Most of us have encountered this difficult question during an interview, “Why did you leave your last employer?”. In this article, we’ll cover how to explain why you left your last job during an interview in a positive light. As a former recruiter, my trained eyes would automatically look at the dates of your unemployment gaps, and dig the reason why you left each position. You want to make sure that you’re prepared for this one question whether you have long unemployment gaps or not. One of the top questions recruiters still want to know is why did you leave that opportunity? In this article, I’m going to share some tips that’ll help you convince recruiters that you’re a viable candidate. You can read along or watch the video below instead.

How to Explain Why You Left Your Last Job During an Interview

Tip #1: Never Badmouth Your Employer

The number one rule when answering this question during an interview is ensuring that you never bad-mouth another employer. I once conducted an interview and asked a candidate why she left her last position. She told me, without going into too many details, that the employer just didn’t understand her needs and was very disorganized. She just went on and on about all these different reasons why she left. While that may have been an honest answer, it automatically raised a red flag. It immediately made me wonder what negative things she might say about me or my company in the future if we ever let her go for any reason. A lot of times, recruiters just want to see how you can spin negative things positively in a professional way without bringing up any drama or negative feedback about somebody.

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Tip #2: Focus on Future Opportunities

Now that we’ve covered what not to say, let’s talk about how to respond without being dishonest when you actually did have a negative experience. One of the best things you can do is just focus on future opportunities and then describe your ideal culture. The goal is to eloquently position yourself for the next opportunity without necessarily throwing somebody under the bus. It may sound something like this:

“I put in 18 months with this organization. And after being there, I’m proud of accomplishing XYZ. However, I came to a point where I voluntarily resigned as what I’m really looking for is a bigger organization or team that I can really learn and glean from.”

By answering positively, you’re focusing on what this organization brings to the table and how you would fit in well. Instead of directing the interview towards your past toxic work environment, be mindful to stay positive and future-focused.

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Tip #3: Clearly State if You Voluntarily Resigned

In general, if you have voluntarily resigned, you want to make sure that you clearly state it. Right off the bat, recruiters want to know if you were involuntarily let go or worse, fired. However, they would understand the minute you state you were let go for reasons beyond your control. Below are some examples of scenarios that you should absolutely explain if they apply to you.

  • You were a part of a mass layoff or acquisition. (How many rounds of layoffs did you make it past? What happened in the organization to cause the layoff? Did you receive a severance package? These are helpful details to include.)
  • You weren’t looking for a new job, but a former manager or colleague reached out and presented an opportunity.
  • A recruiter or hiring manager reached out to you even though you weren’t searching and poached or requested you.

There are so many valid reasons why you might leave an organization. As I mentioned above, you definitely want to share what happened especially if it makes you sound like a really marketable candidate, such as being poached, requested, or recommended by a previous colleague, recruiter, or a hiring manager. I hope you found these quick tips helpful for your next interview!

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