How to Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job

By Talentwolf

In 2018, a survey found that 64% of the workforce prefer job-hopping to stay in the same position for two or more years. There are potential benefits to job-hopping. Perhaps a company is offering you more money or opportunities for growth that your current position can't match.

However, when you leave one position in search of another, you will need to be prepared to answer questions about your reasons for leaving a job. 

While honesty is oftentimes the best policy, your explanation must be tactical. If you're not careful, you may unintentionally send red flags to your recruiter that you are not fit for the position at hand.

Read on to learn more about how to explain your reasons for leaving a job. We'll talk about what to say if you quit, got laid off, or got fired. 

Why Do Interviewers Want to Know Your Reasons for Leaving a Job?

If you're working with a recruiter to find a new position, one of the first things they'll want to know is why you're reentering the job hunt. Why? Your answer may determine what positions you are fit for. 

For example, let's say you quit your job because it didn't offer enough flexibility. A seasoned recruiter will pick up on that and steer you away from positions that, similarly, don't offer much flexibility. 

While recruiters will want to know your reasoning to help you find the right fit, interviewers may be on the lookout for red flags, especially if a candidate is a serial job-hopper. The problem is that when you change companies several times in a matter of years, interviewers fear that you will turn around and leave their company as quickly as you left your previous companies. 

Beyond the immediate concern that you may not stick around for the long haul, there are specific concerns your answers can raise. Read on to find out what interviewers don't want to hear and what to say, instead. 

Explaining Why You Quit

There are plenty of valid reasons to quit a job. You were lacking a work-life balance, you weren't making enough money for the roles you were expected to fulfil, or you plain didn't get along with your boss. The problem is that your interviewer can only take your word for your explanation and they may be hesitant to believe that what you're saying is true.

One way to address any of the above reasons is to say, "I found, over time, that my goals did not align with the company's goals." This isn't a dishonest answer and it's respectable, yet vague. 

If you left because there was no room left for advancement, you can answer the question more directly. You might say something like, "I loved that job and I would have stayed if there had been more room for my own professional growth."

Ultimately, you want to keep your answer short and simple. Avoid trash-talking your old company or giving reasons that indicate you may leave this new company in the near future, too.

Explaining Why You Were Laid Off

The Bureau of Labor found that the number of lay-offs went down in 2016 while the number of quits rose. However, lay-offs are not uncommon, accounting for nearly 20 million work departures in 2016. 

Explaining why you were laid off isn't as difficult as you may think. Getting laid off is different than getting fired because it is often the result of organizational restructuring, not the result of an individual employee's behavior.

This is exactly what you can say. Inform your interviewer of the restructuring and tell them, "Unfortunately, my position was affected by the recent changes." 

Avoid complaining or placing blame. It goes without saying that you are frustrated with these events. Vocalizing them to a potential employer is unnecessary and won't serve to benefit you. 

Explaining Why You Were Fired 

Perhaps the trickiest situation to navigate is explaining why you were fired. It's best to assume that your interviewer could reach out to your past employer to find out their side of the story. For that reason, it's imperative that you don't lie about what happened.

Before speaking with your interviewer at all, contact the human resources department at your last job. Find out if there are any legal restrictions on what you can say about your termination. In some instances, you could face a financial penalty for violating nondisclosure policies. 

Regardless of any legal obligations, consider swapping the term "fired" for something less abrasive. Try saying, "I was let go," instead. 

One of the best ways to explain why you were fired without going into too much detail is to note that you did not have the right skill set for the job. However, if you choose to go this route, you need to make sure that the "skills" you did not possess in the last job are not the skills required in this job. For example, it's not advisable to say that you didn't have adequate marketing skills if you're applying for a job in sales, retail, or anything else that requires marketing skills. 

The more details your interviewer presses for, the more you're going to need to focus on the proactive changes you have made. In other words, what have you done to ensure that a similar issue will not occur in your current position? How does the company you're applying to offer a better environment for you?

Keep your answer as simple and as positive as possible.


Need More Preparation for Job Interviews?

If you want to go into your next interview well-prepared for all types of questions and scenarios, consider working with a recruiter! They will walk you through everything from explaining your reasons for leaving a job to improving your handshaking skills.

Have any questions about how this process works? Contact us today!