Job Interview: How to Answer Why You Left Your Last Job When You Actually Quit

Hi Ronnie Ann!

My friend needs your advice. Recently she quit her job. One of the difficulties she is facing is answering the interview question “Why did you leave your job?”

She happened to leave the job as she was not given a promotion, she believed she deserved. She did not gave her employer the same reason for quitting the job. Now when she is asked the reason for quitting her job in interviews, she is not sure whether to tell the truth or give some other excuse.

She asked for my advice and I thought you would be the best person to answer this.

It would be great if you could help out.

Regards,
Jay

***

Hi Jay!

Nice of you to want to help your friend.

I just posted something that may not at first seem related since it’s about someone who was essentially forced to resign after 15 years at the same company:

Job Interview: Reason for Leaving Your Job After 15 Years

But the advice is basically the same.

First…when dealing with the reason you left your last position, stay positive about the last job – never ever talk about how awful they were or how badly they treated you or how you didn’t get what you deserved. That’s all sour grapes to a potential new employer and would only brand her as high maintenance.

As in the example, (although her answer would be a little different of course) when she answers the question, she should lead and end with positive strength.  In the middle, it’s usually good to talk about something like looking for new opportunity and challenges and in her situation, room for growth. And if she feels more comfortable with a shorter answer, then she can just talk about what she’s looking for which will cover most of it.

In your friend’s case, since she gave her other company a reason, and since there will be reference checks, it’s probably a good idea to make sure what she tells a potential new employer at least gels with what she told her last employer. Since I don’t know what it was, I can’t give you an example. I just hope she told them something that won’t trip her up – for instance that she wants to stop working altogether or leave the industry that she’s still interviewing in. But odds are, if she’s clever, she can make that work.

Now…although I said be clever, I want to emphasize I don’t mean slick. What she says has to ring true to both herself and the interviewer, or she’ll come across as two-dimensional and maybe even phony. Luckily, looking for new challenges and job growth are both excellent reasons for anyone to seek a new job or career.

I wish her much luck. She’s lucky to have a good friend like you, Jay.  Please keep us posted!

~ Ronnie Ann

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. Hello,
    I recently left my job (healthcare)because I got tired of my job tasks, It started becoming boring and I wanted to pursue another field(higher education).My current job is in the new field but realized that the company’s integrity is very poor and I do not think it is a good fit(it is still early so I may be wrong) and the position may not be ideal. I recently found another position in healthcare(field I left) that I would like to apply for-more money, company is affiliated with my old job, better benefits, leadership role etc. if I apply and be called for an interview, should I talk about my current job(2 weeks in) and what should I say when asked why I left the healthcare job) . I am thinking not to put the current job on my resume since I’m 2 weeks in.

    I told my pervious employer that I was interested in going back to school and that I got another position in the field that I thought I was interested in.. But now I am not sure if I am really interested in the field…..sorry if it is confusing. Help please :)

    Thanks for the help,
    Welli

    • may I ask you what you tell interviewers when asked why you quit your job? Im stuck trying to tell them something without sounding like a whiner or someone who might be hard to deal with. I feel that Im giving people the wrong impression of me.

      • Hi Cindy,

        I recommend not using any adjectives, and describing the situation simply as one would see it with a camera. Example: The company went from 60 to 20 employees in size, without any change in business volume. Before the downsizing, I worked 40 hours a week, after I worked 75.

        Try writing out your answer this way and I’ll give you suggestions on tweaking it.

        Good luck,
        Chandlee

  2. I resigned from my job on June 22nd because I felt that my boss didn’t recognize me for the accomplishments and hard work I put in the dept. There were days she wouldn’t even talk to me but would talk to others. I felt that I was going nowhere in that company. Now I’ve had several inteviews but when I’m asked why did I quit after 8-1/2 years I get stuck. I had an inteview yesterday and I told them that I was unhappy there and felt that I wasn’t being recognized. They asked for examples and I was actually able to give them an example. Plus some of the people in my dept didn’t answer the phones, they actually turned them off and all the calls would come to me and my boss did nothing….I just doing know what to say about me leaving and I’ve noticed that the interviewers just wont leave it alone..They keep asking me questions…

    • Cindy,

      I apologize, I didn’t see this comment when I responded to you earlier. Try writing up this scenario — but in a way which doesn’t show that your colleagues weren’t cooperating with you.

      An alternative thing to say is that you simply felt you were stuck with limited opportunity for advancement as there had not been any promotions internally (if that was the case). And that you were getting a higher volume of calls than your peers, you took your job seriously and answered them — and realized that it would be better to focus on your job search full-time than to do poor work in the interim.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  3. Hello, I had just left my new job in the beginning of September, of which I started in mid May of the same year. The reason I left was due to my inability to adjust to the fast paced and odd scheduling
    that this job entailed. I had a string of bad days which collectively contributed to a bad review but I would not like to convey this to any prospective employers. I have learned tremendously from this experience. Ultimately, I would like to know if I should list this job on my resume, to avoid any large gaps and if I do should I also use them as a reference?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

    • Mark,

      I think you should consider two things:

      1. Is the old company willing to provide a reference for you? If not, that may be a sign on which way to proceed there.

      2. What can you take away from this last situation? My read of it is that you prefer working within an environment where you know what to expect on a day-to-day basis and have regular hours. You may want to seek out new positions that offer you this possibility.

      All the very best,
      Chandlee

  4. Hi Chandlee,

    I am happy to say that I found a job. However, after much discussion with my boss, I realize that he has intention to get me to do selling of my company events. We are an events company. E reason why I joined this company is to learn more about event management. Now, it seems like I won’t get to learn what I have set out to learn. How should I go about telling him about this?

  5. How do you answer the question “Why do you want to leave your current position?”. I am currently employed with a foster care agency as an Admin Asst. I just want a change and have had 4 different managers in 4 years. The turnover is very high. I have a phone interview for the counseling dept. at our local university for an Admin Asst. position. Would like some advice.

    Thank you,

    Steff

    • Hi Steff,

      I think saying “I’ve had 4 different managers in 4 years. The turnover is very high,” is a good enough statement to keep looking.

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

      • Thank you for the response. I just thought that would be a litttle on the negative side. Although very honest! Thanks again, I found this site very very helpful.

        • Steff,

          If it’s true and you use no adjectives or tone of voice that shows negativity it should be fine.

          All the best,
          Chandlee

  6. Hi Chandlee

    please help, I have an interview the this week, how do i respond to the question (why you quit your job).
    in my case i had to rellocated cause i god married and i had complacations due to my pregnancy.

    i told my prv employer that i rellocating to where my husband was dd not tell them about being pregnant.

    Tnx,
    Nana

    • Nana,

      Keep it simple. Just say you left the job due to geographic location, that you relocated to be with your family — and that this is no longer an issue since you are now living in the same area as your family. No need to discuss the pregnancy.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  7. Hello, I am a nurse that just relocated. I was fortunate to obtain a position in a facility working with children. However, due to some personal issues and overwhelming circumstances I made some errors, (for which I openly admitted to), during a couple of my shifts. I made it clear that I was overwhelmed during my shift, nonetheless one thing lead to another and my manager called me to say that perhaps I should take a night off, with pay, before I work on my own again, I want to make it clear that I had never worked woth kids before in the nurse setting, except for in my short maternity practicum. I did have a 2 week orientation and 14 buddy shifts. I was becomming accustomed to the new computer system as well. Nonetheless I had an interview with my manager to discuss what had happened during my shifts. Concerns and accustions were brought to my attention at the time of the meeting which had not been brought to my attention before, in turn I felt betrayed, hurt and angry. My point is that I have an interview in the same hospital but in a different department for a regular full time position. I got the job in the first place becasue my previous employer gave me such an excellent reference. However, I feel that my current experience will jepordize my future opportunities in the same hospital. If it comes up during my interview, how can I say why I did not work out or want to stay in that position without looking like I am bashing the manager/unit. Please help. Thank you.

    • Hi Ruby,

      Recommend you stick to the facts…Working with children was a new area for you; you discovered that it was not as good of a fit as you anticipated — and it was harder adjusting to a night schedule, a new computer system and a new type of patient at the same time. Don’t bad mouth your current employer, just say you think that the other position may play better to your strengths and what you are used to — if this is in fact the case. This might also be a graceful way to make an exit from your current department — just be honest about the process, so that you don’t catch your current manager off-guard.

      In the meantime, be extra vigilant, follow instructions, and do your current job with a smile. Good luck!

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

  8. I’m a nurse working for a company in which I recently went from a part time position to a full time position in a different role. I was on the job for 9 days, had some issues with my boss that I spoke with her about and thought were resolved. I had orientation for 2 days then was on a conference for 6 days. The following Monday I was brought into the office and addressed by my Director, my new Manager and HR. No previous warnings or discussions. I was told that the meeting was because there were concerns for my “behaviour related to performance”. AFter 9 days on the job, I failed to see how performance came into it and the fact that I had a difference of opinion and questioned my boss, left me baffled that she would go to such extremes. She is also in a 6 month contract position for her job so doesn’t really work for the company. At any rate, I was essentially told they were extending my probationary period by 2 months and if I didn’t agree, the only other option was immediate dismissal. I signed the paper, went home and thought about the situation and resigned two days later.

    The problem now, is I have an interview on Monday for the same position in a different location of the Province. How can I answer the question of why I resigned within 9 days of starting a new position without it being negative, making me look like I was unreasonable or a “problem employee”?

    • Steph,

      Find out what the labor laws are in your country moving forward — is it necessary to disclose a position on your resume if you worked there for less than two weeks?

      Keep the interview answers general — transitional leadership running department — not a good fit, etc.

      Stay focused on new job, not past ones…

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  9. About a year ago I resigned from my job because I was not happy and it was part time. Some time back I applied for a position from this company in another department and was asked why I had resigned but could come up with the answer. I have been unemployed for the past year. I didn’t burn any bridges.

    • Hi Pearl,

      I recommend that you just say that you needed a change…

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

    • Pearl,

      Likely tough to use a different answer this time around but you can always default to “I needed to spend some time with my family.”

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  10. Hi,

    How do i respond to the question (why you quit your last job) as my last job I only worked for 3 months as i was not happy at all.
    but I could not said bad thing about my last job so how should I ans?

    please help
    thanks

    • Witty,

      If you are applying for a different type of job that requires a new type of training, say that you realized two months into it (or whenever it was the case) that the nature of the work was not a fit for you — and that you decided it was better for you — and your employer — if you pursued a new type of work sooner as opposed to later. That way, the company could be efficient about hiring and training someone else to do the job and you could continue to move forward.

      Then explain how the job you are currently pursuing does fit your strengths and interests, and that you are committed to working in this type of work — regardless of whether you are selected for this particular role or not.

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  11. I just started a new job on October 3rd but have a really big problem. Its not a bad job and pays more then I have ever made which is a plus but there is one really bad downside to this. My Supervisor’s husband is the Warehouse Mgr where I work and he really has an anger issue. Within 2 weeks he came running upstairs to me, from the warehouse, to yell at me for not doing the orders right. Now this is only 2 weeks into the job so naturally I’m going to make some mistakes. He came slamming the paperwork on my desk and said “what the hell is this, and even used the “f” word”. Then he came up 2 more times that day. I have been asking for help from my boss and I’ve been trying my hardest but things are going to happen. So one day he comes upstairs and he looks like he’s going to blow a fuse at me. After all this. I found out he has a drinking problem (another employee that I know told me this at a party) and he comes in hungover alot. Plus work has sent him to anger management classes. He exploded at me one day and I told my boss (his wife) that he intimidates me and makes me nervous and she told me to think of him as an “angry customer”. Well I couldn’t because at that point I was afraid to send any orders to him because I thought he would be coming back upstairs and yell at me again. I went to HR about this and told them I can’t even concentrate with whats going on. It was obvious there is a history of this with him and now my boss won’t speak to me only if she has to. All orders I do go through her then she okays them, then I send them to him. But its so uncomfortable working there with all this going on. I’ve been there a total of 6 weeks. I also found out they had 3 people quit in my position since July. I don’t know how to handle working this job.

    • Cindy,

      It sounds like you are in a tough position and your boss — married to a partner with an explosive temper — is in an even tighter spot. If management and HR is aware of the situation, that may be half the battle — since it’s likely they may let him go at some point.

      As uncomfortable as it may feel, it seems like you may have a working solution for now in terms of how the work gets done. Once you’ve mastered this and submitted more orders without a problem, perhaps you can mend fences with your boss by asking her what else you can do to make her job easier…and look for ways to make sure the orders are done correctly.

      I am sure your boss does not want to lose employees quickly.

      The other option — of course — is to look for a new job. But, whenever possible — it’s great if you can wait to quit until AFTER you have secured that next position.

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  12. I left education for medical communications. I then left medical communications for education due to lack of advancement and for a higher pay (believe it or not). I want to return to medical communications. What do I say about why I left to only return to medical communications?

    • Talk about what you appreciate the most in the field of medical communications. Keep it simple and let them know you’d be coming back knowledgeable and refreshed.

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  13. I left a company after 13 years because the new, much younger manager, found all the wrong things that I did. We came up with game plans to resolve the issues but before I even had a chance to follow through, I was brought to HR and had 3 months of final written warnings. The case was finally closed but 3 months later, I was hauled down to HR again for “lack of commitment” and the whole case was reopened again. After doing 2 of the appeal process steps, I handed in my one month resignation notice. I didn’t give a reason.
    I have many befuddled co-workers who don’t understand why I quit because of the great job that I did. I felt like I needed to resign before they fired me. It was that nit picky.
    I have many glowing letters from customers, my old manager and professional co workers.
    How do I address why I left in a professional manner during my interviews?
    I know about saying looking for opportunity to advance, but would say I needed a break from the stress or something about the management team had unrealistic expectations?
    Thank you, V

  14. I have a Boss that has a bad temper and a womanizer. He his also fetish. Though he doesnt go out with his employer but does not care whether people are looking at him. The whole problem started the day he discovered that I attends his church which his well known. I was invited to the church programme one day, i decided to join them. He called me to his office one day dt he doesn’t employe people from his church and said if I still want to work with him i should keep my mouth shot. But since then he was not comfortable withh always looking for my slightest mistake. Others might go scot free but he wont spare me. I collected tax clearance letter oneday which he gave me suspension on it but others did the same thing he did not do anything to them. He made life difficult for me. Am alwas under tension any time am working for him bcs he will be shouting at u. I made a mister of putting wong stamp on different letter headed and he gave me suspension l. What can i say in an interve why i left my last job.

  15. I left my last job without notice after they said they would work with my school schedule and did not. I was doing home healthcare and felt very under-trained in the position and decided to go to school they were not supportive in that decision because they rarely would hire STNA’s because they had a pay freeze at 9.00 dollars. and no advancement beyond that position. I since then have completed my courses and I am now a State Tested Nursing Aid, seeking new employment. I am also working towards my LPN and would love to work in a nursing home from here-out. How can I answer the question of why I left my last job I was with them for 11 months and the job relates to what I am applying for.

    • Dee,

      I would simply say you left to finish that part of your education — and to focus on finishing the coursework. No need to go into further detail.

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  16. One of my recent employment was a toxic environment where I was promised a higher paying job in my field (graphic designer); instead I was placed in a print room where the fumes made me sick everyday. I also left the job because I was doing 3 jobs at minimum pay with the promise of advancing (I knew they were lying because this company had a high turn over rate and and they are infamous for promises).
    How do I explain why I left this job with a positive answer? To note, I took a job outside my field afterwords where I had a positive experience and a valid reason why I left. I’m afraid if I say, “there was no opportunity for growth” and they see an unrelated job afterwords, they’ll ask me why I quit and didn’t wait for opportunities to follow. I’m stressed out every time I need to explain to a potential employer why I quit my previous job.

  17. Please help me, one of my recent employment was a toxic environment where I was promised a higher paying job in my field (graphic designer); instead I was placed in a print room where the fumes made me sick everyday. I also left the job because I was doing 3 jobs at minimum pay with the promise of advancing (I knew they were lying because this company had a high turn over rate and and they are infamous for promises).
    How do I explain why I left this job with a positive answer? To note, I took a job outside my field afterwords where I had a positive experience and a valid reason why I left. I’m afraid if I say, “there was no opportunity for growth” and they see an unrelated job afterwords, they’ll ask me why I quit and didn’t wait for opportunities to follow. I’m stressed out every time I need to explain to a potential employer why I quit my previous job.

    • Danielle,

      I’d simply state the painting issue — the headaches caused by fumes in the print room — and say you left because you noticed that when you weren’t in that particular environment, you felt better. Don’t go into the other issues and don’t complain. Simply say you chose to be proactive about it, and now you are ready to re-enter the field.

      Just let them know you can’t work in a print room…

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

    • Danielle,

      Just keep it simple: Mention that the business used a chemical in their print room — where you were assigned to work — that gave you headaches, you left because it could not be figured out…When you left, you got better.

      You don’t anticipate it will be a problem in the future, and you are eager to go back into your field.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  18. I have been in my current job for 8mo. I just put in my 2wks notice because it is way to stressful and demanding at times. I also feel that I’m just not comprehending my job as well as I should be at this point, and it was only going to get harder and more stressful as time goes by. I explained things to my employer who understood, (2 other people quit previously for the same reasons), my question is what should I put on applications as to why I quit my last position?

    • Christy,

      If asked, say you are leaving to consider new opportunities. That said, if your employer has lost other employees for the same reason — would they be willing to modify their program/training/expectations to entice you to stay. May be a long shot but also worth it…

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  19. HI I was fired from my last job due to lateness, although this is not really true this is the reason they gave. I have been going on interviews and the problem I am having is how do address the question as to why I left my last job. I dont want to state that it was for lateness because that will negatively impact my interview. I did ask my career counselor at school and she stated that because I did receive unemployment I can state that I was laid off. Well I have been using that reason but I feel as if I will get caught in this white lie and not hired. please help! How do I address this question??

    • Francine,

      It is possible — and happens sometimes — that you won’t be asked that particular question at all.

      Is there anyone else at that company that may be willing to vouch for you? If yes, I recommend that you touch base with them and preserve the relationship.

      As for how to accurately represent what happened, you may want to talk to an Employment Lawyer for suggestions on what they can or can’t say. Or get someone to check your references for you. We are not employment attorneys so can’t advise you on how best to tackle this particular aspect of your application process.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  20. I worked six months as a Director of mental health, tasked with building a mental health facility from the ground up. I enjoyed the job and it had tons of opportunities to grow, etc. but was working 70 plus hours a week and the management style throughout the company was micromanage. I did a great job and my bosses loved me; they’d give me a great review if I asked; they do know that I left for medical issues. Overall, I left due to being physically and emotionally burnt-out and had some medical issues to attend to, which have since been resolved. I gave notice and began a part-time job in mental health. I’m looking to get back in the Director’s seat at other companies and my resume is being well-received, but can’t figure out how to justify leaving a Director position, going into the same field–but in a lesser position with no management responsibility–and now looking for a Director position again.

    • Margot,

      Based on what you’ve said here, I’d focus first on researching work environments and doing your homework to ensure that you get the right cultural fit first. The last thing I’d recommend is taking a new job and burn out again. If I were you, I’d

      1. Identify what you most need in a new job — for example, do you want to go into an established mental health facility now? Focus your search on organizations/jobs that fit within your new criteria.

      2. work on networking and building relationships with organizations that have a reputation for having a healthy culture — and then be positive and future-focused when you apply for new positions.

      Good luck and keep us posted on this.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

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