What is a good reason for leaving a job? Discussing why you left your last job can feel like walking a tightrope. After spending countless years poring over job applications and chatting with candidates, I’ve come to understand there is a common dilemma.
Many wrestle with how honest they should be or how much detail to give. Some are even tempted to fabricate a reason.
Below, I’ll talk about how to express this while maintaining your professionalism.
In this article:
Why Employers Ask About Your Last Job Exit
Employers don’t ask this just to be nosy. They’re digging for insights that tell them a lot about you.
This question helps them understand what motivates you, what kind of work environment and culture you thrive in, and whether you’re likely to be a good fit for their team.
They’re also on the lookout for any red flags, such as frequent job hopping, being let go, or conflicts with management. These raise questions about your professionalism, commitment, or work relationships.
On top of that, the reasons a job seeker gives and how they describe them also demonstrate communication skills. Explaining a decision and career options in a clear, positive way instills confidence.
This is why what to put as your reason for leaving a job is more significant than you might think. With care, your answer can tell the story of who you are as a professional.
It helps frame your experience and current situation in a way that aligns with your career aspirations and the role you’re applying for. A well-thought-out response can strengthen your candidacy, while a poorly handled one can do the opposite.
How to Explain Why You Left a Job
Be Honest But Tactful
Honesty really is the best policy in my books. Just be truthful about the previous employer without throwing anyone under the bus or resorting to clichés that don’t really say much about you (I notice candidates keep using some common reasons again and again).
Focus on sharing a genuine reason that reflects positively on you. Maybe you were looking for more growth opportunities or wanted a role more aligned with your career goals. These legitimate reasons show that you’re driven and have a clear vision for your career.
Keep It Concise
HR people like me have many applications to review. The last thing we want is job seekers who ramble on with lengthy explanations and extraneous details.
You’ve got a short amount of time to convey your message clearly. You want to be clear and to the point. Think of it as an elevator pitch. Stick to the key points: why you left, what you learned, and how this has prepared you for the new role you’re applying for.
Steer Clear of Negativity
Talking negatively about your past or current employer is a red flag for many recruiters. It’s a small world, and how you speak about your past experiences can reflect on your professionalism.
If you left your last job due to negative circumstances, you can focus on what you learned from the experience rather than the negatives themselves.
Eyes on the Future
Always angle your answer towards the future of your career path rather than linger on the past. Show employers that you’re forward-thinking and ready to embrace new challenges.
Top 6 Professional Reasons for Leaving a Job
1. Seeking Better Compensation
We all work to earn, and sometimes, the reason for leaving a job is as straightforward as seeking better pay. It’s a valid reason, but you’ll want to frame it delicately to avoid appearing money-driven.
What Not to Say:
- “I left because they weren’t paying me enough.”
- “I just wanted more money, that’s all.”
“In my previous role, I reached a point where the opportunities for financial growth didn’t align with my professional achievements and market standards. I’m looking for a role where my contributions and skills are compensated fairly.”
2. Craving New Challenges
Being bored at a job can lead to a lack of engagement, which isn’t good for you or your employer. Expressing this reason on your job applications shows you’re eager for career development and new challenges.
What Not to Say:
- “I was bored out of my mind at my last job.”
- “There was nothing new or exciting left for me there.”
“I realized I thrive in environments that offer new challenges and continuous learning opportunities. My last role had become routine, and I’m eager to apply my skills in a dynamic setting where I can keep growing.”
3. Aiming for a Higher Position
Ambition is a great trait. If you left a job for a lack of promotional opportunities for senior roles, it shows you’re eager to progress in your career. However, it’s important to convey this without sounding entitled.
What Not to Say:
- “They wouldn’t promote me, no matter what I did.”
- “I was stuck in the same position for too long.”
“After several years in my previous role, I realized there were limited career growth opportunities that matched my aspirations and skill set. I am seeking a position where I can continue to grow and take on more responsibilities in line with my experience.”
4. Improving Work-Life Balance
There is nothing wrong with seeking a better work-life balance in a new job. It shows you value your well-being and understand the importance of balancing work with your personal life.
What Not to Say:
- “I couldn’t handle the workload.”
- “My job was taking over my life.”
“I am committed to delivering high-quality work while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In my previous role, I found the demands consistently stretched beyond regular business hours and impacted this balance. I’m seeking an opportunity where I can be equally dedicated to my professional responsibilities and personal well-being.”
5. Dealing With Difficult Management or Poor Leadership
Handling a tough relationship with a superior can be challenging. It’s important to frame this reason carefully to avoid sounding bitter or unprofessional.
What Not to Say:
- “My boss was impossible to work with.”
- “I left because I hated my boss.”
“While I learned a great deal in my previous role, I found that the management style wasn’t conducive to my professional growth. I thrive in environments that offer supportive leadership and open communication. I’m looking for a role where I can grow and contribute effectively under leadership that aligns with my work values.”
6. Navigating Termination or Layoff
Being laid off due to company restructuring or being fired is tough, but it’s not the end of the world. Honesty, coupled with a focus on the future, is key here.
What Not to Say:
- “I was fired out of the blue.”
- “It wasn’t fair that I was laid off.”
“Unfortunately, my previous position was eliminated due to company-wide layoffs. This situation, while challenging, has given me the opportunity to explore new avenues where I can apply my skills and experiences more effectively. I’m excited about the opportunities this change presents and look forward to bringing my expertise to a new team.”
Be Ready for Follow-Up Questions
In job interviews, employers often probe deeper into your personal reasons for leaving your current position. They might ask if and how you tried to resolve any issues before deciding to make that change.
Prepare for that tough interview question to show you didn’t make a hasty decision or give a made-up reason. A well-prepared response should highlight your constructive approach to resolving issues.
Stay positive when responding. Don’t get defensive or over-explain. This approach shows that you’re not only a proactive problem solver but also someone who takes thoughtful steps before making significant career decisions.
See more interview tips:
- How To Write A Follow-Up Email After Interview
- 3 Examples For Thank-You Email After Interview
- 8 Examples of Challenges You Have Overcome At Work
- 6 sample answers of accomplishments at work
- 5 Examples of Problem-Solving in The Workplace
- How To Ask for Feedback After Job Rejection
- How to Explain The Reason for Leaving a Job on Applications
For Interview Question:
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the Polite Way to Explain Leaving a Job?
Focus on your positive reasons without blaming or bad-mouthing your past employer or anyone. Keep it professional. You want to be honest but also diplomatic.
What Happens If You Lie on a Job Application?
This is a big risk in your job search. If caught, it could mean losing the job opportunity or even being fired if already employed.
How Do I Explain Leaving a Toxic Work Environment?
The key is to focus on the positives you’re seeking in a new role rather than dwelling on the negative experiences in the past.
You might say something like, “I left to seek a workplace that aligns better with my values and professional goals,” which keeps the tone constructive and forward-looking.
How Should I Answer About Employment Gaps?
Explain the gap in a straightforward way – maybe you were taking care of a family member, traveling, or reassessing your career goals.
It’s also great to mention any constructive activities you were engaged in during that time, like learning new skills, freelancing, or volunteering.
Changing careers can be thrilling and daunting even though it opens new doors and opportunities. Always give good reasons for leaving a job with the truth and positivity. Remember that honesty and respect go a long way in this journey.
This approach not only reflects well on you as a professional but also sets the stage for a positive relationship with potential employers. Embrace your career shift, and you’ll find the transition to a new job much smoother and more rewarding.