Out of all the questions hiring managers can potentially ask you during an interview, “Why did you leave your last job?” could be one of the hardest to answer.

To effectively answer this question, you need to frame your response in a way that shows hiring managers that you know what's important to you and how to handle less than ideal situations. But you also don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunities you had in your previous role, or come off like you're still bitter about how you left things with your last employer.

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It can be challenging to explain why you decided to leave your last position without throwing your old company under the bus. But if answered thoughtfully, this question can help you highlight your flexibility and self-awareness.

To help you nail this question at your next interview, we rounded up nine reasons for leaving your last job that hiring managers will completely understand. And even if you’ve only worked in your current role for a short amount of time, these reasons can help you frame your decision to depart your last role in a way your potential new employer can truly respect.

1. You’re looking to level up in your career, and your current company has limited opportunities for career growth.

Career stagnation can be incredibly frustrating. If you’ve worked hard at the same company for a few years, and you haven’t been promoted or even promised a promotion, you have every right to leave your current job. If you can communicate that you haven’t been able to climb the career ladder at your preferred pace during your interview, you’ll show hiring managers that you’re ambitious and goal-orientated.

2. You don’t feel challenged or fulfilled at your current job.

No job is perfect, but if you don’t feel any satisfaction at work, it’s definitely time for a change. Work becomes a chore if you don’t feel mentally stimulated or emotionally fulfilled. And hiring managers will completely understand why you’re leaving your current role, if this is the case. They’ll also be impressed with your internal need to be passionate about your job.

3. The nature of your work is not what was promised to you.

Did your current employer promise you a copywriting job, but now you somehow work in product marketing? If they’ve baited-and-switched you like this, wanting to leave the company is more than understandable. They promised you something, but failed to honor it -- so why stay?

Leaving your job to find a new role that actually meets your expectations will also show hiring managers that you can stand up for yourself and pursue what you truly want in life.

4. You’re burnt out.

If your job’s heavy workload or endless stress make you hate going to work, it’s time for a fresh start somewhere else. Burnout can make work and, in turn, life miserable and most hiring managers have experienced it at least once in their careers, so if you need a new change of pace, they’ll definitely be able to empathize with you. They’ll also respect your willingness to take care of your mental and emotional health.

5. You feel undervalued at your current job.

When your current manager underestimates your potential or doesn’t know how to leverage your skill set to its full potential, work can become frustrating and dull. So why work for a company that doesn’t challenge you or allow you to make a impact?

If you can genuinely convey these frustrations and aspirations during your interview, hiring managers will perceive you as someone who truly wants to make a difference at their company -- and that’ll only boost your chances of landing the job.

6. You want to make a career change.

In a world where most industries never stop changing, it’s common to leave a job to pursue a new career path. But even if you think your lack of experience in an industry is a vulnerability, you shouldn’t fret. Most hiring managers actually like hiring candidates from other industries because they can bring a fresh perspective to their team and company.

7. You want a better work life balance.

Sometimes employers forget that people work to live and don’t live to work. If your current job steals too many hours away from your personal life, it’s time to go. Life is for living, so if you can express your desire to work in a new role that provides a better work life balance, hiring managers will admire the respect you have for your own time.

8. Your values don’t align with the company’s values.

Whether you were never a good fit at your current company or a merger or acquisition altered its values, a moral conflict with an employer is totally a justifiable reason to leave. If you stand firmly behind your own beliefs, you shouldn’t have to compromise your ethics to drive results for a business you don’t support.

Hiring managers also want to hire people whose values align with their company’s, so clarifying that you both have similar principles will help you out tremendously during an interview.

9. You had to leave the company due to family or personal reasons.

Life happens. If you left your last job because you needed to take care of your family or nourish your physical or mental health, hiring managers won’t knock off any points during your interview. In fact, this reason will most likely bump up your score because you’ve proved that you can prioritize what’s truly important in life.

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Originally published Dec 31, 2018 6:00:00 AM, updated October 29 2019

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