How to explain your reasons for leaving a job

Posted December 28, 2020

Finding your careerbliss sometimes means leaving a job where you may be unhappy, treated unfairly, one you may have outgrown or one where opportunities are lacking. And sometimes, you may already be in a completely happy job but new, exciting opportunities could be around the corner. 

A 2019 Survey from the Addison Group found that 81% of job seekers would leave their jobs because they are dissatisfied with their current roles. About 79% of job seekers would leave their jobs if they were passed over for a promotion. Nearly half of respondents (43%) indicated they would leave if they were unhappy with their career paths, while 39% said that a bad manager or direct supervisor would cause them to seek new employment. 

Whatever your reason for looking for or accepting a new job, you’re setting out on an exciting path. But along the way to your new happy job, your interviewers will ask you a very specific question: to explain your reasons for leaving your job. 

Your response to this question says a lot about you to your interviewer. In fact, how you answer this question is critically important to the status of your interview and your job application. 

Why your reasons for leaving a job matter

Leaving your job isn’t an action you should take lightly. Not only can it cost you in some way (loss of benefits, loss of paycheck, loss of seniority, loss of a sense of security, etc), but if you do it frequently/regularly, you will look like a job hopper. And that’s never a great look to an employer who’s looking to hire someone dependable who they hope will be with their company for a long time. Having too many resignations and new jobs could raise red flags and make an employer think twice before hiring you.

When interviewers ask this question, they’re listening for a few things in particular: were you fired or laid off? Did you leave your previous company on good or bad therms? Did you have a good reason for quitting?

When you do choose to leave your job, it’s important to have a solid reason not only to provide to your boss, but to include (if asked) in your job application and also in interviews. It’s important to make sure all your answers are consistent. Don’t tell your boss you hate your job and your coworkers as you tell your interviewer you left because of moving. There’s a good chance that your interviewer will get in touch with your former employer and learn the real reason for your quitting--putting you in a compromised position.

At Careerbliss, our team of experts aren’t just here to help you land a new job. Consider us your career partners to help you out every step of the way, from searching for jobs, preparing for interviews, negotiating salaries, explaining your reasons for leaving a job, and of course, learning what makes a truly happy job. So we are truly excited to help you along in this journey toward your careerbliss.

How to explain your reasons for leaving a job 

When explaining your reasons for leaving a job, again, be sure that the story you told your boss aligns with the reasons you’re providing on job applications and in interviews. This point can’t be stressed enough if you want to be seen as a consistent and honest candidate. As you think through your reasons for quitting, and sharing with future employers why you resigned, here are some good reasons and explanations for leaving your job.

My company was restructuring the organization and after working in the same place for years, I decided it was a good time to venture out and seek new opportunities with more responsibilities and challenges: This is a solid answer because it indicates that you don’t want to become stagnant just because you’re comfortable. By wanting new responsibilities and challenges, you highlight our growth mentality and your desire to achieve new heights in your professional career.

I am moving to a new city, state, etc and while I truly enjoyed working with XYZ company, I realize it’s time to search out new opportunities closer to home: A move is always a good reason for resigning or finding a new job, especially if your current company doesn’t provide remote working options.

My company was laying off to downsize, and I didn’t want to be left without a job: This demonstrates your proactive actions to do what’s necessary to ensure smooth transitions and minimal downtime in the event of untimely layoffs.

I was spending a lot of time on my morning and evening commute, and wanted to be more efficient with my time by finding work closer to home: Wanting to save time and be efficient is a great trait, and of course, a good reason for looking for a new job. No red flags there.

Other reasons for leaving your job

Ultimately, there are many reasons you may have quit your job, and there are many ways to explain your reasons for leaving a job. There’s no cookie-cutter response to the question because your reasons are as unique as you and your experiences. The main thing to remember as you head into an interview preparing to explain why you’re looking for work and why you left/are leaving your previous company is this: Be honest, but make sure that you frame even negative experiences in the most positive way. If you were fired, for example, be honest and be sure to share what you learned from the experience, and how you’ve course-corrected. 

Keep your responses short and succinct. There’s no need to lay out a long story. Remember, your interviewer is mainly looking to see if you will be a liability to the company if they choose to hire you. If your reason is one that could raise a red flag, be sure to practice framing it prior to your interview so that you can still maintain your candidacy.

Explanations to avoid when explaining your reasons for leaving a job

I was going to be fired: This is a terrible reason to leave your job, and worse, to share with an interviewer. It opens a whole other can of worms about why you were about to be let go. No need to even go there.

I hated my boss and/or coworkers: Never share negative feelings or reactions about your former employers or coworkers. This looks bad on you, and can make you seem petty and unable to work well with others.

I didn’t like the schedule or working so many hours: This will make you sound like a liability to the company, and one who will try to squirm your way out of being productive and accommodating to the company’s needs. 

My boss was a terrible person and manager: This may be true, but speaking negatively about your former employer is in poor taste, and a new potential employer won’t be too keen on hiring someone who speaks badly about the ones who came before.

I didn’t like working constant overtime: Even if you’re strategically looking for a job that doesn’t require overtime, sharing this reason with a potential employer makes you sound as though you aren’t willing to do what is needed for mutual success.

The job was hard: Every job has a learning curve and its own challenges. Quitting because something’s hard (and sharing this reason) can make you look undependable, and raise red flags that you’ll leave the moment things become challenging.

Best practices for resigning gracefully

If you haven’t resigned yet, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you announce your resignation.

  • Set up your resignation meeting: Do this at the start of your resignation notice period. Have a face-to-face with your boss to thank him for the opportunity and let him know that you will be resigning.
  • Provide a resignation letter: Hand over your resignation letter to your boss once you share the news with him.
  • Keep your resignation letter short and sweet: There’s no reason to spill your guts in your resignation letter. Keep it professional. Show your gratitude for opportunities you’ve been given. Announce your effective date of resignation.
  • If your boss asks why you are resigning, tailor your response to your choosing. You don’t owe anyone a long explanation, especially if there are negative reasons fueling your departure. You can keep it as generic as expressing that you found an opportunity that would enable you to grow your career in the direction you want.
  • Don’t share negative feelings during your resignation: you never know if your paths will cross again, if your former boss knows your next boss, or if you’ll ever need a recommendation from someone at the company. Always be sure to end on a friendly note.

Resigning from a job is often a necessary step in the process of finding your dream job and your careerbliss. With the right strategic approach, you’ll ensure that you make a great impression as you’re going out, and potentially coming into a new company. 

Want more tips for growing and progressing your happy career? Follow Careerbliss on Instagram, like our page on Facebook, and check out our other blog posts full of tips and tricks for finding a job and career you love.

The CareerBliss Team

Your career happiness is our #1 priority here at CareerBliss. To help you succeed in your career, we offer a wide variety of tools and resources to help you out along the way. Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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