Table of contents
Home > Interview questions > How to Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job in an Interview

How to Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job in an Interview

Woman answering interview question about reasons for leaving a job

Forage puts students first. Our blog articles are written independently by our editorial team. They have not been paid for or sponsored by our partners. See our full editorial guidelines.

When interviewers ask about your reasons for leaving a job, you might think being completely honest is the way to go. Alternatively, you may feel it doesn’t matter why you’re leaving your job and come up with an answer that sounds, well, almost like a lie.

Unlike other common interview questions, answering “What are your reasons for leaving your job?” is a bit of a balancing act. You want to be honest but not too honest. And, of course, you don’t want to lie. So, where exactly is this middle ground? 

This guide will help you formulate an answer that’s just right.

What Are Good Reasons for Leaving a Job?

Before we discuss how to explain your reasons for leaving a job, let’s talk about reasons to leave a job, good and bad!

The reasons you’re leaving your job are ultimately yours — meaning they are good enough reasons no matter what they are! But being good enough reasons for you doesn’t mean they are good reasons to share in a job interview.

Here are some good reasons for leaving a job that you can share in an interview.

1. Looking for More Responsibility

Moving ahead in your career often means taking on additional responsibilities so you can grow and master new skills, like leadership or project management. Some companies and jobs don’t offer these opportunities, and that can hamper your ability to take your career to the next level.

2. Wanting Education and Training

Just like some jobs don’t offer increased responsibility, some jobs also don’t offer growth and development opportunities. If your current company doesn’t support your desire to learn and grow, you’ll end up stuck in the same role for years.

3. Value Alignment

For many people, a job is more than a way to earn money. It also brings them fulfillment and joy. But sometimes, your current role or the company’s values don’t align with yours. It’s possible you didn’t ask the hiring manager the right questions during the interview. Or there’s been a shift in the company culture, and you no longer want to work there.

Resume and Interview Training

Get ready for your next interview in this free course from lululemon. Discover how to show off your transferable skills, turn your job duties into achievements, and more.

Avg. Time: 2-3 hours

Skills you’ll build: Behavioral interview questions, STARL method, resume building, communication

4. Your Company Is Going Out of Business (or Already Has!)

Whether you received a notice that you’re going to be laid off, you’ve already been laid off, or you’re seeing red flags everywhere, your current company having significant financial difficulties may be a very good reason for leaving a job!

5. The Recruiter Contacted You

You may be perfectly happy in your current role and aren’t actively searching for the next one. But the recruiter reached out to you on LinkedIn, and the job sounded interesting. That doesn’t mean you’re going to leave your current role for sure, but you’re now thinking about it.

What Are ‘Bad’ Reasons for Leaving a Job?

There are no “bad” reasons for leaving a job, only ones you shouldn’t mention during your job interview!

1. Something Unrelated to Work

Wanting a shorter commute is a perfectly good reason for leaving a job. But your answer should always be related to the role and your career. You want to talk about how the job doesn’t fit your goals anymore, not that you hate being stuck in traffic.

Interview Success

Uncover the tips and tricks for interview success in this free course from BCLP. You'll learn how to ace a video interview, the online skills assessment, and more.

Avg. Time: 4-5 hours

Skills you’ll build: Video interviewing, public speaking, organization, time management

2. I Hate My Boss or Coworkers

Working someplace where you don’t get along with everyone else is also an excellent reason for leaving a job. However, you shouldn’t mention it as it could cause the recruiter or hiring manager to wonder if you’re the problem. It’s best to leave interpersonal relationships out of your answer.

3. Salary

Whether your company doesn’t give out raises or bonuses (it happens!), you feel you’re underpaid, or your company has a wage freeze that shows no signs of ever thawing, salary concerns are another good reason for leaving a job. But, like the other “bad” reasons for leaving a job, don’t mention it during the interview. While things are changing, saying your job search is motivated by money is still taboo.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ask about salary during the interview. If that’s a deal-breaker for you, you should! But stating that money is the only reason you’re leaving a job is not a good look.

4. Work Is Boring

“Boring” is a relative term, and if that’s your reason for leaving a job, you may find yourself answering more questions about why you’re leaving than you’d like. If the work is boring, why is it boring? Have you asked for more challenging work? And if it’s not being given to you, why not? Does your boss think you can’t handle it? Are you unreliable?

It’s best to leave this “reason” out of your answer.

5. You’re Underperforming

Sometimes people are put on notice that they need to improve their performance or they will be fired. Instead of taking the chance of being fired, they may decide to look for another job. If this is your reason for leaving a job, don’t mention it — it would likely be a major red flag to the interviewer.

Why Do Employers Ask Why You’re Leaving Your Job?

Employers ask your reasons for leaving a job to learn a few things about you. For starters, they want to understand your current relationship with your company and job. Are you leaving your old role because you’re looking for new challenges or because the company was bought out, and you’re not sure how safe your position is?

two software engineers sitting and looking at a computer

Technical Interview Prep

Practice your technical interview skills in this free course from Girls Who Code. You'll learn how to master the whiteboard challenge, tackle take home assessments, and more.

Avg. Time: 5-6 hours

Skills you’ll build: Whiteboard challenge, data science, hash table, array, matrix

This helps the employer understand what you want from your next job and gives the interviewer context as to how this job may (or may not) fit your career plans.

Finally, employers ask why you’re looking for a new job to measure if you’re a good fit for the role in two ways. For example, let’s say you’re looking for a role that helps you develop your managerial skills, but there are no management duties associated with the job you applied for. If that’s the case, you probably won’t be happy there. And, if the company has a flat organization or doesn’t have a lot of formal hierarchy or titles, you may not be a good cultural fit for the company since it doesn’t really have the management track you’re looking for in a new job.

Other Ways Employers Ask About Your Reasons for Leaving a Job

Some interviewers will be direct and ask you to explain why you’re looking for a new job. However, there are other ways an employer can ask why you want to leave your current role:

How to Answer ‘What Are Your Reasons for Leaving a Job?’

To create a winning answer, Amira Hernandez, assistant director of career services at Oxford College of Emory University, offers this advice: “Couch your response in diplomatic, professional, and positive terms.”

However, you should avoid creating a one-size-fits-all answer. Hernandez notes that this is an opportunity for you to tailor your answer to the specific company.

“Consider how this question invites you to emphasize your desire to work for an organization that offers you greater professional development opportunities; better aligns with your values; supports a change in your life; or desire to develop a new professional skill set,” she says. “In short, a strong answer will emphasize how this job will support the vision that you have for moving forward in your professional life.”

Here’s how to frame your reasons for leaving a job. 

Keep It Short

You might have multiple reasons for leaving a job and a detailed story that explains your motivations. However, keep the answer brief, professional, and light on details. 

Like answering any interview question, you don’t want to ramble. Not only could that make it seem that you’re not confident in your response or are anxious about the interview, there’s a chance you could say things that you shouldn’t.

For example, if one of the reasons for leaving the job is that you don’t think you’ll ever move up the career ladder, don’t talk about how it’s because the company is small and people don’t leave very often, so higher-level positions never open up and you don’t think the company will give you a title change because that’s just something they don’t do… so, you’re kind of stuck and want to get unstuck.

Instead, focus on the fact that your current company is small and it’s very difficult to move up. It’s simple, to the point, and very professional.

Stay Positive

It’s possible you’ve had a negative experience at your current job, and that’s why you’re leaving. However, no matter how negative the experience, you want to frame it in a positive light.

Using the above example, you could say your reason for leaving the job is, “I’ve stalled and can’t move up at my current company.” It’s short, which is good. However, it’s not a positive way to frame the answer. The hiring manager may wonder why you’ve stalled. Is it because your boss is a passive-aggressive micromanager who’s punishing you for petty reasons? Or is it because you aren’t completing tasks, come in late, leave early, and can’t collaborate with your teammates?

Instead, you could say, “I’ve gone as far as I can in this role and am looking for a position that offers more career advancement.”

Keeping the answer positive (as well as brief) limits the possibility of the hiring manager asking follow-up questions you may not have a good answer for.

Talk About the Future

While this tip applies to the last part of your answer, it’s crucial to keep it top of mind. The second half of your answer should explain why you’re interested in this particular role. If you’re not sure where to start, think about your elevator pitch or the “future” part of your answer to the “tell me about yourself” interview question

Are you trying to move up the career ladder? Broaden your skill set? Have you been working at start-ups and want something more stable and predictable? Or the opposite?

student sitting at computer typing

Career Readiness

Master the essential skills for career success in this free course from the National Urban League. Learn how to create your elevator pitch, network with industry professionals, and more.

Avg. Time: 6-7 hours

Skills you’ll build: Networking, pitching, interviewing, resume writing

Be Honest

Finally, honesty is the best policy. As cheesy as that is, it’s important you give a real reason why you’re looking for a new job. However, as noted above, you don’t want to be too honest. 

For example, your real reason for leaving a job may be that you don’t get along with your coworkers. Say something like:

While I like the job and the duties, the company and I are not a good culture fit, and I want to work somewhere that better aligns with my personal values.


The job was great at first, but things have changed, and I’m looking for a new role that enables me to experiment, test, and try new things.

Both of these answers are clear, brief, and professional. They’re also honest reasons why you’re leaving a job that don’t trash your current employer.

Knowing what you want for your next job will help you frame your entire response.

Showcase New Skills

Build the confidence and practical skills that employers are looking for with Forage virtual job simulations.

Example Answers for ‘What are your reasons for leaving a job?’

While your reasons for leaving a job are unique to you and your circumstances, here are a few example answers to get you started.

Example 1

My current company is small. It’s stable but has no plans to grow or expand. That’s fine, but the problem is I’ve gone as far as I can and don’t think I’ll have the kinds of professional development opportunities that could take me to the next level. I’m looking for something that offers more training and growth so I can expand my skills.

Example 2

The founders recently sold the company. While things are the same right now, I don’t know how long they’ll last, so I’m looking for new roles that allow me to keep doing what I’m doing.

Example 3

When I was first hired, the job was a great match for me. However, the company has undergone some reorganizations and pivots, and the role isn’t such a great match anymore. While I can do the job, it’s not what I was hired to do, so I’m looking for something that’s a better match for my skills and abilities, as well as something I can really engage with.

Your Reasons for Leaving a Job Matter

The reason why you’re leaving a job is yours, and, in many respects, that’s all that matters. But when you’re explaining to a potential employer your reasons for leaving a job, you need to balance honesty, positivity, and brevity.

Get prepped and ready for other interview questions:

Image Credit: Canva

Rachel Pelta is the Head Writer at Forage. Previously, she was a Content Specialist at FlexJobs, writing articles for job seekers and employers. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, The Ladders, MSN, and Money Talks News.

Gain job skills you can talk about in interviews.

Sign up