How To Positively Explain Your Reason For Leaving A Job

It’s that dreaded question that comes partway through an interview. “Why did you leave that role?” You don’t want to lie to a recruiter – but you don’t want them to think you’re a problem. Sometimes, you have to leave a job due to a bad boss, stressful work or toxic work culture. But you can spin these experiences in a positive, recruitment-friendly way.

Highlight the opportunity of the next role
The first thing you want to do is distract from the negative. If there were problems at the job that drove you to leave, that you don’t want to go into, focus instead on the role you moved into. Accentuate the opportunity that the next job afforded you, or what the one you’re interviewing for offers.

Instead of: “The job was boring,” try “The next company offered training programs, so I could learn sales and software skills.”
Touch on the limits of the role
Sometimes a job is a wrong fit – that’s an understandable reason to leave. Rather than frame it as a problem with you, or your adaptability, focus on the restrictions you faced. Your next employer will want to know you have the desire to grow and improve, so this tactic lets you really showcase your hunger.

Instead of: “My colleagues were a clique, we didn’t get along.” try “The team was only small, so I didn’t have any progression opportunities.”
Focus on what you needed to change
Nothing in life remains the same, so it makes sense that your career should undergo some adjustment. Again, the key is to focus on the positives. Avoid highlighting what was wrong; instead show to the recruiter what you wanted to change and the measures you took to change it. Most importantly, share the lessons your learned, or how you improved your skills, experience or attitude.

Instead of: “I was fed up of commuting for three hours,” try “I wanted to apply my skills in a more dynamic environment, where it was easier to meet with clients face-to-face.”
Sometimes, what’s on the outside counts
Just as change is important, your life outside of work has a huge influence on your job, and whether or not you enjoy it. Life’s most exciting and most painful events have a tendency to affect every aspect of your existence. Recruiters understand that you’re human, so if something happened, bring it into part of your story. Whether it’s a triumphant overcoming of the odds, or an instance of prioritising your family over the job, these events can show your values, which indicate the culture fit.

Instead of: “My granny died, and the job felt pointless,” try “After suffering a bereavement I was more motivated to find a job that had more impact in my community.”

NEVER burn your bridges
The world is small – so small in fact, it’s more likely than not that the person you’re interviewing with knows someone at the company you left. “What goes around comes around,” so only reap what you are prepared to sow. Avoid saying anything negative that could either sever some connections that may come in useful. You never know how long that will be circulating for.

The key to balancing your privacy and professionalism lies in your ability to brand yourself. Storytelling by weaving all your experiences – even the bad ones – into a narrative is an important skill in the job seeking process. Whatever tactic you opt for, be sure to link each chapter together into the story of your career.

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