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Handling Tough Interview Questions – ‘Why Did You Leave?’

Last month, we talked about one of those tricky interview questions that stops you cold: “Why do you want to work here?” But there’s another interview question that is kind of the other side of the coin: “Why did you leave your last job?” This can be even harder to answer than the first one because there’s almost no way to respond without saying something negative about your previous employer. 

A Good Answer Is … 


Regardless of the circumstances that led you to leave your prior job, how you present your reason for leaving is as important as the reason itself. Here are a few traits effective answers share: 

They’re short – Your skills, experience, and work ethic are more important to your potential new employer than why you left your old job, so don’t get mired in a blow-by-blow of your departure. The briefer your answer to the question, the less chance you’ll come off as negative. 

They’re positive – The ability to explain your exit without bashing your former employer or supervisor is a key part of making a good first impression. Here’s a tip: Rather than framing your answer in terms of what you didn’t like about your last job, talk about the things you weren’t getting out of it that you think the job you’re interviewing for can offer. 

They’re honest – While you want to put your reason for leaving in a positive light, that doesn’t mean you should lie. Insincere flattery about your former workplace can be as damaging as trash talk, though for different reasons. 

Examples of Good Answers 

There are as many valid reasons to leave a job as there are jobs. Feel free to borrow any of these three particularly good answers to “Why did you leave?” – just make sure they fit your unique circumstances. 

  • “I wasn’t looking, but a good friend said this was a great opportunity.” First off, this is a good way to compliment the company you’re interviewing with. Also, think about this: an employee who recommends you apply for a job where they work is subtly endorsing you as a good fit for the company. 
  • “I recently earned a (degree/certification/designation) in (subject), and I was eager to put it to good use.” This shows you’re dedicated to self-improvement and indicates you’ll be a motivated employee. 
  • “My job responsibilities changed from what I was hired to do.” This answer demonstrates a level of self-awareness in terms of knowing what you’re good at and what you like to do. Follow up with a statement of how what you like to do figures into the job description you’re seeking, and you’ll earn points with your interviewer. 

Mega Force Can Help You Land Your Dream Interview 

Whether you have a clear idea of what work you want to pursue or you could use help finding the right opportunity for you, Mega Force can help. We match job seekers throughout South Carolina with employers who are eager for new talent. Get started here. 


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