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Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? How to Answer This Common Interview Question

why did you leave your last job

One question that interviewers love to ask is - why did you leave your last job? Depending on how you answer, you can use your answer to give the interviewer an insight into your career goals and your previous work experience. If you rush your answer or say the wrong thing, you could give the interviewer the wrong impression. It's a tricky question to answer, but don't worry, we're going to show you a few different ways to answer this common interview question & succeed in your upcoming interview.

I'm looking for better career prospects

Lots of people leave their jobs in search of a new one because there wasn't enough opportunity for growth in their previous job. If this is the case for you, be sure to talk about it in your interview. The interviewer will likely see your aspiration to progress in your job as a great sign. It shows you're motivated and ready to take on new challenges. 

Just be careful here that you don't slander your previous employer, you want to talk about your previous experience in a positive manner. Whether your previous company was great or not, you should talk about the experience you gained up until this point and how it's prepared for this new role. Being negative about previous roles could do one of two things.

Firstly, it could indicate that the previous experience you've gained probably isn't "up to standard" (so you might not perform very well in the new role) and secondly, it could indicate that you have a negative attitude, which might be carried into the new workplace. Focus on the things you're looking forward to in the new role while relating back to your previous experience in a positive way.

I'm wanting to explore a new industry

If you're moving sideways in your career, that is, exploring a job that's different to your previous position - this could put employers off. After all, you might not have the best experience for the job if this is the case. However, you shouldn't let this hold you back. Start by explaining why you're interested in the new industry and how you'll be a good fit for the role. Make sure you do as much research as you can about the company prior to the interview, so you can show you really understand the step you're taking - rather than just doing it on a whim.

If possible, find ways to relate your previous experience to the new position in a positive way. If you had to deal with clients on the phone and via email in a previous job, this might translate into good experience for a customer-facing role. If in doubt, be confident and express your enthusiasm about the role, talk about the ways your personal strengths will benefit the company and they might be able to overlook a lack of previous experience.

I was made redundant

People get made redundant for so many reasons. It could be you were let go during the COVID-19 pandemic, you weren't a good fit for the previous workplace, or your previous company shut down. Interviewers will understand if you don't want to delve into the reasons for your redundancy in too much depth, so we'd recommend keeping your answer truthful but short and sweet. If they do ask further questions, disclose the relevant information and end on something positive. For example:

"I was made redundant from my last role due to a company restructure, however, I'm gained lots of experience prior to my redundancy and I'm excited to put them to good use in a new workplace."

I need more flexibility or to work closer to home

Nowadays it's quite common for people to seek more flexibility in their careers. Many people want to spend more time with their families and less time commuting. A lot of jobs can be done from home, and if the job you're interviewing for has options for flexible working, then it's perfectly okay to bring this up in your answer. 

Things you shouldn't bring up in your answer:

  • You didn't like your previous company or boss
  • You weren't given a promotion or raise
  • You got bored of your old job
  • You just want to try something else and see how it goes
  • You didn't get on with people in the office

For more interview advice, check out some of our blogs! We also have dedication advice for candidates that you can explore using the links below. If you're looking for your dream science career, be sure to get in touch with the HRS recruiters who can help you on your journey!

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