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Answering The Difficult Question: “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Answering The Difficult Question: “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

The current job market — both for BC jobs and abroad — observes talent scarcity among job applicants. That is, most interviewers and hiring managers find that at least 42% of applicants for any given job opening are categorically un- or under-qualified. This scarcity has forced recruitment teams to assign other characteristics (besides hard skills) greater value when making hiring decisions.

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What Potential Employers Want To Know

Eighty-four percent of firms now report at least some degree of receptiveness to hiring applicants who do not quite meet job criteria, so long as their personality fits the company and their work experience suggests they will be trainable.

As a result, the most likely factors to influence hiring decisions are:

  • Relevant work experience (among two-thirds of employers);
  • Soft skills like flexibility, autonomy, dependability, positivity, and the ability to communicate clearly.

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This makes quotations about why you left your last job particularly important to the hiring process for highly-competitive BC jobs; candidates’ answers can be a strong indicator for important skills as well as their potential alignment with company culture.

6 Things Every Great Answer Has In Common

Depending on when an applicant began their job search, interviewers may ask about reasons for changing positions in a variety of ways.

For example, an applicant exploring the job market may receive this question: “Why are you searching for a new job now?” An applicant who is unemployed or whose work history includes a significant number of different employers may be asked, specifically, “Why did you leave your position at [company]?”.

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The best answers to all of these questions share certain characteristics. Namely, they:

  1. Keep it short and direct.
  2. Establish whether the situation was termination or a voluntary change in position;
  3. Provide an explanation for either job search situation than seems reasonable to the interviewer;
  4. Demonstrate a significant degree of professionalism and integrity (by not bad-mouthing past employers);
  5. Showcase your ability to be positive, flexible, and diplomatic (by leaving on good terms);
  6. Indicate that you are applying for this position, specifically, because of its close alignment with your personal values and professional goals (not because you are desperate for employment).

Big Mistakes That Candidates Often Make

Aside from the obvious — ignoring the list above — candidates at any point in their job search tend to make similar mistakes in how they talk about past work experience. Namely, they leave relevant work experience off their resume because of a short tenure in the position, or they downplay the significance of the skills acquired

Feeling Embarrassed By Sudden Or Frequent Job Changes

Historically speaking, “job-hopping” was motivation for hiring managers to discard applications far before the interview stage. Today, spending less than two years employed in any given position is not necessarily viewed in a negative light. Nor is being fired.

That is likely because:

  • About half of currently employed people are searching for other job opportunities or watching for openings with specific companies.
  • It is a known fact that 92% of employees would consider leaving their current position for a different role with a highly reputable company.

Misunderstanding How Employers View A Change InEmployment

Employers recognize that, though employees enter the job market for a variety of reasons, they value a supportive work environment. Particularly opportunities for career advancement. Candidates value this as much as hiring managers value cultural fit and trainability.

There is a notable parallel in these priorities, which makes many hiring managers receptive to explanations for transitioning jobs that positively highlight previous work experience — even for short-lived positions — while also showing a strong drive to further develop their skills and take on greater responsibility.


About the Author

Simon Chou is the Vice President of Operations and Growth at Over the course of his career, he carved a niche in brand development, marketing strategy, and online presence for startups. Prior to joining, Simon was an advisor for several global blockchain projects including Litecoin, NEM, and Ripple. In the past, he also worked with Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare space through SM Digital—a global marketing agency.

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