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 ten or more jobs during your lifetime, and each time you interview for a new role, you’ll be asked the same question:
“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 start by discussing some of the most common reasons people leave their jobs.
In 2021, 25% of people quit their jobs. This number was a sharp increase from 2020 when only 18% of people quit their jobs.
One of the reasons for this trend is COVID-19. There were more layoffs during the peak of the pandemic, and people had to work from home.
Now more workers are seeking a flexible schedule and a better work-life balance. And there are plenty of jobs to choose from, as open positions recently hit 11.0 million.
With more choice, employees can leave difficult situations behind and start a new career.
Whether the company is restructuring, there are personal reasons, or you're ready for a new opportunity, you could be thinking about leaving your job.
Here are 14 common reasons people choose to quit their jobs:
You might think that the main reason people take a job is the pay.
While pay is an important factor, 68% of workers say that career growth and development are their top priority.
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.
It 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:
Employees often choose to leave their current position because they feel that the company’s values don’t fit very well with their own.
For example, a company that very strongly emphasizes that “the customer is always right” might not be a great fit for employees who strongly value equality and fairness. Even if you do believe that you have a duty to serve the customer, this duty has limitations.
An important thing to understand is that what the company values on paper (i.e., through the company mission statement) doesn't always align with how the company acts.
When this happens, it’s often a red flag for employees. They may 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 a new position, it’s certainly a driving factor.
Maybe your former employer was facing revenue difficulties, impacting your ability to get a raise in the short term.
Perhaps you’ve been working at the company for several years and have exhausted your opportunities for a pay increase. Or, maybe you’ve 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. For most people, a change of career happens around the six-year mark.
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 skill set. It is a strong reason for leaving your current company on good terms.
There are a number of reasons you may no longer be happy with the hours at your current job.
Maybe you have to work weekends when you didn’t before, and you simply can’t give up every weekend to the job.
Your needs may 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.
Or, maybe you have to care for a family member with health issues or pick your child up from school. If your role doesn't suit your lifestyle, it could force you to look elsewhere.
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 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 high staff turnover.
Letting potential employers know that you left your previous job due to feeling undervalued can help them decide whether they can give you enough recognition. They should support you to thrive in your new role.
One of the most obvious reasons for leaving a job is because you’ve moved to a new city.
When you interview for a new role, try to explain how the move relates to your career goals (if it does, of course).
And, if you’re open with your existing employer, they might give you a reference or connect you with a hiring manager in your new location.
Another great reason for leaving your current role is to pursue further education.
It can be hard to balance that workload while studying and maintaining a healthy work-life balance if you're currently working full-time.
For that reason, many people who go back to school decide to leave their jobs and look for part-time employment.
The two main aspects of a role are the job itself (e.g., receptionist, salesperson, stock person) and the industry you work in (e.g., electronics, business to business office supplies, supermarkets).
If you’re feeling a bit bored with 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 abilities.
If you have a baby or young child, you might consider quitting your job to be a stay-at-home parent. For some families, it makes financial sense to save money on daycare fees.
These days, it's not just women who take time off to care for children. Some men choose to be stay-at-home parents.
One of the job interview questions a future employer could ask you is why there's a gap in your resume. You can briefly mention your parental break in your cover letter.
If you have time off from work, make sure you keep your certifications up to date.
Even if you've got your dream job, the temptation to travel could see you quit. If you have leave, you can use this for a vacation. But, if you want to explore the world without a return date, you'll usually have to hand in your resignation.
Traveling can give you growth opportunities and introduce you to new cultures. Some people choose to work while they travel to help fund their trip.
When you return, you can follow up with your employer as there may be a position available for you. Or you can look for another job offer.
Your past job may have required you to be in the office. But, there are now more opportunities to work from home.
These positions appeal to job seekers, and if your current employer doesn't offer this option, you may decide to leave.
Before filling out a work-from-home job application, you should make sure you have the tools to succeed. For example, you'll need a quiet workspace and a computer.
And, you'll need to be self-motivated and comfortable working independently. If you’ve never worked remotely before, there are entry-level positions available.
You may enjoy your job duties, but conflict in the workplace can cause stress. If a manager or co-worker is making your life difficult, it could drive you to quit your job.
Sometimes conflict can be resolved, and the company may have processes to deal with bullying and abuse. If your problems are ongoing, it could be time to apply for a job at a company with a positive culture and values similar to your own.
If you're feeling overworked and underappreciated, it can lead to burnout. It’s always better to try to resolve conflict before it starts to impact your daily life.
When you have a job interview, the recruiter will usually 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 want to know 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, your prospective employer will want to know more about your values.
They need to determine whether their company is a good fit for you.
Or if you left your job because the hours were unsuitable, they’ll want to make sure you're available when they need you.
They’re also trying to get an idea of why you might one day leave this job.
For example, suppose you left your previous employer because you’re seeking a higher salary. In that case, it’s reasonable to assume that you might one day leave the new company for the same reasons, particularly if they’re unable to raise your wages.
You know you’re probably going to be asked this question during an interview, so make sure you’re ready to answer it.
Let’s take a look at how:
The best way to answer this question is to be prepared and be upfront and honest.
That means telling your prospective manager the truth about why you left, but without bad mouthing 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 align the reason with your 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 work toward becoming a duty manager, and my previous job didn’t offer that as a potential career path.”
It’s 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: “My current role no longer fulfills me, 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 valid reasons for leaving your current job, and we’ve discussed just fourteen of the most common ones here. Before handing in your resignation letter, make sure you can find a better opportunity.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a new job, keep in mind you’ll need to explain 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