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How to answer: Why did you leave your job?

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If you’re job free and looking for your next role, you’ll expect and be dreading this question: Why did you leave your job?

Most of the time you’ll be asked for your reason for leaving when you apply for the job, in the application form or during the screening, but you can also hear this question during the interview. 

Not everyone looking for a job is employed right now and there are plenty of good reasons why you may not be working. 

Whether you’ve been made redundant because of Covid, decided to take a career break or quit because you had enough of your boss, you shouldn’t have to lie or be ashamed about being unemployed. 

But you should prepare your answer carefully to make sure it doesn’t cost you the job.

The key to answering ‘Why did you leave your job?’ is to always:

  • describe your reason for being out of work in a positive way 
  • reiterate why the job you are applying for is the right fit for you at this point in your career

Here are some examples of reasons for leaving a job and how to talk about them.

I was made redundant 

I very much enjoyed my position at my company but unfortunately a number of our employees were impacted by a restructure due to the Covid-19 crisis. I have used my time away from work to reflect on the direction I want to take in my career and this job is the perfect combination of what I loved to do but also what I want to develop in my next role. 

I got sacked because I wasn’t good at the job 

When I started my role, my manager and I had a different understanding about the role and what was expected of me. We both agreed that this was not the right fit for either of us. This position in your company is better suited to my strength and abilities. 

I got sacked because I didn’t get on with my new boss 

During my time at my company I had the opportunity to work in a few different teams. My department changed strategic direction and I felt that it was time for me to move on. The position in your company is particularly exciting as it aligns with both my values and skillset. 

I had to look after my kids / a sick relative / my health 

My personal circumstances changed and I decided to take some time to look after my kids / relative / self. I am now in a position to focus on my career again and your job is the right opportunity for me to re-enter the workplace.

I wanted to study 

I had an opportunity to take some time out of work to re-qualify / further my studies in [Subject] as this is where my passions lie. Now that I am fully qualified, I am looking to put my learnings into practice and the role in your company is the perfect place to do so. 

To build my own business 

I pursued my own venture for some time. I have learnt a lot from managing my business but, unfortunately, this was not financially sustainable on a full time basis. I have decided to scale things down / put things on hold and I believe that my new skills would be a perfect match for your role. 

I wanted to travel 

I took a career break to travel for a year and learn more about the world. This was an enriching experience, I want to use what I have learnt in my future career. 

See, it doesn’t sound that bad…

You can easily turn around a question that could have made you look bad into an opportunity to express your interest for the job, and without sounding desperate.


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