Leaving the job – The interview question
Leaving a job is an important turning point in your career trajectory. How the effect of leaving a job pans out cannot be predicted. But it is for sure that you have to face certain questions when you sit for another job interview later in your life. The hiring official in a company you are aspiring to work for would like to spend some time exploring the reasons behind the decision of you leaving the previous job. Hence, you must have a convincing answer taking into consideration the intention behind such a question. It is essential to prepare and plan well in advance so that you can ace this question with perfection. In this regard, you can make use of this opportunity to take advantage of the situation and earn high rewards.
Leaving the job – Intentions and strategy
There are many intentions behind which they ask the question on your previous job. Understanding the reasons why they ask the question will help you to analyse the situation better and craft a perfect answer to suit the purpose. In this section, we explore such intentions and possible strategies to confront the same.
❖ The hiring official would like to know if you have a good relationship with your previous manager.
If the hiring official can conclude that you have a positive relationship with the previous employer, it can be decisive in the selection process you are currently undergoing. A good relationship will indicate that you have invested in professionalism, maintain positive interpersonal skills, and good attitude. On the flip side, if it is the case that you are not on good terms with the previous employer, it may reflect badly in the selection process you are undergoing. This situation happens, even if you are on the right side.
Hence, it is important to have a good relationship with the previous employer. Otherwise, you must find nice ways to avoid such a question in the first place or craft a convincing answer.
❖ The interviewer may want to explore and check if you are responsible enough.
One area of interest for the prospective employer is to see if you have left the previous job for the right reasons. For example, if you have left your previous job based on passion-driven decisions, they may choose not to hire you if the prospective job position requires a high level of maturity and responsibility.
On the other side, if you convincingly present your case that you left the previous job to pursue higher responsibilities and for new learning opportunities, it may impress the prospective employer and will grab you a great deal. Hence, you need to make sure that your answer and your response reflect on core values which they are seeking. Alongside, if it is the case that your skills and potential were underutilized in the previous job, it can have a very decisive impact positively.
❖ They may wish to know if you left on your own.
There are two possibilities for one person to leave a job position. It can be of their own or from the end of the employer. The hiring official for the new job position may like to ensure that you left the previous job position on your own. If it is the case that you are applying for a new position because you have been fired from the previous company, they may like to explore the reasons for the same. In such situations, their interest will lie in seeing if any disciplinary action or punishment has been issued in your name. A forced resignation will not look great in your career path.
But there may be reasons which are beyond your control and may have resulted in a forced resignation. The company you used to work for may have adopted a new policy resulting in cost-cutting, merger with other companies in the industry, or any other sort of organisational rearrangement. The objective here is to leave no tables unturned when it comes to explaining your career history.
Tips for answering
There are many things you should keep in mind while answering the classic interview question of “why are you aspiring for a job change?”. In the following section of the article, we explore some of those tips.
- Reassuring the reasons for the decision to leave
You may have plenty of reasons behind the decision to leave the previous job position you had. You have to reassure the reasons and the best way to do it is to write it down. In other words, you can ask yourself certain questions which will eventually help you in the selection process for the upcoming job. Once you jot down the reasons, you can better convince the hiring official by focusing on a few reasons amongst what you have written. Writing down and reassuring the reasons for the previous decision will help you to focus in the right direction.
The most important idea you must endorse in this situation is to find the difference between the expectations you had before entering the previous job and how different was the real experience. This is your answer. You must question yourself to find if you were passionate about pulling off the targets set for you by the organisation. The reasons why you joined the previous job and the reasons for quitting the same I will help you to make better decisions for yourself in the future.
Additionally, impressing the hiring official with clarity of thought in this regard will impact positively for sure.
- Concise and sharp
The thumb rule is that you cannot explain your answer as a long story if you cannot say it in two sentences. Hence, you must come straight to the point in a very precise and concise manner. This will leave an impression that you have a convincing reason for quitting the previous job. Alongside, this will mean that you don’t have anything to hide. Not to forget, any concise and sharp answer requires great homework and perfect planning.
You may structure your answer in such a way that you mention the reasons for quitting the previous job and connect it with the decision for applying to the current job position. You can make use of the same platform to assert that you are a perfect fit for the job opening they are offering.
- Honesty is rewarding
In this highly interconnected world, there is less possibility that you can convince your hiring official with reasons made up. The interview board can be expected to communicate to your previous employer or company to confirm the details provided by you. Them finding out a discrepancy in your narrative is the last thing you want. It may have a decisive bad impact on you concerning the selection process.
Without much hesitation, you must rely on being honest and genuine. You can present your case convincingly in a manner that you like to. But, you must keep the technical details right and perfect. Honesty in situations like this is highly rewarding and may help you to grab a positive result from the interview process.
- Exhibiting your attitude
Your attitude and body language while answering this question play a very crucial role. You should put good homework into translating a bad experience from your previous job to a positive one. This can be done by keeping in mind the core values required by the new company. Connecting these dots through your attitude and body language will help you to achieve greatness.
This interview question comes with an opportunity to refurbish your situation and present your case better. You have the opportunity to present yourself as a problem solver who successfully navigated the tough situations faced and came back strongly. Rather than stressing too much on the negative impacts of the previous job, you can explicitly mention the new learning experiences you had, skills acquired and polished along with the networking opportunities you enjoyed in the previous job position.
In this situation, you have to choose wisely on what to be given more importance than others. Constituting your answer with negatives gives a very bad impression of your approach. The hiring official may not be interested in hiring you in this situation.
- Tackling the follow-up questions
You have to understand that this question in an interview is crucial for the hiring official too. There are high chances that they may frame good follow up questions based on your answer. There are two things you should keep in mind regarding the follow-up questions.
Firstly, there should not arise a situation where they find some differences or glitches from your previous answers. This means that you have to be well prepared and expect to follow up questions well in advance so that you do not go blank.
Secondly, follow up questions may allow impressing others by explaining how you are planning to tackle the outstanding issues. This will leave an impression on the hiring official that you learn from mistakes and flexible enough for accommodation.
Perfect reasons to leave a job – Explained with examples
- You are aspiring for a step ahead
This is one of the most applied reasons for leaving a job. A situation like this arises when the requirements of the job position do not match the skill set you have. In other words, you learn that you have outgrown your position.
This reason is acceptable to most of the hiring officials because they always prefer someone who is super enthusiastic and proactive. It is impressive that you are not content with the opportunities you have and are looking for better opportunities.
You should not forget to mention what exactly you look for from the job options available. If you can specify certain career goals, it will be positive. Above all, your way of presentation is crucial here. A positive attitude and body language should match the enthusiasm you are presenting in words. Needless to say, giving a negative perception about your previous employer will do no good.
“Even though I am constantly challenged in my current job position with innovative responsibilities, I believe I can accept and pull off more responsibilities and challenges which match my skill sets. Hence, I look for a job position that provides me ample learning experience and opportunities for the same”.
- The refurbished hierarchy at the organisation
In this highly dynamic world, it is normal that many companies and organisations undergo continuous restructuring concerning their industry position as well as within the company hierarchy. This necessitates the inflow and outflow of employees. At an individual level, the responsibilities bestowed on a particular employee may increase or decrease rapidly.
This is an acceptable reason for you to look for new opportunities in the industry. At the same time, you have to present your case in such a manner that you are not discouraged by the happenings but rather accept the reality.
“Adjusting to the industry requirements, my company has reduced the opportunities relevant to my field as there was a shift in companies focus. I understand the essentiality of it but, I think I should actively pursue new opportunities that will bring the best out of me”
- Absence of sustained enthusiasm
This response is a double-edged sword. If presented nicely, it is highly rewarding. You are essentially saying that you value the idea of enjoying the work. But by no means you intend to say that you prefer enthusiasm and enjoyment over responsibilities.
At the same time, you mustn’t leave the baggage of your lack of enjoyment to the management, or your employer. The idea you are stressing is that enjoyment at work is crucial to bring the best out of you and you prefer it that way. Satisfaction and enjoyment are closely related to your efficiency and productivity.
“Even though the job provided the perfect financial package, I decided to pursue my long term career goal in data analytics.”
- Individual choice
Individual choice and personal reasons give ample protection from follow up questions and further scrutiny. When you place your family and health as a priority, the recent to quit a previous job position is well validated.
Always keep in mind that when you express this reason you don’t have to go into detail about the particular concern. This gives the advantage to be vague in your answer.
“A family emergency surfaced lately, which made it troublesome for me to do daily commuting and forced me to look for alternate options“.
- A shift in career path
While you present your case in such a way that you express your hunger to shift your career path to do something you dream of, you will not invite penalisation. You may have to enrol for an academic course, a training program or skill enhancement workshop to equip yourself to better pursue your dream career.
You must present your reason in such a way that it leaves a positive impression. That means the primary reason for you to do the same should be articulated around your professional development only. This will ensure that the interview board takes your case very seriously and decide positively on hiring you.
“I took a break from my career to do my masters course in social work so that I can better pursue my dream career of working with NGOs.”
- Returning to full employment
You may have tried your luck in entrepreneurship and have later decided to pursue full employment only. In situations like this, you have to ensure that the reasons you provide take along a positive attitude and not just based on your failures. For example, you can argue your case by focusing on the high networking opportunities you had, your increased comfort level with multitasking and your basket full of experience. This will leave an impression on the hiring official and will eventually force them to make a better decision from your perspective.
“For the last two years, I have worked with the plan to start my NGO on sustainability. But later I realised that it is important for me to polish my skills and prepare well to pull off successfully. Hence I decided to, make effective use of my experiences in full-time employment for a couple of years before pursuing my long term career goal.”
- Your shifted priorities
There may arise situations where you have to shift your priorities for multiple reasons. This may force you to think about new job opportunities in the same industry with more flexibility. Your family circumstances may make it difficult for you to pursue a conventional office time job.
Framing of your answer needs utmost caution. There are high chances that the employer may evaluate your case as an unreliable person. Therefore, you should put some real effort into arguing that you are a dedicated, punctual, and committed employee who loves to take risks and responsibilities as and when required. A perfect balance needs to be struck between your personal life and professional life and you have to successfully convince the hiring official regarding the same.
“The previous job position I handled at the company did not provide me with enough opportunities to pursue a flexible working schedule. I believe that I can perform better with a bit more flexible schedule”.
- The trade-off for a highly rewarding job
If it is not the case that you don’t have a track record of jumping from one job to another continuously, it is never a bad idea to pursue higher rewarding opportunities that come along. You will not fail to impress the hiring official with this reason for quitting the job. In situations like this, you can avoid explaining too much as it invites the trouble of nuanced follow-up questions.
“I decided to accept the job opportunity that provided a great opportunity for intercompany collaboration.”
- Forced resignation
Foster resignation is one reason which you do not have to actively present but express it depending on the situation. If the hiring official insists on this, you can say it but with honesty. The only option you have is to flavour the answer with a positive approach.
If it is the case that the company followed a different policy regarding expansion, you can stress upon this issue to say that it was unfortunate for you to be at the receiving end. The positive approach in this situation lies in explicitly expressing your good relationship with the previous employer.
A situation of forced resignation can also arise if the expectations about you were not matched. In this situation, the positive approach lies in explaining the mistakes you made and your plan to correct them in the future.
“As the company shifted its focus, I had to involve myself in responsibilities which were beyond my experience level. This increased the responsibilities for the job position forced my employer to look for an employee with more field expertise. On the other side, I also looked for job options which match my skill set and experience.”
- Options on upward mobility
It is possible that after a few years of working at one organisation, you may have exhausted all practical options of upward mobility in the hierarchy. This may give you second thoughts about continuing in the same organisation or pursuing a similar job position in another company. In such situations, you may choose to opt out of the company and the reasoning is well validated as it gives an impression on your well-thought plans.
“I came to realise that the promotional chances I had in the previous organisation were constrained. In pursuit of my career goals, I decided that it will be beneficial from my long term point of view to quit and look for a similar job position in another company.”
Traps in explaining why you left the job
There are bad choices in reasons to explain why you left the job. This is equally important as the perfect reasons. The troubles and bad impression that a wrong choice of reason can invite is high. Here are a few not so advisable answers to explain why you left the previous job.
- Personal struggles in the back seat
Even if it is the case that you had to undergo insults and frequent complaints from the previous employer, it is not advisable to express it as a primary reason for you to leave the job. Here the idea is to strike a balance between being completely honest and diplomatic.
- Boredom is never an option
Having a confused mind about leaving the job can result in a careless reason such as your increased boredom working at the same company. Even though this may be a true reason for you to quit the job, it can leave a bad impression on the hiring official about you and they may choose not to hire you.
- Dodging challenges
Relying on flexibility is a good reason but you should not mistake it with your quest to find an easier job. This is a bad impression on you, especially when the hiring official is looking for a more responsible employee.
- Salary hikes
Financial reasons are the most practical reasons for someone to get a job. But reality cannot be the reason always. It is always advisable to keep the financial reason in the backseat because it may affect your prospects of getting a new job. You don’t want to get eliminated from the selection process just because they find you beyond their budget.
- Redundant performance
Your honesty should not force you to explain your poor performance at the previous job position to the new hiring official. Even if it is the case that they know it beforehand, you should be well prepared to explain how you plan to overcome the mistakes you have made before.
How to tell me that you have decided to leave? (to your current employer)
You must maintain a good rapport with your employer before you leave. This is essential on two different grounds. On the one hand, you don’t want to deviate from a professional relationship that may help you later in your career. Maintenance of a professional relationship is always advised. On the other hand, you invariably require a good reference or a letter of recommendation from the previous employer. Your conclusion at the company should never harm the letter of recommendation you are receiving. It is wise to assume that the good performance you had in the previous company will help you in new selection processes.
This makes it essential that you understand the nuances of talking to the current employer at this juncture. Here are a few tips which may help you in this process.
- You have to pull off perfect homework before talking to the employer. You must be familiar with the notice period and other technical details before you approach the employer. The preparation for this talking should also extend to identifying the perfect time and place for the chat. Your preparation should eliminate all confusions you have in your mind regarding the reasons and the way of presentation.
- It is important the way you communicate the idea. It is not advisable to sound rude, confused, or overconfident. The communication should be pinpoint and precise. Always keep in mind the limited resources of time and do not prefer to pull off a story believing that it can convince the employer better. The positive approach should reflect old through your conversation and always express honesty. It is better to explain the reason straightforwardly and strike a balance between not being rude and being flattery.
- In any case, you should not forget to be appreciative of the opportunity you received at the company. The thank-you communication has to be explicit. It is always better to express all the opportunities you found helpful throughout your work at the organisation. For example, it is not a bad idea to mention the training sessions you had, skill enhancement programs, and other collaborations.
- The most important thing you should keep in your mind while communicating your willingness to leave is that, do not give the impression that you are in a hurry to leave the position. This may backfire on many levels. You cannot underestimate the opportunities that may come through the network you have. Keeping a cordial relationship alive is, hence necessary.
- The communication does not end by expressing your willingness to leave. Keeping in mind the professional touch, there is a lot more to do from both ends. You have to discuss in-depth with the employer how you plan to spend the notice period. This is a mutually beneficial process for both you and the employer. This also gives a sense of the expectations that the company should keep in mind while hiring the next official. Also, this discussion will be decisive in determining the impactfulness of the letter of recommendation you may receive.
● Finding out and expressing the reasons for you to quit a job is challenging. You mustn’t trivialise this process of reasoning out as it can have a long-lasting impact on meeting your career goals.
● Being well prepared for the situation is the sole solution.
● You should always keep in mind that you present your case with precision and confidence. This does not mean that you have to sound argumentative to prove that your previous employer was not a great person.
● Always strive to strike a perfect balance between brutally honest and diplomatic. The idea here is to be consistent throughout the selection process so that you do not negate what you have said before. This means that you need to give amble respect to technical details, dates, and places.