Most interviewers will ask this question. Your response can make all the difference in your candidacy. A truthful answer is always the best because background and reference checks uncover the truth. Even if your reasons for leaving seem unpalatable from an employer’s perspective, there are ways to explain any situation in a positive light.
Certain responses will not please an interviewer. The wrong response can project negativity or a sense that you will take the first job that comes along. Ideally, your response will convey deep commitment to the job in question because it will provide professional growth. Respond to the question in a way that is decisive, not defensive.
Jacquelyn Smith of Business Insider suggests avoiding any details such as difficult supervisors, excessive workloads or other frustrating circumstances. If you are not stating what you can do for the company or why you are the right person for the job, it’s not worth saying. Here are some comments to avoid and some to emphasize.
- Emphasize that you get along with others, and be honest about your work style preferences. You can state that you came to realize that your previous work environment was lacking in some respect. This covers a lot of possible factors. Disparaging co-workers or supervisors will only imply that you are difficult to get along with.
- Emphasize that you are a self-starter with initiative and that the job in question will provide you with the opportunity to take on new projects. Complaining of a lack of assignment opportunity, or that your boss failed to provide it, implies a significant level of neediness.
- Focus on the future. Provide a brief answer to the question and then look to the future by outlining what you hope to provide the hiring company.
A good strategy is to put yourself in the employer’s shoes and consider why you are a good hire. Find opportunities during the interview to convey this information.
Rather than explain at length why you left your last job, explain why you want the next.
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