Climb the Ladder

How to Talk About Why You’re Leaving Your Old Company

First of all…

Why do employers ask, “Why did you leave your last job?”

There are many reasons why a hiring manager is almost guaranteed to ask you this during your next job interview. First, they might want to tell whether or not you’re likely to hop from one job to the next. In their book, is the reason you’re choosing to leave valid? They may also (and rightly so) want to know if you left voluntarily, “asked” to leave, or fired. And then besides your reason for why you left, they may also want to get a feel for how you left. The way an employee leaves a job can tell a lot about who they are when they don’t care what people think of them anymore. Ever hear a good storming out story? Entertaining, sure. Not so great for interviews, though.

Make sure your resume reads like a story

Edit: We can imaging that many who are reading this blog recently have been affected by layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to add that if that’s the case for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to add a note to your resume and/or cover letter stating that this is your situation. This will give hiring managers an easily understood explanation for why you’re no longer at your previous company and currently looking for employment.

No matter what, you’re going to want to make sure your resume makes sense to your future employer. Where did you start out and where are you going? For each piece of work experience added to your resume, you’ll want the hiring manager to be able to see how you grew from each position to the next. No matter what job you had, list the traits and skills you were able to develop at each job and how they progressed from one to another. If you do this way, you’ll be able to help your employer see how you’ll grow during your time at their company as well.

Having your resume read like a story is going to be especially important if you’re deciding to make a career change. If you’ve had several internships or jobs that coincide with the one you’re applying for, then it would make sense to a recruiter or hiring manager why you’re applying. But if you’re looking to make a career change or get your foot in the door of a new career, you’re going to want to identify the skills you’ve learned from your past jobs and highlight those as they would apply for your nest job.

For example, if you’re looking to get into a job in marketing, be sure to highlight past things that could relate to marketing like taking over your old companies social media channels here and there or writing a blog post. If the title of your past jobs doesn’t directly fall in line with the job you’re applying to, make sure your experience does.

Also read: How to Use a Side Hustle to Get the Experience You Need for Your Dream Job

Don’t point blame on your coworkers

One piece of advice we usually give our Scouted candidates is that saying things like, “My boss was a jerk” or, “My coworkers were toxic” really doesn’t leave the impression one might hope it would. Instead of setting yourself apart from said toxic coworkers, what your interviewer will see is someone who is unable to take responsibility for things that happen and who likes to shift blame to others. Being a boss themselves, they may understand what it’s like to be seen as a “jerk” by employees who don’t necessarily have a leadership mentality. Regardless, if you’re talking down about your last boss now, they could very well be worried that it won’t be long before they’re the next punching bag. Even if you didn’t like your last boss, if asked about them, try to think of their positive qualities that you can share. Jules from ToughNickel says, that a great way to address the question, “Who was your best boss and who was the worst?” is to say something along the lines of, “I’ve learned from each boss I’ve had,” and then share at least one positive or teachable trait you took away from your experience with them.

Don’t say you got bored

Although the negatives to this response may not seem obvious at first, there are several negative implications that will make you want to steer clear from this response. Bridget from our candidate team points out that saying, “I got bored” implies that you’re not really sure what you want in a job. Did you take the job just to get a job or do you have a clear path of career growth in mind. If the latter, then the reason for you leaving your previous job should probably sound something like, “I feel as though I’ve learned and grown as much as I can in my position at ______ and it’s time to take the next step in my career.”

Saying you were bored could also imply that you didn’t feel motivated or compelled to apply yourself to your work and became caught up in daily routine. Remember, just like your resume should always tell a story of growth, so should your interview. Be sure to let your interviewer know that your decision to leave your past job was purposeful and had good reasoning behind it.

If you’re worried about an employment gap in your resume, give this blog post a read to learn how to best explain it to your hiring manager: How to Explain an Employment Gap (and what to do when you’re in one)

Be sure your values are clear

If you don’t clearly express why you felt the need to leave your last company, your hiring manager might be left to make assumptions. Always make it a priority to show that you’re a fan of the company you’re interviewing for and also what you value in your career. Do you value working with a team and for a cause you can stand behind? Do you value honesty and transparency? Let your interviewer know that you value these things and it may help them be more sympathetic to your reasons for leaving.

A good idea is also to research the values that the company has noted about itself. As a principle, try to only apply to companies you can truly see yourself taking pride in and whose values align with your own. That way you won’t need to fudge that you love what the company stands for in your interview.

We hope you found this post helpful! In the comments below, tell us if this is your least favorite interview question and, if not, what is? How have you answered this question in the past?

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