How To Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job to a Recruiter

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 February 2021 | Published 25 August 2020

Updated 22 February 2021

Published 25 August 2020

Reasons for leaving a job can vary from candidate to candidate. On your application or during an interview, recruiters may ask you to explain why you left a job. Understanding how to properly explain this reason to interviewers can help you present yourself as a high-quality candidate. In this article, we discuss common reasons employees leave their jobs, how to explain why you left a job and how to positively frame this reasoning.

Why employers want to know why you left a job

Whether you're in a position currently or have left your role to look for a new opportunity, interviewers usually want to learn your reason for leaving because they want to:

  • Determine if you left voluntarily: Interviewers may try to learn if you were let go and if the reasons were performance-related.

  • Learn if you're still on good terms with the company: Leaving your previous role on good terms with your supervisors shows the interviewer that you were a valuable employee and remained professional when leaving the company.

  • Decide if your reason aligns well with the needs of the company: Employers may want to know if they have the resources you're looking for in a new company. For instance, if you say, 'I decided I'm looking for a role where I can take on more leadership responsibilities', and you're interviewing for a role with leadership duties, they'll know this position matches your career goals and needs.

  • Understand your work values: Recruiters may use your reason for leaving a job to determine your work ethic. If you frame why you left a previous role in terms of looking for a new challenge, your answer can demonstrate your passion for learning and self-improvement.

Common reasons for leaving a job

There are many reasons why you may look for a new role, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Common reasons you may leave a job are:

  • Moving to a new city

  • Looking to grow in your field

  • Interested in more challenging work duties

  • Ready for a change in environment

  • Changing careers

  • Laid off or let go

  • Hoping to receive higher compensation

  • Wanting to work with new management

  • Looking to work in a different industry

Related: How to Find the Best Jobs for You

How to explain your reasons for leaving a job

Explaining your reasoning for leaving in a brief and positive manner helps display your professionalism to employers. Follow these steps to learn how to explain your reasons for leaving a job to interviewers:

  1. Think of why you want a new role

  2. Remain positive when answering

  3. Provide a short statement

  4. Be honest and professional

1. Think of why you want a new role

Prepare to answer why you're leaving a job before the interview even starts. Write down why you're seeking a new position and why you left your previous role. To help brainstorm possible reasons, think about your values, career goals, passions and what you like most about the role or company you're applying for. Then, select the answers that clearly convey why you're the best fit for the company.

For example, if one of your reasons for leaving is that you want to work on more team-based projects, explain to an interviewer that you're interested in completing more engaging work with your teammates. This tells interviewers that you're enthusiastic about working with others and may bring positive and collaborative energy to the work environment.

Related: Interview Question: "Tell Me More About Yourself"

2. Remain positive when answering

When explaining why you left or are leaving a role, try to stay positive even if you're leaving for a negative reason. Think about what you gained from your previous role that you can bring to this one. Employers often want to see how well you can handle challenging situations.

You can take a reason like 'my current duties are dull' and make it positive by saying, 'I'm looking for a role with challenges that allow me to regularly use my problem-solving abilities to overcome them'.

3. Provide a short statement

When answering this question, provide a brief statement around two to three sentences long. Make sure the answer is direct, relevant and provides enough reasoning while staying away from unnecessary details. Anytime your answer to this question seems to head in a negative direction, redirect the focus to how this job is a great fit for you.

4. Be honest and professional

It's important to remain honest as you answer this question. Providing a truthful and detailed statement helps interviewers better grasp your work values and what you're looking for in a new role. They may contact your previous or current employers to confirm your reason for leaving, gain references, confirm your start dates or to learn your salary range. Make sure your reason for leaving matches the same reason you gave your previous company.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Good Impression

Good examples of reasons for leaving a job

Preparing an honest answer for why you're leaving helps you look more confident in your interview. Here are some examples of reasons you may give an interviewer for leaving a job:

Looking for growth in your field

If your current role provides limited growth opportunities, it's understandable that you would look for new jobs that might help you develop your skills and abilities. When you find a role that looks like it'll help you advance in your career, explain this to the interviewers. It shows them your passion and motivation to perform well in your role and take on new responsibilities.

Example: '**I've gained an extensive amount of knowledge and learned new skills from my role, which I'm grateful for. I believe I'm ready to use these newly acquired responsibilities in a role that allows me to more easily grow and advance'.

Switching to a new career

You may realize in your current role that your passions lie in a different career. This can mean returning to school to gain the qualifications needed for your desired role or changing industries. Express to interviewers your new career goals and how you believe this role meets your needs.

Example: 'While working as a marketing coordinator, I learned how much I enjoyed tasks where I could create content. I started taking on more writing responsibilities whenever possible and received certifications to develop my writing skills further. Unfortunately, my company doesn't have a specific content creation role available for me to regularly use these skills'.

Ready for a change in environment

If you've been at a company for several years, you may be ready to pursue a change in environment and responsibilities. Be sure to explain what you learned from your role and express your appreciation for the opportunities the company provided you.

Example: 'I have proudly dedicated my time to the company for 10 years and am ready for a different environment that poses new challenges and responsibilities. I look forward to taking the many skills I gained from my previous role and using them to build and strengthen this company as I did in my previous role'.

Ways to positively frame reasons for leaving a job

Even if your reason for leaving a role is negative, it's important to frame it positively so your interviewer notices your professionalism, integrity and respect for your previous employer. Here are ways to positively explain why you're looking for a new job:

Looking for higher pay

It's best to provide other reasons for leaving a job if this isn't your only reason. If it is or it's important to you, frame it in a way that explains your dedication to completing challenging tasks and receiving compensation that supports this hard work.

Example: 'I believe I go above and beyond to ensure my clients have a customer service experience better than any other. Though I'm passionate and motivated to always give customers an exceptional experience, I'd like to receive proper compensation to help push myself to achieve my goals and provide strong performance results for the company'.

Interested in a different company culture

If you're searching for coworkers who are more collaborative and engaging, explain to your interviewers how important company culture is to you. It's helpful to research the company by viewing the 'About Us' section of their website to gain a better understanding of the company and its employees. You can also read reviews from past and current employees to gain an idea the culture is really like. Describe why you believe this culture matches your personality and values.

Example: 'I'm ready to work in an environment where everyone is passionate about collaboration and team building. After learning more about your company, I've realized how dedicated you are to creating strong relationships between employees through company retreats and regular team projects. This is something I'm also passionate about and believe I would thrive in this type of environment'.

Want to work under new management

If you're ready to work under a new manager, focus this explanation more on what you're looking for in your ideal boss, rather than the challenges with your current one.

Example: 'I'm eager to work for a manager who pushes me to achieve my goals. I'd like a manager who can teach me skills I don't already have and who can prepare me for new challenges and role advancements later on in my career'.

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