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Smarter Answers: Why did you leave your last role?

Smarter Answers: Why did you leave your last role?

Posted on 8/09/2019 by Breeanna Noske

recruitment blog

Often the most dreaded element of a recruitment process is the job interview. And as Recruiters, we hold an ABUNDANCE of knowledge about interviewing – so why not share it?! We can share our trade secrets and detail why we ask certain questions, what answer we’re looking for, and how you can impress in an interview. 

So we continue our series of blogs: Smarter Answers

In today’s blog, we explore the tricky “Why did you leave your last role?”.

For us, particularly as Recruiters, an interview is our method of understanding an applicant’s career narrative: the roles you undertook and the pathways you followed to get to where you are today. And this includes understanding why you moved from one position to another. These deep understandings can assist us in identifying future opportunities that may fit into your career path, or to tell your “story” to potential future employers.

Your reasons for leaving your current or past jobs could be numerous. You received an internal promotion. You sought an external promotion. You chased a career change. Your position became redundant.

And then there are the more tricky to explain reasons. Frustration with your Manager. A clash with a colleague. Your discomfort with the process or direction received within an organisation. Dissonance between your morals and ethics and those of your organisation.

It can be difficult to voice these experiences within interview. The balance between justifying your move and remaining respectful, confidential and professional can sometimes be a tricky one to tread.

So how DO you toe that line?

Let’s imagine a new Manager was brought in who you just did not gel with.

Instead of: “They hired a new Manager who was just awful! She acted like a Dictator. She didn’t have any interest in getting to know us or the roles we undertook. She just bossed us around! I couldn’t put up with it anymore”

Try: “There was a change in Management that brought about a different culture and environment which was not the culture for me in the end. The team as a whole recognised this change and we did voice our concerns. However, our suggestions were falling on deaf ears. It was a shame to leave. I really am seeking an environment where my contributions are recognised and I can work collaboratively with a Manager.”

What about a difficult team member or team?

Instead of: “The people in that team were awful! Nobody wanted to hang out with me or talk to me about my weekend. They were all so stuck up and I want to have FUN at work, you know?” OR “There was this one lady in the team who was a BULLY. She picked on me and I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Try: “For me, workplace culture is vitally important. Unfortunately, there was a member within the team who was quite difficult to work with – very covert and protective over work, and not willing to work together with me. I spoke with this person, as well as my Manager, to try and seek a resolution to the situation. I also attempted to practice understanding, altering my working style to attempt to better gel with theirs. However, the situation did not improve. I am seeking a team that I can work collaboratively within. I understand and appreciate the value of autonomous work, but I do thrive on collaboration and teamwork when required. I want to be a part of something bigger.”

And what about when you leave an organisation due to discomfort with its morals or processes?”

Instead of: “That company is more concerned about bottom line than customer service. They are so money hungry! I just do not respect the company, the owners or the rest of the team.”

Try: “There came a point where I realised that the company’s mission statement did not align with my personal morals. It’s really important to me that I trust in and believe the mission of my workplace. That helps me to feel dedicated and loyal to a brand, when I can really understand their perspective.”

So you get the idea, right? A good answer to this question is less about criticising a past employer, and more about explaining the type of organisation you are seeking instead.

Blogs and articles that you might find online will suggest answers such as the following when it comes to reasons for leaving your current or past roles:

“I have absolutely loved my time at XYZ. It’s time for a change. A new challenge. To pursue new experiences. To take on new responsibilities”

While there is nothing WRONG with these kind of answers, they read as generic, vague and impersonal or ingenuine. We as Recruiters want to get to know the REAL you. We want to understand your motivations, your goals and your desires. And opening up and responding openly and genuinely (and respectfully!) facilitates that rapport and relationship that could gain you a recommendation from a recruiter or progression within the recruitment process with a Hiring Manager.

At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy – but so is respect and professionalism!