into the finer details can hurt your chances just as much as lying. Let’s face it: There could be less-than-flattering aspects of your previous job experience that paint you negatively.

There’s no need to get into those details if the interviewer doesn’t ask! They might press for more information. But keep it brief and straightforward unless they do so.

3. Connect It to the Job You’re Currently Interested In

One great way to answer this question is to connect it to the job you’re currently trying to land. There are a few ways to do this. The best is to talk about how you left your job for greener pastures.

Say, for example, that you weren’t happy with your work in your old job. Maybe it wasn’t enough of a challenge, or the job didn’t make you happy. There’s nothing wrong with leaving in search of something new.

But if you decide to bring that up, take the opportunity to connect the dots and illustrate why you’re in that interview room. For example, you can link your response to the job description and show the interviewer why this job is a better fit for your life and career goals.

Going this route has its advantages. For one, it doesn’t criticize anyone or mention anything negative about your old company. Secondly, it highlights the fact that you took charge and decided to make a change. Interviewers respect that because it shows how you resolved the issue.

Finally, a response like this tells the interviewer exactly why you’re there. It lets them know you’re serious about the new job prospect and want to land this position.

. Rehearse Your Answer

The final tip is to rehearse as much as you can.

That doesn’t mean you should have your answer memorized verbatim or create a script. However, you should feel reasonably confident providing a suitable response.

“Why did you leave your last job?” isn’t an interview question that should scare you. People quit multiple jobs throughout their life and career. There’s nothing wrong with seeking greener pastures.

The key here is to be confident and prepare a good response. This isn’t a question you want to think about on the spot. Put thought into it early and be confident in your words.

5. Believe in Your Answer

To sound convincing your answer needs to convey confidence. This is easier to do if you have practiced your answer out loud and tested it on someone you respect. Sit up straight, look the interviewer straight in the eyes and confidently provide your answer.