The Perfect Answer To ‘Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job’?

How to tactfully answer it without sounding harsh?

The Perfect Answer To 'Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job'?
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It has happened even to the best of us – you’d recently applied to a job, and you were shortlisted for an interview and will have to meet the hiring manager. Suddenly, the dreaded question comes up – “so, why did you leave your last job?” and you are at a loss. You are scared that your past performance will adversely affect your future prospects, and end up giving a confused and hurried answer that doesn’t make sense at all. Sometimes, the reasons can be plain and simple such as internships and workshops, but what if the reasons are more serious?

Why does an interviewer ask you his question?

  • Did you have a good reason to leave? In the case, the employer wants to check if you would be a loyal and responsible addition to the company.
  • Are you on good terms with your last company? Unless it’s a very serious matter, you should be in touch with your past manager. It’s even better if you have them as one of your references to attest that you were a good worker.
  • Did you leave on your own? The hiring manager will try to see why you were asked to leave or left voluntarily – and it could be because of integrity or performance issues as well.
  • What are your work ethics? Though it is perfectly acceptable to leave a workplace because it doesn’t suit your needs or interests, expresses it in such a way so that it makes you look ambitious, not narcissistic.

What are the points that you need to consider when answering this question?

Be Clear About Your Reason

For you as a candidate, there is nothing worse than giving a garbled answer on why you left your previous job. Talk about the following aspects –

  • work values, and if they fit in with the company’s mission
  • future career goals
  • your expectations of a good workplace environment
  • the likes and dislikes of your current job position
  • relationships with past managers and colleagues
  • your choice of industry
Speaking the truth about your previous job is the best, as Yashi feels
Speaking the truth about your previous job is the best, as Yashi feels

Yashi Malviya, Co-Founder of Bihar Bytes says, “The best answer is telling the truth. There can be a whole lot of reasons of leaving a job and it differs from person to person. The answer should be only the truth because the person sitting on other end might want to listen to an honest answer. He or she will make their opinion anyways.”

Sound Positive

Even though you have had some negative experiences that provoked you to leave your job, it’s best to maintain a professional stand about it. You want to come across as a problem-solver who can survive in any workplace environment. Instead of badmouthing the people at your last job, focus on your skills and what you’ve learnt during your stay. Talk about any positive relationships with your managers or co-workers, and how they have inspired you to look for better opportunities.

“Perhaps the best answer to why you left your previous job is that you had learned as much as you could have in your old role and were ready for new challenges. Of course, the worst answer is you didn’t get along with your boss. Companies like to hire people who’re eager to grow and respect those willing to join an organization in which they can grow personally and professionally. A good interviewer recognises that people who make the most valuable employees are those who seek new challenges and who are willing to learn. By letting an interviewer know that you believe that you had learned as much as was possible in an earlier organization and that you want to join a new organization to continue your journey to new heights, you’re positioning you’re self as someone who will be an asset to their company.”, says Saurabh Kumar, Director, Surajgarh Gurgaon.

Be Short And Sweet

It is smart to be neutral when talking about your previous employer
It is smart to be neutral when talking about your previous employer

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As a candidate, you need to remember that it’s an interview and not a discussion session. Keep your answers short but complete, and give your points in a couple of sentences. Be neutral when talking about your employer, and but keep moving to how you’re excited about the new opportunities ahead. Be honest, even if you’ve been previously unemployed. Your prospective employer will conduct a background check with your past employer to get a reference, check the salary expectations or to confirm joining dates – you don’t want to mess up your chances by providing different information.

Even if you have the best answers in mind, it’s essential to be polished, confident and honest in an interview. It’s perfectly fine to look for a new job for better career prospects, and most hiring managers will understand your position. Maintain decorum and neutrality when it comes to job interviews, and highlight why you’re the best person for the job.