Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
What were some of the challenges you faced in a previous role?
Why are you making this change to your career trajectory?
Have you ever been fired from a previous position?
What would your previous employer say about your performance?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
This question is loosely touching all three things. The interviewer wants to make sure that you didn’t leave your last role because you were unable to do the job (No. 1 above), they also want to ensure you were not fired, or let go, because you would not do the job (No. 2 above) and finally if you left due to conflicts with your colleagues/management the interviewer wants to know if this issue is likely to re-occur if you were to be hired within their organisation (No. 3 above).
How Best To Answer ‘Why Did You Leave Your Last Job’
While not strictly a ‘trick question’ this question is fraught with danger in that it is very easy to say something that will immediately disqualify yourself (e.g ‘I was fired’).
The key to answering this question is to have a straightforward answer that requires minimal, if any, follow-up and allows the interviewer to move onto other questions where you can highlight your skills/experience.
Some scenarios that are easily explained are:
- You moved to be nearer to family and your previous employer was unable to accommodate
- You were only hired on a short term contract for a specific project (which you successfully helped to deliver!)
- Your previous company is no longer running (through no fault of yours of course!)
If you are feeling confident and you have built a good rapport with the interviewers then a great approach to this question is to talk about how your previous firm were unable to meet your aspirations and were unable to offer you the career development that you are looking for. Be careful when taking this approach as you run the risk of unintentionally besmirching your previous employer – which is never a good impression to leave your interviewer with.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Interview Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action
Why Did You Leave Your Last Job – Example answers
Example Answer 1
I left my last job for several reasons. One of the main reasons was the desire to pursue new opportunities and challenges that were not available in my previous role. I felt that I had reached a point of stagnation in my career growth and wanted to take on more responsibility and work on more complex projects. Another factor was the company culture, which no longer aligned with my personal values and goals**. Despite these challenges, I am grateful for the experiences and skills I gained in my previous role, and I am eager to apply them in a new environment where I can continue to grow and make a positive impact.
**Expect a follow up question about what your personal values are and how they did not align with the company
Example Answer 2
The company culture in my previous role was not supportive of diversity and inclusiveness, and did not prioritize employee well-being. There was a lack of open communication and feedback, and management was not transparent in their decision-making processes. Additionally, there was a high level of stress and burnout among employees, and little effort was made to address these issues. As someone who values a positive work environment and a culture that prioritizes employee satisfaction, I found it increasingly difficult to be motivated and engaged in my role. I believe that a positive company culture is essential for employee satisfaction and success, and I was not able to achieve this in my previous role. This led me to seek out a new opportunity where I could be part of a more supportive and inclusive work environment.
Example Answer 3
As a contractor, I recently completed a project for my previous employer and we both agreed that it was time for me to move on. The project was a success and met all the objectives that were outlined in the initial scope of work. I worked closely with the team and was able to provide valuable input that contributed to the overall success of the project.
Since the project was completed, there was no immediate need for my services and it made sense for me to seek new opportunities. I enjoyed working with the team and I am grateful for the experience and knowledge that I gained during the project.
I am excited to take on new challenges and apply my skills and experience to new projects. I am confident that I will be able to make a positive impact in my new role, just as I did in my previous position.
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