The hiring manager is trying to get a sense of whether you left your job for "good" reasons, such as professional growth or relocation, or if you may have left for not-so-good reasons, such as being terminated or not getting along with colleagues. This is always a question you should be prepared to answer so read more below to get some tips.
Points to Emphasize
- Stay positive about your previous job. Emphasize the good things about the job before you explain why you left.
- Be specific about why you are now seeking the new position and how it will build upon your previous work experience.
- Try to end your response by focusing on how you will apply your skills learned in your previous job to boost your employer's bottom line.
- Smile and be collegial throughout your response. Some people might get defensive in their answer, but this is typically a deal breaker for many hiring managers.
- Staying calm and collected during your response will help convince the hiring manager that you're confident and secure in your choices.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
This can be a tough question if your previous job wasn't always smooth sailing. But there are a few tips that can help you make your answer as strong as possible.
- Don't complain about your previous job or your boss—this is an immediate red flag to hiring managers.
- Don't be evasive, however. If there was a serious issue at your previous job, it may already be apparent, such as the absence of a reference from your prior boss.
- Address any potentially adverse issue directly but stay as positive as you can and emphasize what you learned from the process and what your plan is moving forward.
- Directly compare your previous job with the one you are interviewing for, using specific detail to compare and contrast the two so the hiring manager can see the logic you went through when deciding to change jobs.
Take a look below for one example response from an applicant for a biotech job.
I loved my work at XYZ Lab—it was challenging, collegial and rewarding to work in a lab to develop better medical technology products. I developed a great many skills there that I wanted to apply to a more advanced research position, which I have found here at ABC Company.
This question, while a tough one, can be an opportunity to showcase the things you learned at your previous job. Thinking carefully about how to reframe any rough patches in your employment history will help you excel during the interview.