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Tell me... What is Your Reason for Leaving?

Published 08 December 2017

It sounds like a simple question, but for many job seekers, this can be the one that floors them, mainly because it often brings about connotations of negativity and, in an ideal world, negativity should be left in the car at an interview.

Many times in my career I have heard the following reply...

I don't want to be negative but....

Followed by a stream of reasons as to why the last role was despised.

It doesn't come across well and, whereas you need to be 100% honest in an interview, you don't have to share every last detail.

Any employer interviewing you will be looking to see how you represent your current employer and therefore, how you will represent them if you are successful.

Why are you leaving?

First of all, you need to know the reasons why you are looking to secure a new role. Are you running away from a job or looking to advance in the next. Those doing the latter will always perform well with this question, by simply answering how they are looking to improve on their position and why that isn't possible at their current company.

The only time this looks strange is when a candidate who has been with an employer a short time says they have no where to go and no progression. My instant question is always, "what was your understanding of progression when you joined the business," and "what do you feel is a reasonable time to progress into a more senior role?"

Promotions have to be earned and if you are using 'progression' as a reason for leaving, it needs to be real and substantiated.

Fleeing a Role

If you are in the unfortunate position where you are leaving a company because of poor relationships, or you dislike your role or a staff member, or you don't agree with a business's ethics, then you need to look at how you phrase this.

The aim is to appear professional. For example:

If you are leaving because don't get along with your line manager, consider saying...

I have had a fantastic few years with my previous company and have learnt new skills which I think will blend in really well to this role. I have recently moved teams and have found I am not as comfortable in this division and am now looking to try a new challenge elsewhere.

Or, if you feel you were mis-sold a role...

I appreciate I have only been with Company X a short period of time, however, I understood the position to be focussed on employee relations but, owing to changes in the company, my position now focuses more on administration and absenteeism. I am passionate about ER, therefore looking to find an opportunity that embraces this.

Basically, you are looking for the silver lining in the cloud. Most interviewers will understand there is a negative reason, but respect you for looking for the positive.


Be honest, don't make a drama and say what you have learnt and how you move forward. Ensure you have references who will vouch for you from previous work and highlight this. Hiding a dismissal will never end well!

And finally, practice makes....perfect

If this is an area where your answer tends to come out wrong, then practice with a friend, on the sofa, until you are comfortable with the result. It can be a nerve-wracking question, so knowing what you want to say will pay off dividends.