There’s no escaping the fact that at some point in your life, you’re going to leave your job.
In fact, you’ll probably have 10 or more jobs during your lifetime, and each time you interview for a new role, you’ll be asked the same question:
“So, why are you leaving your current job?”
There are tons of great (and not so great) reasons for leaving a job, and we’ll touch on some of these shortly. But even if you feel you have a valid cause, there’s a chance your potential employer might not.
So, it’s important to know how to answer this question clearly, concisely, and candidly, while putting yourself in the best position to secure that new job.
In this article, we’re going to give you some insight into why interviewers ask that question, as well as a list of tips and mistakes to avoid when answering.
Let’s get started by discussing some of the most common reasons people leave their jobs.
Here are ten common reasons people choose to quit their job:
You might think that the main reason people take a job is for the pay.
While pay is definitely an important factor, 68% of workers say that personal growth and development is even more important.
So, it’s no surprise that one of the most common reasons employees leave their jobs is to seek out a new challenge.
This usually comes when employees no longer feel that their current role pushes them on a daily basis.
That may be because you've worked for the same company for several years (and have mastered everything there is to learn), or because your workplace offers few opportunities to develop further skills.
Whether it’s developed and maintained intentionally or not, every company has a set of values that are lived out through the actions of all team members.
You may have seen something like this before:
Commonly, employees choose to leave their current position because they feel that the company’s values don’t fit very well with theirs.
For example, a company that very strongly emphasizes that “the customer is the boss”, like in the example above, might not be a great fit for employees who strongly value equality and fairness, or believe that while they have a duty to serve the customer, this duty has limitations.
An important idea to understand as an employee is that what the company values on paper (i.e., through the company mission statement) does not always align with how the company acts.
When this happens, it’s often a red flag for employees who typically decide to leave that work environment in search of a company that fits more closely with their ideal values.
Though your wage shouldn’t be the only consideration when seeking out a new position, it’s certainly a driving factor.
Perhaps your former employer was facing revenue difficulties, impacting your ability to get a raise in the short-term.
Maybe you’ve been working at the company for several years and have exhausted your opportunities for pay increases.
Or perhaps you asked for a raise, got turned down, and you’ve decided that you’re worth more than what you’re currently earning.
These are all valid reasons for leaving a job.
Most people will undergo a career change five to seven times in their life, which for most people comes out to about every six years.
We’re not talking about switching jobs (which happens far more frequently), but about changing your career path entirely.
In previous generations, this was typically frowned upon. Today, however, a hiring manager often values applicants who have demonstrated an ability to succeed across multiple fields, developing new skills along the way.
Changing career paths is a great way to gain a broader skillset. It is a strong reason for leaving your current company on good terms.
There are a number of reasons why you might no longer be happy with the hours at your current job.
Maybe you’ve been forced to work weekends when you weren’t originally, and you simply can’t give up every weekend to the job.
Perhaps your needs have changed since you took the job. For example, you might work evenings but have since joined a sports team that practices on Wednesday nights, which you can’t make because you have work.
Either way, if you’re unable to resolve scheduling conflicts with your current employer, it might be a good time to look for another job.
Generally there’s not much you can do about your employer going out of business..
If you’ve found yourself without a job due to your current company going out of business, you’re not alone, with more than 100,000 businesses having recently shut down due to the economic impact of COVID-19.
It’s incredibly important to feel recognized and valued by your employer.
Unfortunately, some organizations neglect to show employees that they are valued, which can lead to a higher turnover.
Letting future potential employers know that you left your previous job due to feeling undervalued can allow them to determine whether they are going to be able to give you an appropriate level of recognition to thrive in your new role.
One of the most well-grounded reasons for leaving a job is because you’ve relocated to a new city.
When you interview for the role, try to explain how the move to this city relates to your career goals (if it does, of course).
Another great reason for leaving your current role is to pursue further education.
If you’re working full-time currently, it can be hard to balance that workload while studying and still maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
For that reason, many people who go back to school decide to leave their job and look for part-time employment.
The two main aspects of a role are the job itself (receptionist, salesperson, stock person), and the industry that you work in (electronics, business to business office supplies, supermarkets).
If you’re feeling a bit bored in your current job, but you love the role, you might decide to look for a similar job in a different industry.
This move can open up a whole new world of challenges while developing your skills and breadth of ability as an employee.
It’s pretty rare that you find yourself at a job interview where the recruiter doesn’t ask why you’re considering leaving your current employer.
There are a few reasons that this is one of the most common interview questions.
The main one is that they are looking to gain an understanding of what you’re hoping to get out of a new job.
For example, if you left your last position because you didn’t fit well with the company culture, then your prospective employer is going to want to know more about your individual values to determine whether their company is a good fit for you.
If you left because the hours you were working no longer worked for you, they’ll want to make sure the hours for the position that they’re offering will work.
They’re also trying to get an idea of why you might one day leave this job.
For example, if you left your previous employer because you’re seeking a higher salary, then it’s reasonable to assume that you might one day leave the new company for the same reasons (if they’re unable to raise your wages in time).
Knowing this in advance helps your new employer make sure they can get the best out of you as an employee, and that you can get the most out of the new role.
So, if you know you’re probably going to get asked this question during an interview, then you should probably get yourself prepared to answer it.
Let’s take a look at how.
The best way to answer this question is to be prepared for it but to be upfront and honest.
That means telling your prospective manager the truth about why you left, but without badmouthing your previous employer. This almost always looks bad.
For example, instead of saying, “I left because the hours were horrible,” you could say,
“I decided to look for a role with hours that better suited my lifestyle.”
Try to keep your answer short and to the point, and aim to align the reason with your overall goals and objectives.
For example, if you left because your last job didn’t offer many opportunities for growth, you could say something like,
“I’m looking for a job that offers better career opportunities. I’d like to grow toward becoming a duty manager, and my previous job didn’t offer that as a potential career path.”
It’s quite common to be asked about your reasons for leaving your current or previous job, but despite knowing this, many interviewees still make mistakes when asked..
So, to make sure you answer this question in a way that will be received positively by your prospective employer, let’s review some common mistakes and how to avoid them.
What not to say: “I’m leaving because my boss is a jerk.”
How to say it better: “My current manager and I have different views on how best to achieve our goals, and it’s making it difficult for me to succeed.”
What not to say: “I hate my current job.”
How to say it better: “I’m no longer fulfilled by my current role, so I’m looking for something that I’m going to find more value and enjoyment in.”
What not to say: “I quit because they didn’t give me a promotion.”
How to say it better: “I missed out on an opportunity to get promoted, and a major part of why I wanted that job was because I’m looking for a new challenge. So I decided to search for a job that can provide that challenge.”
What not to say: “The working conditions at my job suck.”
How to say it better: “I feel that my current employer doesn’t value the team enough to provide desirable working conditions, so I’m not enjoying being in that environment.”
What not to say: “My boss wants me to do too much work.”
How to say it better: “I feel that my manager doesn’t value my work or understand what the capacity of my role actually is.”
There are plenty of really valid reasons for leaving your current job, and we’ve discussed just 10 of the most common ones here.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a new job, be prepared for the fact that you’re probably going to be asked why you left your last role.
To recap, you can prepare for this question by:
Having an answer ready
Telling the truth and keeping it short
Putting a positive spin on your answer and linking it to your wider career goals
Looking for more interview advice? Visit the Tips to Get Hired Resource Center.