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6 good reasons for leaving a job (and tips for discussing it)

Explaining your reasons for leaving a job can be one of the most difficult aspects of an interview for a new role. Your answer can play a huge part in whether you leave a positive impression on the interviewer. To help you prepare, we've constructed the following guide with an explanation of why interviewers ask this question, six good reasons you might give in response, and tips for making a good impression.

Why do employers ask about your reasons for leaving a job?

There are several reasons why an employer might ask about your reasons for leaving a job:

  • To assess your job transition history: Employers generally prefer candidates who transition between jobs on good terms. The way they see it, candidates with positive job transition histories are honest, dependable, and likely to fit into the organization. Conversely, a negative job transition history may suggest performance and personality issues that clash with the employer's culture.
  • To learn more about your expectations: Your reasons for leaving a job can reveal insights into the types of work you like and the work environments in which you thrive. These factors can affect your potential for engagement, and engagement correlates positively with metrics such as productivity and profitability.
  • To gauge your retention potential: The engagement issue extends to your likelihood of retention. A Gallup poll showed that low-turnover organizations tend to have highly engaged employees, which makes sense given the relationship between engagement and job satisfaction.

"Employers generally prefer candidates who transition between jobs on good terms. The way they see it, candidates with positive job transition histories are honest, dependable, and likely to fit into the organization."

6 good reasons for leaving a job

Ideally, your response to the question should relate to the employers' motivations for asking it — namely, your career goals and expectations — while demonstrating your dependability. Below are six examples of responses that may meet those criteria:

Career advancement

A desire for upward mobility in your career shows ambition, a quality that many employers find desirable. At the same time, your job history should demonstrate your willingness to stay with an employer for at least a year or two. Frequent job-hopping could imply that you don't plan to stick around very long, which may deter employers from investing in your hire. 

Further education

Professionals commonly return to school in pursuit of a diploma, certificate, or advanced degree to foster their career advancement. In doing so, they typically have to stop working or reduce their hours to focus on their studies. Employers usually consider this pursuit a green flag because it demonstrates ambition, upskilling, and a strong work ethic.

Flexible work arrangements

Remote and hybrid work arrangements are increasingly prevalent — not to mention popular. They're especially appealing to working parents, people with pets, and professionals who want to expand their employability beyond their immediate geographical reach. Most employers understand this desire for personal convenience tied to one's profession.

Relocation

For those who can't work remotely — whether of their own or their employer's volition — relocating to a new city leaves them with no choice but to find a new job. There are several reasons that drive people's decision to move, all of which an employer is likely to respect, such as:

  • The pursuit of a lower cost of living
  • A job opportunity for a spouse or partner
  • A growing family
  • Proximity to family

A career change (or change of pace)

An individual's current role may no longer align with their goals when they want to pivot into a different career, specialize in their field, or change their professional trajectory. A willingness to change and overcome new challenges may impress your interviewer. 

Layoffs

Most employers won't hold a layoff against you. They understand that it's a common and unfortunate part of business. The key here is to clarify that you were let go on good terms and that your layoff was due to the company's financial health, not your performance. You might also mention that you were sorry for the circumstances (suggesting that you were engaged and satisfied with your job) and that you're happy to provide references from the company that laid you off.

Tips for discussing your reasons for leaving a job

Even if you have a good reason for leaving a job, you can still leave a bad impression by saying the wrong thing. Avoid a costly interview mistake by heeding the following tips:

  • Avoid negativity: Employers usually don't want to hire someone who holds on to bad feelings about past supervisors, co-workers, company policies, and workplace procedures. Instead, focus on what you enjoyed about the job you left and how you look forward to a similarly positive arrangement in your next role.
  • Avoid selfish language: Present your leaving as something that served the general interest, not just your own. Don't say, for example, that you didn't like the work and wanted more money. Instead, say you sought a more challenging and rewarding environment aligned with your career goals.
  • Be specific: Don't just state your reason and leave it at that. You'd be missing out on an opportunity to outline your career goals and align them with the role you're interviewing for.

The most essential thing to remember is that you should center your response around your professional goals. Be honest and as open as necessary about your career trajectory.

Your resume, by the way, is the ideal place to illustrate your trajectory. Use your work history section to tell a story of your growth and potential. Then upload your resume to CareerBuilder so that you reach the widest possible audience.

More tips on preparing for interviews

Your physical appearance at an interview can be just as important as your responses, so make sure you dress the part.

How you carry yourself can significantly impact how the interviewer perceives your qualities. Work on your body language so that you come off as a confident and likable candidate.