How To Explain Your Reasons For Leaving A Job

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Table Of Contents

What should you say when a hiring manager or recruiter asks you, “Why did you leave this job?” Outlining the real reasons for leaving a job can be awkward, and you don’t want to be too negative in a job interview. So what should you say?

Even if your last boss fired you, don’t panic. You can do things to make this part of the interview go smoothly.

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Common Reasons For Leaving A Job

Billions of people go to work, and billions leave their jobs. Your reasons for leaving will not be unique. The Pew Research Center surveyed individuals who left jobs and found the top reasons for leaving a job. People could select more than one answer because the reasons people leave are often more complicated than one thing. Here are the most common reasons for leaving a job:

  • Pay was too low (63 percent)
  • No opportunities for advancement (63 percent)
  • Felt disrespected at work (57 percent)
  • Because of child care issues (48 percent  of people with children under 18)
  • Not enough flexibility to choose when to put in hours (45 percent)
  • Benefits weren’t good (43 percent)
  • Wanted to relocate to a different area (35 percent)
  • Working too many hours (39 percent)
  • Working too few hours (30 percent)
  • Employer required a Covid-19 vaccine (18 percent)

The Pew Center surveyed only people who quit voluntarily, so being fired did not make the list. But, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in February of 2022, businesses discharged 1.2 million people. You are not alone.

So, no matter your reason, someone else has the same one. Knowing that should reassure you that this is a question you can conquer.

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How To Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Job?” Or “Why Do you Plan To Leave?”

The first thing to do is be honest–but don’t overshare. You can say that you are looking for promotional opportunities, but don’t launch into how your previous/current company only promotes family members. You can say you were laid off, but don’t mention that you were on a performance improvement plan anyway, and your boss would have fired you if the layoff didn’t happen.

Employers are looking to learn more about you and your goals when they ask this question. They want to look for red flags–are you a complainer, do you attack your previous boss, or were you terminated for cause? Cause terminations are things you did like stealing, sexually harassing someone, or other bad behavior. It’s not because you struggled with the work.

Remember, employers thought you were qualified when they brought you in for the interview, so try to keep things focused on how you would be a good fit for this new job.

Examples Of What To Say When Asked Why You Left Your Job

Of course, every reason demands a different honest answer, but here are some ideas of things you can say.

  • I’m ready to take on new responsibilities. There won’t be any positions in my current company for a while, so I’m looking for a company with growth possibilities.
  • I am looking for a company that recognizes the importance of work-life balance. I believe in hard work, but I also know downtime is essential for everyone and ultimately benefits the business.
  • It’s time to move on! I’ve been with my current company for X years, and I want a new challenge. (Note this is only good if you’ve been at least five years. If you’ve been there for one year, this will not appeal to the hiring manager.)
  • I wasn’t looking to move on, but I jumped at the opportunity when the recruiter contacted me about this position. I’ve always wanted to do X, and this seemed like the perfect responsibility.
  • I was, unfortunately, part of a layoff. Ten percent of our company lost their jobs.
  • I had some conflicts with my boss over policies, so we decided it was best to part ways. I work best with managers who [describe management style], so that is what I’m looking for in a new position.
  • I’ve been dreaming about moving home for a long time. So, I finally bit the bullet and moved here! I grew up in this town and hope to stay forever.
  • My wife is in the military, and we were transferred here. Transfers often happen with the military, and the fact that I can work this job remotely from anywhere is very appealing. I want to build my career, and this company can provide growth, even if I need to move. Plus, it’s a perfect match for my skills and experience!

For more help, read our guide on how to give your two week notice.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a good reason for leaving a job?

If you’re unhappy in a job, it’s okay to move on. If you haven’t been there for more than a year and it’s not completely miserable, you should stick it out, but otherwise, begin job searching. It’s always easier to find a new job when you have a job. But don’t let anyone criticize you for leaving a job for something better.

What do you value most in a job?

The answer to this varies for everyone! If you ask this, there aren’t any right answers, but there are wrong ones. Don’t mention money (even though everyone knows this is true) or things that make you look bad. But maybe you value work with a mission, a challenge, or the ability to work from home. These are all honest and great answers.

What are your three best qualities?

Again, this varies, but think about what your last boss or coworkers said. Are you responsible, reliable, intelligent, caring, and good at problem-solving? These are all great qualities for all jobs.

The Bottom Line

Once you’ve found a new job opportunity using ZipRecruiter, you can prepare for how you explain why you want to change jobs. Job changing is at an all-time high, so don’t worry about this question too much. Be positive and honest, and you’ll have no problems with this question.