From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

June 2020
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Interview Question: Why did you leave your last job?
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 11:53 am

Question of several  colleagues: 
How would you respond to the question: 
Why did you leave your last employer?

Hi Dan,

What I tell potential employers: 

I had brought what I was working on to a
reasonable transition point, and I am looking
for new challenges. The only thing I added
was that we got new senior management
and that I had done all I could to advance
the project management discipline.

The message is that I didn’t agree with the
new regime. It usually stops there with nods
of understanding, and I haven’t said anything
disparaging about my former employer. If
I’m pressed, I say that there wasn’t a
consistent idea throughout the new
leadership team about what the project
management approach should be.

Hope that helps. See you in Chicago.


The signals I get when I “hear” this response is
an experienced person has a formal way of completing
projects.  He had moved the project to a satisfactory
level of completion.  New management came in and
felt the need to either change direction, stop the project
or bring a specific person in for the next phase of the

This person has a formal style he describes as
his project management approach that might have
been different than what new senior management
felt was how to move projects to completion.

Dana Matioli, in a recent post on how to respond to this question  
offers six good factors to keep in mind, many of
which R. displayed nicely.

-  Be brief.
-  Be up front and honest.
-  Don’t display non-professional behavior or offer negative comments.
-  Don’t use overused cliches that does
not show the true reality of job change in US
-  Assume responsibility for things that did not
work and indicate how you have learned from
the experience.
-  Be prepared for follow-up questions, like
     If you stayed with the company, what would your next move be? or
     If you had things be different, what would they be? or
     What would you like to see different in your next position

In some cases, “R.’s” remarks above might
reflect a degree of inflexibility.  That translates
into motivation, tactics and working with people
(customers, clients, or upper management more
than project team members).

Matioli’s article offered strong comments that
money and shorter commute might not be
arguments to offer.

The article offered some nice considerations 
relating to wanting to work for a firm where
you could use newly acquired skills or skills
you love to use.  In other words, express the
desire to move on to their position which
fulfills your needs. 

Any other thoughts to mention?


One Response to “Interview Question: Why did you leave your last job?”

  1. site admin Says:

    Although I am self-employed presently, I would
    probably respond by stating that I am seeking a
    job opportunity that offered more potential for
    growth and development in my respective field
    (hopefully the company that I would be interviewing
    with would have a history of technological
    innovation in this area of science).

    I would also mention that I am looking for a larger
    role or a position that presents more of a challenge
    that would allow me to utilize my strengths and
    draw upon my experience in order to push the
    envelope in the field of surface/interface science.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    WC Interesting Comments by WC…
    This is the offering to WC:

    W, please respond to their question about leaving
    the previous company, as it misses some
    opportunities for mentioning transferable skills
    and your learning on the job.

    Consider stating that you enjoyed learning [specific
    things, at minimum transferable skills like priority
    setting] in your job related activities in a fast paced,
    small company atmosphere.

    Then, transition to developing new skills or
    practicing your well honed problem solving
    skills on the new company’s kinds of problems.

    In other words, mention your key skills and
    abilities and relate them to developing or
    broadening them at the new company.

    Understand that looking for a larger role may
    sound like you are looking for management.
    Most places, especially high technology innovators,
    are looking team players who can work with
    various disciplines to achieve business valued

    They desire people leave their ego at the door
    and work smart, doing whatever needs to get


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