Unless it’s the first time you are applying for a job, there are chances that 90% you will get the awkward question “Why are you leaving your current job?” in an interview. We will tell you the ways to make good impression with this hard question.

Why do the interviewers ask this question?

There are plenty of reasons why you decided to leave a job. Perhaps your boss was toxic, the office moved to a place so far from your home or you were just bored with that work. Some should be discussed in a new job interview while some absolutely should not.

However, “I don’t like my leader” or, “I’m not getting paid enough” (though so honest) are the worst answers. After reading this post, you will understand why.

How you respond is always relevant for whether you fit their expectation for that position or not. By asking this, they are likely want to know:

  • Did you leave for a good reason?

They really need to know if you decided to change job because you want to earn more, you have just moved to this place or you want to discover a new field, etc. If you quit your last job due to an odd reason, the recruiters will wonder if they can trust you to be reasonable, responsible or loyal.

  • Did you leave voluntarily or were your fired?

If you were fired, they will ask whether it was because of your bad performance or integrity issues. And even if it’s true, you still have some ways to answer well (we will tell you how below).

  • Are you honest?

Your potential new employers want to know if you are trustworthy or not. Of course, they can always double check your profile with your previous employer and find out the truth.

  • Did you leave on good terms?

If you can state that you still keep in touch with your last manager (even better, he is one of your references) and ex colleagues, you will prove them so much that you are a employee who have good teamwork, relationship and communication skills.

  • What are your work values?

Your reasons why you are leaving your current job can say a lot about you. Did you leave for positive reasons or because you felt unappreciated? It makes sense to leave a job if you’re not appreciated sometimes, but be aware that this reason should be expressed skillfully so you don’t appear to be a diva. They are looking for a employee who values work and has a sense of obligation.

  • What is your plan and hope on your future career?

Everybody is interested in candidates who has a clear goal for their career development. If you switch jobs too many times, they will be doubtful that you will not stay with them for long. If you change your job sectors (ex: banking to marketing), they will worry about your skills and even your patience.

  • How is your self-awareness and attitude?

Interviewers want to know how you think about your previous working environment, your boss and your colleagues. Be careful. The more negatively you talk about others, the worse others think about you. You may have tough time with your last boss but the interviewers do not care about that. They are interested in how you have learnt from that, how you have grown up, how you behaved. It does say lots about you, your personality.

By asking “why are you leaving your current job”, the recruiters can tell a lot about you (Photo from medium.com)

How to answer

The key is: make your answer about the future

Step 1 Choose positive reasons

It’s easy to think about all of the things you dislike about your current job, but don’t go there.The most effective and acceptable answers should be positive – NOT negative – and related to moving forward in your life or career, which may means:

– You want to learn, grow new skills and things.
– You want to take on more responsibility.
– You want to relocate.
– You want a career change.
– You want to make more money
– You want to improve work/life balance.

– etc

Step 2 Quickly explain that reason

To show them all above things, what you need to do is turning the conversation towards why you want to join the new company.

What you say What the interviewer thinks How to edit
My boss was unfair. He always forced me to work overtime He wants an easy job and an easy boss. Or he may not be good enough for the job so that he needs to work extra time to finish it. I always finish my task on time so that I can go home and take care of my family. However, there were always last-minute assignments that I had to finish right away. It happened for a long time whereas I have to take care of my baby. So, I think I’m not suitable with that working conditions.


I didn’t get the promotion as expected. The company took advantage of me. He wants to get high paid but less work. I want to find a more challenging job and get rewarded for my achievement which is over than expected. For my previous job, I have accomplished all my targets and there is no room left for me to grow.


I want to make more money since my last job’s salary is so low. So when he finds another new job which has better salary in the future, he will definitely leave our company I’m ready to join a company that values my skills more than my old company and allows me to use them more fully.

To find more about the smart ways to answer this question, let’s continue reading below.

2 DOs & 5 DON’Ts

Do: Focus on results: Talk about some (if not a list) of things you accomplished in the past, ending with something like, “Having successfully done that, I’m ready for new and harder challenges”. That means ‘Your company can count on me to get results and I will stay here till I do.’ Don’t forget to mention how your experience can help with the new position.

Do: After explaining why you’re currently unhappy (“slow growth” or “lack of opportunity”), just move on. Tell about how you think the new company is different from your last one. Therefore, this job is right for your skills, your values and your career goals which the last one couldn’t offer. This type of answer will show them that you’re positive and forward thinking

Don’t: Answer in a negative way that doesn’t convince the interviewer such as ‘I wasn’t being challenged’, ‘The work was not interesting’ or ‘The salary was too low’ all say the same thing to them: you might leave at any time if things aren’t to your liking.

If you give a bland answer, circle back to it quickly. And if you can’t, try to revisit why you are leaving your current job before the end of the interview. This leaves the interviewer with your previous accomplishments top of mind.

Don’t: Give a fake response
Hiring managers are generally pretty good at sensing when an applicant is being dishonest. Lying is never good in any case in life.

Don’t: Avoid answering the question, either — that will make you look untrustworthy.

Don’t: Make yourself look like a boss hater
If you have hard feelings and speak poorly about your former employer, the potentially new employers may think that you would say the same thing to customers, coworkers in the new company or your next employers the same thing about them. Everyone knows that would be bad for business.They want a mature and positive person, not someone who holds onto grudges or creates problems. That also implies you may be difficult to manage. This also shows that you’re self-aware and have decent manners.

Don’t: speak too long on your previous employer. After all, the interview is about you. Always bring the conversation back to your results and ability.

Make your every answer perfect, including the hard one ‘why you left your last job’ (Photo from Careerpoint Solutions)

Sample answers

You can use phrases to avoid negativity and meanwhile keep the mood positive. Just focus on the good future and leave the past behind. Let the employers read between the lines. It also shows that you want to contribute to your employer if you are accepted.

Your reason: You want to make more money

It’s a super normal thing. Who doesn’t wish they were paid more and more?

How to say it well:

  • During my years at (your old company’s name), I had the opportunity to really develop skills. However, I’m ready to join a company that values my skills more than that and allows me to use them more fully.

Your reason: Your boss is toxic

If you had a bad boss, there’s nothing to tell them the truth. Mention briefly and neutrally that you two are on separate tracks and move on.

How to say it well:

  • Although I love the mission of my last job, I realized that the leadership of my team was going in a different direction. To develop more and work effectively every day, I’m interested in working in a more collaborative environment.  I ultimately think leaving is the right choice.

Your reason: You want to get promoted and learn new things (the usually best answer)

How to say it well:

  • I loved the people I worked with and the projects I worked on, but I was disappointed that I wasn’t being challenged the way I want it to be.  Right now I’m ready for the next challenge in my career. Rather than let myself get too comfortable, I decided to pursue a job where I can continue to grow.
  • My last job was quite comfortable. However, I want to build on (the aspects that you want) in my career …
  • I’d like to have a position where I could share my ideas and improve my skills however my last company is not a suitable place for me to do that…
  • I desire to learn more about (something this job includes), and your position provides an opportunity to increase my skills in…
  • Your focus here is on (an aspect of the job that you like), and I really enjoy doing it. So, I expect to increase my enjoyment of my work when I am able to work in this company.
  • This opportunity fits very well with the direction I want to take my career.
  • My last job has been a great experience, but growth is limited because the company is relatively small. Therefore, in order to continue to grow, I need to look elsewhere, and working in this this opportunity looks very interesting to me because…

Your reason: Your last job was just generally crappy

You don’t need to make your job sound less awful than it was, just focus instead on what drew you to that position, how it turned out to be a bad fit, and what you expect in a new one.

How to say it well:

  • I was excited to work in a big agency to learn from professionals marketers. Sadly, it didn’t take me long to realize that they are too busy and in my last position, I wouldn’t have many chances to work with them. Since then I’ve been seeking a role in another agency where I can be given more chances to work and learn.
  • I had been with the company for 5 years, which is a long time and I wanted to experience a new environment to gain a new perspective in my career.

Your reason: You were fired

This situation is the hardest to answer. You may want to hide it but you also can be honest without negativity or defensiveness. Mention extenuating reasons (new management, budget cuts, etc) why you were fired. However, it doesn’t mean we should put all of the blame on others. Then you should highlight lessons learned from that experience

How to say it well:

  • 3 months ago, the new director set a new requirements for the role that didn’t really fit me. Besides, he wanted younger sales as he thinks they would be more appropriate with the company’s products  and bring some old colleagues from his last company. After that experience, I realized that my real talent is in customer service, not sales. Would you like to listen more about my experience in that area?

Do you notice that all of these responses have at least one positive thing about your last job? You don’t get any points for telling sad stories about your last job and company. Your best bet is to take the high road and look to the future.

Bonus: Here is a good example to tell why are you leaving your current job without being asked

This type of answer will impress interviewers so much with your smartness. You can also find out more useful videos like this on eJOY GO, where every video has English subtitles so you can practice speaking right now in front of the screen.

Useful words & phrases

There are many people who don’t know basic format sentences to answer this kind of question.

To start your answer, just simply use these words:

  • I quit my job to…
  • I quit my job because…
  • I’m leaving my current job to….
  • The reason why I left my previous job is…

Then you can explain further based on sample answers above.

Words that are professional and polite to use in an job interview:

  • I want to further my career in…
  • I want to take on more responsibility in…
  • This job would be a natural progression in…

How to prepare for this question in the interview:
+ Write down your own answer
+ Practice speaking several times. Ask your friend to do a mock interview
+ Learn some useful phrases and new words from this article so that you can use them naturally in your talk. How to remember them forever? Let’s install eJOY eXtension.

You only need to click on the word, the translation will show up immediately

You should practice the most commonly used words & phrases as much as possible before entering any job interview room. For best results, record it all on a notebook!
Are you serious about learning new words & phrases for an interview? Check out eJOY eXtension!