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What are the best job interview reasons for leaving a previous position?

job interview reasons for leaving previous job


Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Company in distress; company acquired/sold; lack of cohesive strategy; lack of any strategy; lack of execution (hard to use if you were part of the exec team); my spouse made me do it; CEO was an idiot; worked in financial services industry; x% of our customers went out of business- those will get you in my front door.

Gregg Kimmer
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Humana
(Director of Finance, Humana) |

If I hear any "flighty" responses to this question that have to do with "lack of strategic focus", etc, I'm instantly cynical towards the person. I want a "meat and potatoes" answer as to why. We are all big boys and girls. If the previous job didn't work out, just say it.

Robert Ewalt
Title: Exam Development Manager
Company: Institute of Certified Management Accoun..
(Exam Development Manager, Institute of Certified Management Accountants) |

"CEO was an idiot" is not a good answer. If someone is going to bad-mouth a former boss, will he/she bad-mouth me later on? Maybe "not growing" or "no opportunity for advancement" (a nice way to say "boredom") is okay.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

Personally I believe in discussing the reasons truthfully, and when I hire people, I really want to know the truth because it will tell me if I can keep them satisfied in the job I am hiring for, and the truth will tell me if I am able to provide any opportunity for advancement in the areas they are seeking. If I get a standard answer then I might not be able to find the best long term fit. That is what HR is looking for.

Realistically today, 3 years in one job is long term.

At a large corporation that I used to work for the environment was so stressful that we felt lucky if we could keep any one person for a one year term, so we included that information in the interview process to be fair to them.

Of course leaving your job because you got tired is not one of the 12 acceptable reasons.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

The best answer for your situation - if that's what you're looking for - is to base your answer in honesty, not some fabricated reason. It might require wrapping it in a positive story with a strategy to move the conversation forward ... but, made-up stories, fabrications, and outright lies usually come back to haunt you.

Robert Rochester
Title: VP & CFO
Company: Edcor Data Services LLC
(VP & CFO, Edcor Data Services LLC) |

If I am the one doing the interviewing, I prefer the honest answer. If you lie in the interview to get a job offer, that speaks volumes about your ethics. The truth will set you free, Mr. Anonymous!

Topic Expert
Linda Wright
Title: Consultant
Company: Wright Consulting
(Consultant, Wright Consulting) |

I agree an honest answer, simply put, is the best approach. Under no circumstances, dwell on any negative aspects about the former company.

(Manager) |

Valerie, interesting point that today long term is three years.

I agree with Cindy - situations are often complicated. One day you may feel like the main thing wrong with a job, causing you to end up leaving, is that you're bored... the problem being with you or the work or a rich fantasy life or who knows what?

The next day one might feel that the real problem is you're overworked.

The next day, poor communication with your superior, causing some aspects of bored or overworked or under appreciated or limited advancement or, again, who knows what?

One could describe the above in a variety of ways in an interview, including but not limited having progressed as far you could or not challenged or the company was under-resourced (if that's the case) thus limiting opportunity or a bad boss or simply time for a change.

Yes, you don't want to just make up some completely fabricated story. Yes, you don't want to say anything bad about the former employer. But, that still leaves a lot of room for how most situations are described and what is left out. In the end, I don't think there is one honest answer. Especially when you factor in degrees of brevity.

For instance, is it lying to not say the worst thing possible that may most truly describe your reason for leaving, Robert? Does that doom you for having bad ethics? I don't know, it may mean you have excellent social graces.

Andrea Clarke
Title: Bookkeeper - Trainee Accountant ACCA
Company: Private
(Bookkeeper - Trainee Accountant ACCA, Private) |

Be up front and honest.. simple. I like how Cindy put it. Making it positive. I see you are a manager and if you have hired people wouldn't you prefer the truth?! I think that you should aim to treat your potential new employer with honesty and respect that you would expect from your own potential new or current employees.

(Controller) |

The previous answers all well and good if you left voluntarily. It is much trickier if you were fired or forced to resign. In one situation I was forced to resign (#3 red light answer) for allegedly poor performance just three months after receiving a strong annual evaluation. In another I was terminated (#1 red light answer) for an alleged policy violation. In both cases politics played a major role but we are supposed to avoid negative comments about the former employer. None of the green light answers would be honest.

How do the experts recommend handling questions that drill deeply into unhappy history?

Maria Marsala
Title: Financial Advisor Coach, Speaker, Author
Company: Elevating Your Business
(Financial Advisor Coach, Speaker, Author, Elevating Your Business) |

You do need to have answers, for sure. But don't spend all your time thinking about it. Because when you do, they'll not only ask, they'll dig.

Most times a 2 sentance answer works. When you're forced to resign after a good performance, you're right, politics is in place.

But what I see from what you wrote, you resigned and took another position.

(CFO) |

Make it:
- Brief!!
- Positive
- Truthful
And have an exit speech

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

The truth.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

I package the "red flags" into the "blame" bin. Blame is unproductive, so no one will hire that trait. "I had a problem with my boss, job, commute, shoe size....etc"; if you can restate an answer as that, then it is the wrong answer.

Good answers are solutions; growth, change, opportunity. And as Valerie points out above in her post, "time with family", "layoff" etc can all signal growth.

Of course, if there is a reason why *you* should have up front so that it isn't a surprise (think conviction that will show up on a search). "I made x mistake and we agreed I should move on," or similar. In that case, if it is going to come up, I look for someone who takes responsibility, not makes excuses.


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