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Top 10 Reasons for Leaving a Job & How to Articulate Them

Tristin Zeman

Copywriter, Human Resources Manager, and Marketing Expert

Most job interview questions are designed to predict your future behavior. Employers want to know what makes you interested in a new role with a new company. However, the discussion can get tricky when hiring managers begin asking why you left your last job. To help you navigate this in your upcoming interviews, here are some of the most common reasons for leaving a job and how to talk about them in an interview. 

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question? 

There are plenty of reasons employees choose to change jobs — relocation, advancement, company culture, benefits, and so many more. Interviewers want to know more about your motivations for leaving your last job for a couple of reasons. Of course they want to assess if you’d be a good fit with their company, but companies also want to know what they can expect out of you. If you can’t adequately talk about your reason in a professional manner, then it will speak volumes to your personality and potentially hurt your chances at landing a new job.

Understanding an employee’s motivations for leaving previous companies can be helpful to ensure they’ll stick around in a new role. Employers are checking to see whether you have a good reason for leaving previous jobs and  to understand more about what motivates you. 

Whether you quit, were fired, or experienced another situation, there are ways to discuss reasons for leaving a job that can work in your favor during a job interview. 

The Common (And Honest) Reasons for Leaving a Job

According to the National Labor Bureau statistics, the average American has 12+ jobs in their life. There are as many reasons to leave a job as there are jobs out there. While some reasons are more understandable than others, everyone leaves a job at some point. Here are a few common reasons for leaving a job

business woman packing personal company belongings when she deciding her reasons for leaving a job
  • A better opportunity
  • You weren’t being challenged
  • Experiencing the feeling of being undervalued
  • The work environment was dangerous or toxic
  • You want better pay/benefits
  • Work relationships weren’t healthy
  • The company mission didn’t align with your values
  • You decided to change careers
  • You didn’t like the work/industry
  • Your family/personal obligations changed
  • The company went out of business
  • Your company laid you off
  • Your employer fired you

Examples of How to “Present” Your Reason to Be More Acceptable

Employer in suit is conducting job interview and candidate is explaining his reasons for leaving a job

Explaining why you left your last position or company may require some finesse. While job seekers should always be honest, there are certain ways to present your reasons for leaving a job that come across as more professional and acceptable. 

Looking for career growth

One of the most common and widely-accepted reasons for an employee to leave a position is that they are looking for new career opportunities. This can stem from a variety of reasons including leaving a company with limited advancement opportunities or wanting a role with more responsibilities. 

When explaining to an interviewer that you’re leaving your previous role in search of career growth, it’s important to be specific about what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that interviews are a two-way street. You should be certain that the new role will be a fit for you, not just a good match for the company. Being honest and explicit about the opportunities you’re looking for can help ensure that you don’t land in a new role where you feel stuck in the same situation. Talking about goals is a great way to help a hiring manager understand what you’re looking for as well as highlighting you as a future-thinking candidate. 


“I’ve chosen to leave my current position due to a lack of advancement opportunities. While I appreciate the skills I’ve gained there, I find myself wanting more challenging tasks that will allow me to continue to expand my leadership and technical skills. My goal is to be managing a team and overseeing projects within the next few years.” 

Identified a better opportunity

The world of work is changing rapidly. There are currently more job openings than jobseekers in the United States, so it’s not surprising that employees are leaving jobs in search of better opportunities. Leaving a bad job for a better one is completely acceptable. Nevertheless, it’s important to pay attention to how you present this reason in an interview. Job seekers need to be careful to not give the impression that they’ll jump ship at the first whiff of a better position. Try to focus less on what made you want to leave a past job and more about why you’ll stay with a new company. 


“While I’m very thankful for the experience I gained through my previous role, it wasn’t the right fit for me anymore in terms of the schedule, benefits, and work environment. I thoroughly enjoyed the day-to-day work of my position, which is why I’m interested in a similar role with your company. However, I feel this opportunity is more aligned with my current needs, requirements, and career goals.”

Looking to change industries 

Another common reason for leaving a job is to change industries. For some people, this can mean a total career swap like switching careers from being a doctor to being an actor. Others choose to use their existing skills in a different industry. For example, imagine a bookkeeper switching from the car sales industry to the beauty industry. The industries are very different. Therefore, you should highlight what made you want to make this change and what you’re looking for moving forward. It’s important to show the interviewer that this is something you’ve thoroughly considered and not something you’ve decided on a whim. 


“I wanted to switch industries to better align with my interests. While I was finding success in my previous role, I realized that I wasn’t really passionate about what I was doing and that I wasn’t as invested in the work as I wanted to be. I’ve been interested in XYZ  for many years as a hobby and have decided to pursue it professionally.” 

Expecting a better compensation package

It’s no secret that job seekers are often in it for the money, so it’s not surprising that seeking better compensation is a key reason for leaving a job. When talking about this in an interview, it’s a good idea to be direct about why you left, but not disparaging of your former employer. This is also a good time to mention any compensation requirements that are non-negotiable to you.


“I’m looking for a new position that will compensate me for the value that I provide. In my last role, the pay was structured to be the same regardless of performance. I take pride in delivering results beyond expectation and I’m looking for a company where my drive and success determines my income.”

Having the sense of being under-utilized

Being under-utilized is often another way to say you are bored with your job. Do you find yourself daydreaming? Does your mind wander? Are you responsible for one task when you could be running the whole show? Leaving a job because you feel under-utilized offers a unique opportunity to showcase your desire for growth to an interviewer. 


“My last role had very rigid job roles where there wasn’t much opportunity to learn, grow, or diversify my skills. I’m looking for a new position that will allow me to fully-utilize my problem-solving skills and allow me to adapt to new challenges.”

Company dynamics changed in a bad way

From coworkers to management to ownership, there’s a lot about job satisfaction that may be out of an employee’s control. A job can go from a dream to a nightmare in a hurry with the wrong company dynamics leaving employees looking for new opportunities. In this case, it’s wise to highlight what you loved about your work while briefly mentioning why you’re looking to make a change. 


“While I really enjoyed the nature of my position — the creativity, the day-to-day, the teamwork — our company was acquired by a venture capital firm. I’ve noticed this led to a shift in our company ethos and it’s no longer the right place for me.” 

Career goals don’t align with the job

Whether your career goals have shifted or the reality of the job didn’t match the description, you may find yourself in a job that does not align with your career goals. Instead of talking about what you don’t want, present the response as detailing what you do want in a career. Make sure to tell the interviewer what inspired your shift and why you believe this is the right move. 


“Working in this industry has given me a lot of interesting perspective about the places my career could go. After spending time in an independent role, I realized that I do my best work as part of a team. I’m looking for a new position with management duties where I can collaborate with others.”

Personal/health issues

It is illegal to discriminate against someone in the U.S. based on health or family status, however, job seekers are often wary of telling an interviewer they left a job due to personal or health issues. It is up to you and your comfort level/situation to determine how much information to give a prospective employer, but you should highlight why you’ve chosen to return to work at this time. 


“I left my previous employment to care for my mother after an accident. She is doing well now and I’m looking for my next career move.”

You were laid off

Layoffs can happen to the best people at the worst times. Unlike a furlough, where employees are temporarily out of work, a layoff is essentially a company saying “you didn’t do anything wrong, but we don’t have work for you.” If you have any additional information to provide context, that can often be beneficial to support your case as a good employee in a bad situation.


“I was laid off from my last position. I maintained my job through the first few rounds of layoffs, but unfortunately, they lost the last customer for the product line I was on, and my position was eliminated as well.”

You were fired

This is a bit tougher of a reason for leaving to discuss with an interviewer. First, you should know that it’s okay to be fired. Second, never lie about being fired. Often giving vague, yet honest, answers is the best way to position this response. 


“I was let go from my last position due to a misunderstanding between the posted job and my experience. I was told I would be performing one set of tasks (which align with my skills and experience), only to find out that was only a very small part of the job. Due to this, management believed I was underperforming and I was let go.”

Don’t Give These Answers (Rather, Re-word Them)

While there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to answering questions about leaving a job, there are definitely things you should NOT say. Here’s what to avoid. 

Childish employee throwing his middle finger up as he leaves his current job

I hated my supervisor/boss

This answer makes a candidate seem like a difficult and childish employee. Instead, think of a specific behavior (like micromanaging) that made it difficult to work with them and go the opposite route. 


“I’m looking for a role that allows me to work independently.”

I didn’t get along with my co-workers

Again, this makes it seem like the jobseeker is the one with the attitude problem. Choose to call attention to what kind of company culture or team atmosphere you are looking for.


“There was a lot of competition inside of my last department. I’m a very collaborative person and I’m looking for a position as part of a healthy, successful team.”

The job was too difficult

Instead of saying a job was too difficult, consider the reasons it may have felt that way. Were you underqualified or underprepared? Use that to help inform your answers. 


“I accepted a position that was an entry-level role. However, I soon realized that they were requesting advanced-level work without additional time or training.”

I’m about to get fired

Even if this is true, do not say this. Instead, take this as an opportunity to showcase what you are looking for in a new role. 


“I’m looking for a new position that allows me room to grow while working a first-shift schedule.”

It was a bad company to work for

This response is both too vague and negative. What about the company was bad? The pay, benefits, employee treatments, something else? It’s okay to say you didn’t like something, but this often works best if the company you are interviewing with is a complete opposite of your prior employer. 


“I left my previous employer because I felt that they were not respecting their employees. There was little employee accountability and dishonesty that made it difficult to work as a team. I’d like to work for a company with a strong set of ethics.” 

Key Takeaways

There are many reasons for leaving a job from pursuing a better opportunity to leaving behind a toxic workplace. While there are no right or wrong answers, there are ways to phrase these reasons to put your best foot forward in an interview. 

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