You should always have three reasons for leaving a job. There’s the reason you tell your manager, then the explanation you give to your new employer, and then there’s the truth. You might be wondering why we can’t just tell the truth and give the real reason to all three parties? Well, it’s because the truth will set you free, and we don’t want to be free, we want to be employed. Therefore, we have to give curated answers that’ll smooth the doubts of HR and management so that everyone involved can feel comfortable knowing it’s not them, it’s you.
You would like to grow. You would like to try new things. Your interests have changed. But in reality, your company is toxic, you’re not getting paid your worth, and your coworkers are so uninspiring that it’s driving you nuts. But you can’t say any of that because that would make you seem unprofessional and hurt the feelings of an entire HR department who work tirelessly at pushing quality talent out. Since you can’t deal in truth, you’d best find two or three reasons (from below) that make you sound so ambitious and put together that any company who asks will literally be forced to hire you on the spot!
How You Know it’s Time to Leave Your Job
Before you start giving out excuses as to why you’d like to be paid more at a different company, you first want to assess if it’s the correct time to leave your current job or if you should stick it out a little longer, wait for this recession to blow over, then jump ship.
Regardless of your reason for leaving, you should consider your current situation and the wider job landscape. Following countless tech layoffs, many companies across the board have put a freeze on hiring (or significantly slowed down). Which means there’s a lot of people looking for jobs, but not a lot of job opportunities. It’s competitive; therefore you need to be a competitive candidate.
Cool, so what’s a good situation for you to be in to land a new job?
- 5+ years of experience
- You’ve got specialised skills
- You’ve got an undeniable body of work that showcases your skills
- You’ve already got a job at a “great” company
- Companies are desperate for your skill set (i.e. software development)
- You’ve just finished a large project
Let’s take a look at a situation that’s less than ideal, where you should probably consider sticking it out a little longer.
Bad situation (best wait it out):
- You have an entry-level job (less than 2 years experience)
- Your job is easily replaced
- You're working in an industry that is experiencing budget cuts (recruiting, marketing, and HR)
- You’re halfway through a project
- You don’t have a diverse portfolio of work
- You are unsure of your career path
Hopefully, this puts your situation in perspective — you can see how you measure up against other jobseekers.
Good Reasons for Leaving a Job
First, let’s figure out why you need a reason for leaving a job. Is it to share in an interview or to reassure yourself that you are making the right decision? If it’s a personal thing, well, you’ll have to figure that out on your own but — if it’s to share with your manager or future employer, we can help.
Good reasons to leave your job:
- New challenges and growth opportunities
- Better work-life balance
- Toxic environment
- Personal values and passions
- Career plateau
- Layoffs (you were fired 😞)
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these reasons and discuss a few ways you can spin your leaving into a positive for everyone.
1. Pursuing New Challenges and Growth Opportunities
You might be feeling as though your work is not pushing you to grow, maybe it’s become monotonous and repetitive, and you’d like to take on bigger challenges that are just not available in your current job. A lot of people legitimately feel this way after a couple of years working in any role (especially if you haven’t been promoted or given a pay rise).
This is probably the most common reason given by a candidate to an interviewer. Growth and challenges make you seem ambitious and career-driven, while not casting a negative light on the company you hope to leave. The reason covers all bases. But be mindful that the interviewer will most likely pin you as someone who’s simply looking for a higher wage and a more senior position (they wouldn’t be wrong). To avoid that blanket judgement, you can spin things in your favour by focusing on the hiring company. You love the company, you love their product, and you’ve been keeping an eye on their career page for a long time.
2. Seeking Better Work-Life Balance
A better work-life balance is a good reason for you personally, but not the most epic thing for a hiring manager to hear. Why? It gives the impression that you want to chill out and cruise through your job. Which you do, but you’ve got to understand that you’re in a competition to get a job where drive, productivity, and results are desired. And that’s why most people just go with the “growth and challenges” reason above, which gives that impression.
Work-life balance is a great reason to keep to yourself. If you want to go in that direction, though, focus on the work lifestyle offered by the company – like remote or hybrid work – and how that makes you a better worker. “I’m looking for a remote option because I find that I work better and experience less distractions.”
3. Toxic Work Environment
There’s a pretty high chance that throughout your career, you’ll accidentally land yourself in a toxic work environment. It could be micromanagement, poor leadership, or discrimination — all good reasons to pack up your things and leave. If you think you’re in a negative work environment, go read our full-length article about discussing your situation in an interview setting.
To put it shortly, you don’t want to focus on your negative experiences. You probably want to present a reason that coincides with toxic work environments, for example, a change in management goals, company values, or career plateauing. These reasons can be easily tied back to the job you are trying to land. Maybe the company you work for got acquired recently, here you can explain the company will be going in a more corporate direction and that’s not a direction you personally fit into. Be sure to leave a company review if you’ve experienced a toxic company and want to give others a heads up.
4. Aligning with Personal Values and Passions
This is a great reason that recruiters and HR professionals can get around. HR these days is all about employer branding, so if you can try to align your values and passion with those of the company and its mission, it’ll likely go a long way. HR people are totally obsessed with trying to humanise their company and make it seem like the organisation's mission is anything but profit. So to identify with their life’s work, you’ll make them feel as though they are doing a good job, and thus it’ll put you in a better standing.
Going with the ‘personal values’ reason will also help you stand out as a cultural fit. In smaller companies, this is a big deciding factor since there’s a lot of collaboration and companionship. Someone who’s a better cultural fit will likely be selected over someone who’s got more experience. So get your values in order.
5. Overcoming a Career Plateau
This is a great reason for someone who’s been with a company a decent period of time. If a hiring manager can see that you’ve been at your company for five years, and you tell them that you’re ready to try something else, there’s no follow up needed. It’s a totally understandable reason.
Stagnation in our careers can hinder our professional growth and development. Leaving a job to explore new opportunities and break free from career plateaus can reignite your passion and enthusiasm. Most hiring managers see a candidate with your background (long-term commitment) and understand it’s a huge asset that doesn’t come around often.
6. Layoffs (you got fired 😞)
Since tech is experiencing a tumultuous period where layoffs are a common occurrence, companies and recruiters are sympathetic to those affected. You might have been the last team member hired, so, you’re the first to go. Not having a job is a great reason for wanting a job.
If you were chosen to leave a company, you might want to give your interviewer an explanation as to why you were let go while your colleagues remained. Some good explanations are; you were the most recent hire, you elected to leave as you felt it was your time, or your whole department was made redundant. It’s best to frame your explanation in a positive light and not take out your grief on your former employer (a bad look).
Should you tell an interviewer why you left (or are leaving) your job?
Is it beneficial for you to tell the person interviewing you the real reason you’d like to leave your current job? Short answer, no. Unfortunately, without reframing the truth behind multiple layers of positivity, you’ll end up doing yourself a disservice. How does it reflect on you if you tell an interviewer that you were bullied? Or that you’re not being paid your worth? Or that you don’t respect management?
While it might be the truth, the person sitting across from you is a stranger and is already in a position where they are being critical of your character and background. They are searching for any red flags, any clues that would work against you. So do not give them anything to read into or misinterpreted. That’s why the best practice is to steer clear of negative comments and focus on the future. If that means giving an alternative reason than the actual truth, so be it. It’s not like the interviewer will be 100% honest with you — try asking them what salary you could expect... Oh, it’s between $60K - $100K? Great.
Explore Your Own Reasons For Leaving a Job
If you find yourself thinking of excuses to leave work early, then it might be time to hand in your two weeks and find a new job. But make sure you have a job lined up before you ask for that letter of recommendation, you don’t want to be in an awkward position where you have to ask for your job back after telling everyone to screw themselves. Hopefully, the reasons above are good enough to get you through the interview and land a job! Be sure to leave an interview review so that others can learn from your experiences.