Going into a job interview, one question you can count on being asked is ‘Why did you leave your last job?’. It may seem as if the interviewer is trying to pry or catch you out but it is a great question for both of you to assess if the company is going to be a good fit.
There are times when the answer is straightforward and might only require a few words, such as if you were in a temp job or you were made redundant. Often though, there will be several things that contributed to you leaving and it can be hard to figure out the right way to speak about them.
Luckily, we have a few interview tips to keep in mind when answering this tricky question and avoid any mistakes that may hurt your chances of getting the job.
The best answer when you’re asked ‘Why are you leaving your current job?’ is always one that tries to highlight the positives of the situation. People leave their jobs for many reasons and your answer will obviously depend on your experience. You might feel that you are working too many hours or too few, or that your pay is too low. All of these are valid reasons but how you address their impact is what makes the difference in an interview.
There is a positive way of spinning every outcome. If you were working too many hours in your past job, try saying that you left to gain a better work-life balance, instead of something like “I didn’t want to work as much”. Alternatively, if you were working too few hours you could say that you left because you wanted to find more responsibility and a more demanding role, instead of something simplistic like ‘I wanted more money.’
These are some simple yet effective methods that will give your answers greater depth and leave a positive impression on your interviewer.
This pairs well with the previous point and can act as a good one-two punch when answering the question. When speaking about what caused you to leave your last role, try to keep your answer relevant to the job you are interviewing for. This is a great way of paying a potential employer a subtle compliment while showing that you are thinking seriously about your career and opportunities.
To continue with our previous example, you might mention wanting a better work-life balance and follow it by saying how you appreciate their company’s approach to this issue. If you have expressed a desire to take on more responsibility or gain new skills, explain how you hope to accomplish these in a new role. You can even turn difficult work relationships into a potential opportunity. Talk about how you’re excited to experience a new management style or to join a work culture that is a better fit for you.
Research the company and role you are interviewing for so that you will have some specific examples to refer to when discussing future goals and opportunities. Doing this will give your interviewer a natural lead-in to their next question and will put the focus back onto your future instead of your past.
As we mentioned earlier, although this can often feel like a trick question, your interviewer is just trying to get a sense of what you’re like as an employee. The reality is that everyone leaves many jobs throughout their life and most of the time for perfectly valid reasons – so don’t feel like there is anything to hide.
When it comes to discussing your previous job, be as honest and objective as you can about the situation and what has led you to leave. Jobs are a highly personal experience and there are not really any wrong answers as to why you left. It might have been for practical reasons such as the length of your commute, or more complex ones to do with a difficult manager or your job satisfaction.
Just try to explain things as pragmatically as possible – steering away from any emotion. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of complaining about your previous employer or criticising a manager or colleague.
Keeping these tips in mind will help you answer the dreaded question of ‘Why are you leaving your current job?’. As with any other question, your interviewer just wants to get an idea of who you are, so answer honestly and with confidence, and be upfront about what you need in a job.
Your answers can reveal a lot about your suitability to an employer or recruiter, so keep them focused on the positives and always try to link them back to the opportunities that a new job can present to you.
For more tips to help you succeed in your next job interview, head over to our blog or get in touch with one of our specialist industrial and warehousing recruitment consultants. We have an extensive network that connects employers with job seekers throughout the Midlands and South Yorkshire.