35+ Reasons for Leaving a Job and Answers to "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?" [2020]

When an employee decides to resign from their current employer and seeks new employment, there are a few places where the job seeker and job candidate will be asked what the reason was for leaving their current position. The job candidate might be asked in a job application, in the job interview, and then lastly when the candidate goes to resign from their current place of employment.

The first place a job seeker is going to have to refer to their reason for leaving a job is during the interview. A hiring manager may ask the interview question, “Why did you leave your last job?” The job seeker may still be employed with their current employer during this interview. The reasons the employee and job seeker choose should align with the reasons they are going to use for their resignation process. This will come after accepting a job offer and needing to resign from the current place of employment.

When choosing a reason for resigning during an interview, it’s important to mention a legitimate reason. As a job seeker, the interviewer will be able to sense when the reason is false. For example, if the job candidate mentions their reason for leaving is organizational changes, but there’s no news of layoffs; this could create problems. Choose a valid reason.

Certain reasons should be avoided. For example, a common reason can be working conditions with the previous employer (or current employer/current role). While this is a valid reason, it’s one of the reasons that should be exempt from mentioning to your interviewer or prospective employer. In the event, the potential employer contacts the previous employer; this could be an issue. Pick professional reasons for leaving even if they aren’t entirely true to your own point of view.

When resigning from a current job and submitting a resignation letter, the employer (upcoming former employer) may mention their reasons for resigning or leaving. The reasons should align with the ones mentioned to the future employer and job opportunity (the new job).

Tip: Resigning in a professional manner and being considered a “good employee” during the resignation process (resigning with ample notice period and reasons) leaves the door open for resignation letter requests and job reference opportunities that can be very impactful to a job seekers career.

Reasons for Leaving a Job

Below are good reasons for leaving a job. All are considered to be an acceptable reason and professional reason for resignation from a current employer.

Organizational Changes

  • Company restructuring and layoffs.
  • Organizational changes, resulting in layoffs to a specific department.
  • Company downsizing
  • Change of job description and no longer being passionate.
  • Company decided to outsource the job title.
  • Being laid off for “good cause” during annual budgeting.

Personal Reasons

  • Feeling a need to make a change after a number of years of employment.
  • Needing to relocate due to family reasons.
  • Needing to relocate due to spousal reasons.
  • Feeling the need to retire.
  • Desiring to travel full-time and seeking only part-time employment or contract work.
  • Looking for a job with a more flexible schedule.
  • Getting married and needing to reevaluate career paths.

Career Advancement

  • Desiring to make a career change and career path change.
  • Desiring a new challenge after a number of years of employment.
  • Desiring to be exposed to new types of work and functional areas.
  • Leaving due to high salary or better benefits.
  • Being offered a permanent position if part-time.
  • Being offered a full-time position if a seasonal position.
  • Seeking career growth and upward mobility.
  • A job opportunity that aligns with career goals more acutely.
  • Wanting to fill an employment gap.
  • A better opportunity to advance specific skills.

Back to School

  • Desiring to go back to school to receive an MBA.
  • Desiring to go back to school to receive a Bachelor’s Degree.

Maternity

  • Needing to stay at home for an upcoming birth from a pregnancy.
  • Needing to stay at home after a birth and pregnancy.

Job Aspects

  • Feeling like the workplace was unethical.
  • Feeling like unfair treatment was happening in the workplace.
  • Unhappy with the management of the business.
  • Desiring to switch departments.
  • Leaving due to general job dissatisfaction.
  • Leaving due to the travel distance to work.
  • A hostile working environment.
  • No opportunity to move from part-time to full-time.
  • No longer can lift heavy objects.

Family & Health Issues

  • Personal health reasons and needing to focus on that.
  • Family health reasons and needing to focus on that.
  • Parental health reasons and needing to focus on that.

The best reasons for leaving a job are those that support the reason without much detail. Each positive reason above is going to be received as professional and cordial with both the new employer and current company.

Reasons for Leaving on a Job Application

Using the following reasons when a job application asks, "Why did you leave your previous job?" is acceptable. As a job seeker, be sure to use the same reason for leaving a previous position on the job application cover letter, job application, and when the interviewer asks about a job in the job interview.

If the job applicant uses multiple reasons that don't align on two of these job application assets when the hiring manager asks about a previous job experience, and the answer is different—it makes the employee seem untrustworthy.

Example of a Bad Reason

Below are a few examples of a bad answer to the job interview question or reason for resigning from a current job (an upcoming previous job).

  • Finding a “dream job” and needing to pursue those passions.
  • Unhappy with the work conditions.
  • Unhappy with the way work is being accomplished.
  • Unhappy with the work culture.
  • Unhappy with the supervisor, boss, or manager.
  • DUI or other legal problems.
  • Filing bankrupty and needing to focus on that.

These are a few bad reasons for resigning from a current position. While they may feel valid to the job seeker, it is best not to share these personal details with the employer as they display differences in the company culture and the employee.

A common mistake amongst job seekers is to presume that leaving a job due to a "lack of passion" is considered a bad answer. It's not a bad answer to say that the reason for resigning happened to be because of a lack of passion.

Jared Brox describes, "passionate employees are engaged employees. They believe in the work they do and that they have a vested interest in the success of their company." As Jared alludes, passion is precisely the reason why this interview question is prompted to candidates.

Leaving a previous job due to a lack of passion is an answer that a hiring manager or recruiter is going to respect rather than see as a "bad thing."

How to Answer "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?"

When a hiring manager or interviewer asks this question during a job interview, it's best to refer to the same reason listed on the job application or cover letter. When the hiring manager asks this question, be honest, and open about the reason.

Answer the interview question with brevity. A long answer, that takes more than 30-seconds to answer, can sound like the interviewer is holding onto resentment about their previous place of work. Have a clear reason for leaving a previous job, and announce it.

In order to make the interview answer sound enticing to the interviewer, structure the answer with an opportunity that aligns with the job the candidate is interviewing for. For example, leaving a previous job due to a lack of upward mobility options. And then saying at the end of the answer, "This is why I pursued this job opportunity, there seems like a healthy amount of upward mobility that can serve me along my career path."

Example Job Interview Answers to "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?"

It’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to ask about the reason for leaving a previous job in the job interview. Asking the question can break the ice and begin an accurate interview, where the interviewer can ask more targeted qualifying questions.

Company restructuring and layoffs.

Sample answer: “In my last job, the company was going through a number of restructuring changes and layoffs. While I find myself a very adaptable person and employee, I felt like it was time to move onto a new company that had more stability.”

Organizational changes, resulting in layoffs to a specific department.

Sample answer: “In my last job, the company was going through a number of department changes. I wasn’t feeling job security in my position any longer and felt it was time to pursue a new venture.”

Company downsizing.

Sample answer: “The company was going through a significant amount of downsizing, and I decided to depart the business before that happened to my team. I really enjoyed working with the company.”

Change of job description and no longer being passionate.

Sample answer: “My job changed over time. I was with the business for more than a few years. But ultimately, I decided that I needed to pursue a new job that I had more passion for.”

Company decided to outsource the job title.

Sample answer: “My job was replaced by a company outsourcing and contracting. I’m pursuing a new venture with a business that can better utilize my skills on-premise.”

Being laid off for “good cause” during annual budgeting.

Sample answer: “During the annual budget analysis, the company decided to lay the position off. We left on good terms.”

Feeling a need to make a change after a number of years of employment.

Sample answer: “I was at my last job for more than 5-years. I felt like it was time to make a change before I became too comfortable, and my job performance began to suffer.”

Needing to relocate due to family reasons.

Sample answer: “I left my last job due to family reasons. I needed to take time off to care for my family. Now I’m back in the workforce. I'd like to share that the situation was mildly extreme. We lost a family member. And for myself, I needed to spend time considering what was best for my family before I decided to pursue a career path once again.”

Needing to relocate due to spousal reasons.

Sample answer: “My spouse needed to relocate for their job. And this forced me to have to resign from my previous job and pursue new work. I'm looking for a position where I can apply my skills and have an equal amount of passion that I had in my prior job. While it was unfortunate to have to leave my prior job because I had a great relationship with them, change is always a good thing.”

Desiring to travel full-time and seeking only part-time employment or contract work.

Sample answer: “I really enjoyed working with my last company. Unfortunately, I was working on a contract basis. And I wanted to start working with full-time benefits. But that option wasn’t available. I was contracting with that singular business for a number of years. But unfortunately, the business found working with a larger amount of contractors was better than hiring employees full-time. I can understand the position of the business. But I needed to start thinking about something more secure.”

Looking for a job with a more flexible schedule.

Sample answer: “My last job had a very difficult scheduling conflict with my ability to balance my life out. Balance in life is very important to me. It allows me to do great work. I’m pursuing a new job with more flexibility. I'd like to affirm though, this does not mean that I'm looking for a position where I can "slack off" per se. I would simply like to be upheld to results rather than working hours. And it appeared this open position was perfectly in alignment with those types of working conditions.”

Getting married and needing to reevaluate career paths.

Sample answer: “I left my last job right before I got married. I decided I needed to rethink my career path when I was on my honeymoon. It comes down to passion for me. During this time, I spent a number of hours reflecting and deciding what my life should look like. I'd like to explain that this job opportunity is one that I've given a healthy amount of consideration. And that's why I'd like to be hired here.”

Desiring to make a career change and career path change.

Sample answer: “I decided I wanted to change my career and take a new direction. For me, I decided to do this when I was feeling passionate about new parts of a business that I didn’t previously have.”

Desiring a new challenge after a number of years of employment.

Sample answer: “Honestly, leaving my last job came down to wanting to be challenged again. I felt like I was reaching a point where I had learned everything that I could. And I would like to be exposed to new challenges once more.”

Desiring to be exposed to new types of work and functional areas.

Sample answer: “In my previous job, I was doing wonderful work but unable to coordinate with other departments and functional areas of the business. This is something that I’m looking for in a new job. I believe this exposure will allow me to advance my career while being able to apply my unique skills. This is what led me to this job opportunity.”

Leaving due to high salary or better benefits.

Sample answer: “I had the opportunity to depart my last job after reaching a salary cap within the business. I’ll be able to do the same level of great work with this business and be compensated more. While the salary is not my main driver for work, passion is. I would still like to advance myself and the measurement of salary is a great way to do that.”

Being offered a permanent position if part-time or freelance.

Sample answer: “I left my last job because this job is full-time, and that’s something I’m seeking in my career. While I had many discussions about turning my freelance career into a full-time opportunity with many of my clients, I didn't find the right fit. That's what led me to this opportunity and why I'm choosing to pursue this business.”

Being offered a full-time position if a seasonal position.

Sample answer: “I left my last job because it was a seasonal job. We knew going into the position that it was going to be a limited time with the business.”

Seeking career growth and upward mobility.

Sample answer: “I left my last job because I wasn’t seeing where I was going to be able to grow within the business. It came down to upward mobility. This business has a lot more growth opportunities for me. More job titles that I can learn from and potentially grow into.”

A job opportunity that aligns with career goals more acutely.

Sample answer: “My last job was starting to feel misaligned with my personal career goals. This job opportunity lines me up for my goal of becoming a manager one day. It will expose me to the proper skills and daily activities that will help me become a manager.”

Wanting to fill an employment gap.

Sample answer: “To be honest, I wanted to change jobs in order to fill some employment gaps on my resume. By no means does this indicate that I'm looking for a short-term employment opportunity. If I can find the right job opportunity, I would love to stay with the business for a long period of time. But currently, I need to think about what position I'm a "good fit" for and try to apply myself to that role.”

A better opportunity to advance specific skills.

Sample answer: “I left my last job to pursue being able to gain technical skills and coding abilities that I wouldn’t be exposed to. I have a list of skills that I'm looking to obtain in my career. Mostly stemming from sitting down, reflecting on myself, my future, what I desire for my future, and what I feel like I'd like to accomplish. I believe these skills can be obtained through this position.”

Desiring to go back to school to receive an MBA.

Sample answer: “I left my last job to pursue higher education. I went into my graduate program and completed all of my courses, graduating with honors. Now that I’ve completed my education, I’ve decided it’s time for me to back into the workforce and pursue my new career.”

Desiring to go back to school to receive a Bachelor’s Degree.

Sample answer: “I left my last job to pursue receiving my bachelor’s degree. I was fortunate enough to be able to start my career without a bachelor’s degree. But decided it was time to receive this certification. Now that I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree, it’s time for me to get back to work. And I can’t think of a better place to do that than here.”

Feeling like the workplace was unethical.

Sample answer: "This is difficult for me to share but I feel like being open and honest about my prior working experience will help us establish a trustful relationship moving forward. While it's not certain, I simply felt like the workplace was practicing some unethical behavior for our clients and customers. I'd like to stand behind what I produce. And for me, this wasn't feeling like something I could stand behind any longer."

Feeling like unfair treatment was happening in the workplace.

Sample answer: "It started to feel like in the workplace, there was some unfair treatment happening. Favoritism and other things in the workplace that was creating a very unhealthy environment. I'd like to pride myself not only on my work but on the workplace itself. For example, when my wife and kids come to visit the office, I would like for it to set a good example for them."

Unhappy with the management of the business.

Sample answer: "I can go into this further if we'd like to dig, but I wasn't happy with the management. Often, we were missing deadlines and work was not being completed on time. This was causing our customers and clients to be unhappy. And it was creating difficult customer service situations that were becoming difficult to manage over time. It felt like passion wasn't there for a lot of the employees. And because of that, we started to fall behind on a lot of work and deliveries."

Desiring to switch departments.

Sample answer: "I wanted to switch departments, go from a software engineering role to a sales role. But that opportunity wasn't available. I decided it was best for me to start seeking a position where I could utilize my software engineering talents in a sales role, which let me to this job opening and this job interview."

Leaving due to general job dissatisfaction.

Sample answer: "To be honest, I simply wasn't satisfied with the job any longer. I can't explain whether it was a lack of passion or maybe too much time on the job. But I was starting to become dissatisfied with the work and the position, and decided it was best for both the company and myself if I moved on."

Leaving due to the travel distance to work.

Sample answer: "The travel distance to the office was starting to get cumbersome. I needed something closer to home as my spouse starts to think about having children. Additionally, I was spending anywhere from $300 to $500 per week on the commute. And that was starting to have a significant impact on the future of my family. My spouse and I decided that it was best I begin to look for positions that are closer to home."

A hostile working environment.

Sample answer: "I can't say for certain what sparked the actions of everyone in the office. But I have a feeling it may have been recent organizational changes that the employees felt unhappy about. But due to these changes, the working environment became hostile. And difficult to collaborate with others. It's simply not an environment that I would want to expose myself to any longer. Nor would it be an environment that I would be proud of if my spouse or children came to visit me in the office."

No opportunity to move from part-time to full-time.

Sample answer: "I was working part-time with the company for a number of years. And was looking for something more full-time. Especially as I begin to think more seriously about my career path and general plan in life. I spoke with the manager and supervisor about the desire to move to full-time frequently. Unfortunately, the manager didn't have the opportunity to change the job title from being part-time to full-time. And we both agreed that it could result in myself deciding to pursue a full-time position and do what's best for both myself and my family. That's what led me to this open job opportunity."

Needing to leave due to maternity leave.

Sample answer: "Last year I decided it was time to start a new business, the business of parenting. I decided it was best if I resigned from my last position, while pregnant, to focus on the pregnancy. My spouse was able to support us financially, which I'm very appreciative of. But I always knew that I wanted to return to the workforce because I'd like to continue my career, my passions, and advance myself while still being a mother. This is the reason why I left my last job, why my resume has gaps in the employment history, and why I'm deciding to pursue this open job opportunity."

No longer can lift heavy objects.

Sample answer: "Last year I went through a back surgery that was quite cumbersome. It disabled me in a number of ways. Primarily, I can no longer lift heavy objects. And I must pursue a career path for myself that has more reasonable accommodation and the ability to sit behind a desk, where I can have limited mobility. For me, this is a partial career change, job change, as well as a lifestyle change. I hope you can understand that my surgery left me mildly disabled, and I would like to discuss how that might look for us when starting this position."

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes amongst job seekers.

Using multiple reasons for resigning from a previous job.

Avoid listing multiple reasons for resigning from a previous job. An employer can ask about the reason for leaving a previous job on the job application and in the job interview. Be sure the reasons are the same.

Answering the interview question with a long story.

When the hiring manager asks, "Why did you leave your last job?" avoid answering with a long story. Job seekers make the mistake of telling a lengthy story that embodies the emotional reasons for leaving a previous job. All this communicates to the potential employer is that the candidate has poor verbal communication skills and that the candidate might be difficult to work with. Answer the interview question in under 30-seconds.

Being too open about salary.

When leaving a previous job due to salary, don't share the details of the salary cap. Instead, simply state that there wasn't any budget to increase salary or make raises. And that because of that cap in human resources budget, it was time to move onto a new job opportunity.

Speaking poorly about a previous employer.

A reason for resigning should never include a negative comment about a previous employer. By doing this immature act, it will leave a negative impression upon the hiring manager. The hiring manager will start to consider what the candidate might say about them when they resign. The point is to keep the conversation professional, even if the candidate feels like they've been "wronged" by their previous employer.

Why This Interview Question is Asked

The interview question, "Why did you leave your last job?" is a qualifying interview question and ice breaker question. It's used to begin the interview and help guide how the remainder of the interview session might be positioned.

Indeed defines an “ice breaker” as “thought-provoking questions you can use to encourage people to talk and get to know them better. These questions can be used in most situations where a fun, light-hearted conversation is needed to lighten the mood and encourage real bonding.”

The interview question should be answered with brevity, as this question intends to test the job candidate's verbal communication skills. In addition, this question provides the hiring manager with insight into how well calculated the candidate is about their career aspirations or career goals.

For example, if the job candidate answers the question by saying, "The reason I left my last job is that I felt there was no upward mobility to move into a management position, which is a career aspiration of mine." It shows the hiring manager that the candidate has intent with their career. That insight can be helpful for the hiring manager to ask follow-up questions or decide which qualifying questions they might ask the candidate.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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