Interview: “Why did you leave your last job?”

Oct 18, 2021 | Job Search and Interviews

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Job Interview QuestionWhen preparing for interviews, some people get anxious about how to answer the question “why did you leave your last job?” Job change happens for many reasons – some are in your control, and some are not. If you’ve been let go, you may or may not have been given a clear explanation as to why. Even if the decision to leave was yours, communicating this well may be uncomfortable.

Here are three steps for managing this question with skill.

1)  Prepare your Story

Take the information you have, and compose a story that is truthful, simple and succinct. You don’t need to provide every detail, in fact, you shouldn’t. Choose your key points, keep it neutral, and practice telling the story out loud until it feels natural.

2)  State your Learning

This is one of my favourite interview skills. Not only is it great for you to do the work to uncover your learnings from past experiences (and the tough ones yield the greatest learnings), it also demonstrates self-awareness to the interviewer, and it helps them do their job. They’re trying to figure out “who you are” – so help them do that by saying things like “What I learned from that experience is the importance of communication – early and often – and also, my resiliency in handling challenging situations.”

3)  Bring it back to the Role

Have a plan to transition the conversation back to the role you’re interviewing for. Many people struggle to conclude their interview answers. When you’re preparing for this question, plan for a closing statement. Something like this: “I learned a great deal from that experience, but it’s helped me realize where I contribute best, which is in a role like this one.”

Let’s review: prepare your story (keep it simple), state what you learned, and conclude by bringing it back to the role you’re interviewing for. Good luck!


  • Allison Lockett

    Written by Allison Lockett, a Job Search Advisor and Career Coach at Canada Career Counselling – Toronto. Allison holds an HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University and an MBA from Queen’s University. She has been designated an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, which sets the standard in coaching best practice and ethics globally. If you’d like to connect with Allison, email [email protected] to schedule a 15-minute complimentary consultation.

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