One of the questions you may be asked in a job interview is why you left a previous job. There are 3 main reasons why this could have happened: you resigned, you were made redundant or you were fired.

Of the three, being fired is the most difficult to answer well. Being fired/sacked from a previous job will make you seem as a risk to any employer (a potential bad employee) because it suggests you did something bad.

You can of course lie in the interview and tell them you resigned/were made redundant from the job instead. But if you do, you run the risk of getting found out if they check with the employer. It's best to be honest in my opinion, but you need to give them a reason why it happened which the interviewers can appreciate and which doesn't put you in a bad light.

On the face of it, resigning (to take another job or to go travelling) or being made redundant are easier to explain. And they are. But you need to be careful in the reasons you give for why these happened. For resigning, your answer should not create doubts about your commitment to staying in a company. For being made redundant, you need to make it clear that it happened due to no fault of your own.

Whatever you do when answering this question for any of these three situations, never sound bitter and criticise the company for what happened. It doesn't sound professional and will damage your chances of getting the job.

In this online exercise on 'job interview questions', we will look at three good example answers for explaining why you left (or were forced to leave) a previous job. I will explain why the people are giving these answers and provide you with professional English vocabulary you can use in your own answers.

When you use any of these in a job interview, you should adapt them to your own situation.

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on vocabulary to use in CVs/resumes and job interviews.


Exercise:

Read the following 3 answers given by three different candidates in job interviews when answering the question 'why did you leave this job?'. In the first answer, the candidate explains why they were fired from a previous job. In the second, a candidate explains why they resigned. And in the third, the candidate explains why they were made redundant.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are and why they are being used. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Answer one

To be honest, I was let go from that company. The role of the position I had, changed from being a data analyst to being effectively a sales person. At that time, I didn't have the necessary skills to perform the new tasks I had to do as efficiently and quickly as was required to do the job well. As a consequence, after a month or so they decided to let me go. I think it was the right decision on their part to take.

In hindsight, I should have made them aware of the difficulties I was facing with adapting to the new role. But I didn't. The situation taught me a very important lesson, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a way to learn and improve what you do.

This is something which has greatly helped me in both of the jobs I have had since.


Answer two

I left the company to take up a position in another company. It wasn't an easy thing to do. The company I left was excellent to work for, I got on extremely well with everybody I worked with and really liked the role I was doing. But one of my ex-work colleagues made me aware of a vacancy at the company she was working at. It was a more senior role with more potential for self development.

Making the decision was difficult, but at that time in my career it was too good an opportunity to turn down. So, I left the company to take up the position that I was offered.


Answer three

I was made redundant. Due to the financial crisis, the company I worked for at that time had to reduce its overall costs. The department I was in, was one of those which was affected by the cutbacks. Unfortunately, I was one of 30 staff who were made redundant. It was a shock at the time, but I can appreciate why they had to do it.


How to answer 'Why do you want to leave your current job?' Learn how to do a good job interview

Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...). In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1.

A phrase which means that you 'were told about a job position' by somebody, is

         

Made me aware of a vacancy:
(phrase). When a company is hiring new staff, one of the factors they are looking for is commitment. They don't want to hire somebody who they think would likely leave their company within a couple of years.

If you are explaining in a job interview why you left/resigned from a job to take up another position in a different company, you need to try to convince them that you are not a type of person who likes or wants to change job/company frequently.

One of the ways of doing this is to tell them that you weren't actively looking to change jobs before you left a company. The best way to do this is to tell them that you were made aware of the new job by somebody you know (preferably someone you used to work with).

To do this, you use the phrase 'made me aware of a vacancy'. Before this phrase you say who (e.g. 'an ex-work colleague') and after it where (you should say 'in their company'). For example, 'an ex-work colleague made me aware of a vacancy in their company'.

Even if this is false, you should still use it (there's no way that they can check!).

Close

Made me aware of a vacancy:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

2.

A phrase which shows that you understand why a company fired/sacked you from a job, is

         

I think it was the right decision on their part to take:
(phrase) It may seem strange to say in a job interview that you agree with the decision of a previous company to fire/sack you, but there is a good reason to do it.

It shows that you are not only not bitter or angry about what happened, but that you are pragmatic and take responsibility for your own actions. These are qualities/characteristics which many employers are looking for when interviewing candidates.

If you do say that you agree with a decision to fire/sack you, make sure that you say afterwards that you learnt something important from the experience which has made you a better employee/worker.

Close

I think it was the right decision on their part to take:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

3.

A sentence which says you weren't the only person to be made redundant from a company, is

         

I was one of 30 staff who were made redundant:
(phrase) Although saying that you were made redundant from a company won't necessarily be seen as something negative by potential employers, it could be.

Most of the times when people are made redundant, the reason is not because of something the people have done wrong. Normally, it is because a company has financial difficulties or is restructuring. But sometimes, companies use it as an excuse to get rid of people who they don't think are important or necessary.

To convince any potential employers that this wasn't the case for you, you need to first explain why the redundancies took place (e.g. 'the company had financial difficulties and had to close down a number of offices'). Then tell them that you were not the only person made redundant.

To tell them you weren't the only people made redundant, you use the sentence 'I was one of 30 (change the number to what you want) staff who were made redundant'.

Close

I was one of 30 staff who were made redundant:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

4.

A different way to 'I was fired' which sounds less negative, is

         

I was let go:
(phrasal verb) For some reason 'to be let go' sounds better (less negative) than saying 'to be fired' or 'to be sacked'. So if you want to tell an interviewer that you were fired from a previous job, use 'I was let go' and not 'I was fired/sacked'.

Close

I was let go:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

5.

A reason why you were fired/sacked from a job, is

         

I didn't have the necessary skills to perform:
(phrase) If you were fired/sacked from a job, there will have been reason(s) why. The worst thing you can do is to directly blame others or the company for you being fired. You need to admit some personal responsibility for what happened. By doing this, it will make you seem honest. And honesty is a quality that employers are looking for in potential employees.

But you have to be careful in the reason(s) you give. Choose reasons which you think any potential employer can appreciate/understand (e.g. 'I didn't have the skills or experience to run a team of analysts', not 'I had a problem with my manager').

Ideally, the reason should be about some skill or ability that you then didn't have which led to you not being able to do your job well. For example, 'in the new role, I didn't have the necessary technical skills to perform the role as efficiently as it should have been done'.

Later, you can then say that since then you have learnt these skills or abilities.

In addition to taking personal responsibility for being fired, I would recommend that you also partially blame the situation (not the company or an individual) for causing you to be fired. You can say how something was changed in what you did or you were moved into a new position in which you had no experience. For example, 'the roles and responsibilities of the job I was doing dramatically changed'.

Close

I didn't have the necessary skills to perform:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

6.

A phrase where you say that you understand why a company had to make you redundant, is

         

I can appreciate why they had to do it:
(phrase) It may seem strange to say in a job interview that you understand why a previous company made you redundant, but there is a good reason why. It shows that you are not only not bitter or angry about what happened, but that you are a pragmatic and objective type of person.

These are qualities/characteristics which many employers are looking for when interviewing candidates.

If you want to, you can also talk about how you enjoyed and benefited from working at the company.

Close

I can appreciate why they had to do it:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

7.

A sentence which gives your opinion about a company you left/resigned from, is

         

The company I left was excellent to work for:
(phrase) Whenever you are asked in a job interview why you left/resigned from a company to take another job, never be critical of the company you left (it will damage your chances of getting the job). It may have been a terrible company to work for and they treated you badly, but you should never say this.

You should say that the company was good or excellent to work for. Then explain a little why. For example, 'The company I left was excellent to work for. I was in charge of a number of projects and got on very well with my colleagues'.

When you then give reasons why you left, focus on the positives of both the company and job you then went to. For example, more responsibility, improving or diversifying your skills etc...

Close

The company I left was excellent to work for:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

8.

A phrase which is used to introduce something that you learnt from being fired/sacked from a job, is

         

The situation taught me a very important lesson:
(phrase) Admitting in a job interview that you were partially to blame for being fired/sacked from a previous job will make you seem honest. This is a good thing, honesty is a quality that employers are looking for in potential employees.

But if you do this, you need to reassure the people interviewing you that you no longer make the same mistakes that caused you to be fired/sacked from the job.

To do this, first of all you should say what you would have done differently (e.g. 'in hindsight, I should have been spending more time with the members of my team'). After doing this, you should then tell them what you learnt from the experience.

This is what the phrase 'the situation taught me a very important lesson' is used to introduce. For example, 'The situation taught me a very important lesson. A leader is more than just somebody who tells their staff to do things'.

After this, you need to say that you have successfully used what you have learnt in the jobs that you've had since.

Close

The situation taught me a very important lesson:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

9.

A phrase where you say a job you were offered 'was too good to not take', is

         

It was too good an opportunity to turn down:
(phrase) This is used as a reason why you left/resigned from one company to move to another. It basically means 'I didn't want to leave the company I was working at, but the job I was offered was so good that it would have been stupid of me not to take it'.

This is a reason for leaving a company which the people interviewing you for the job will be able to appreciate.

If you want to, you can explain a little why it was such a good job for you.

Close

It was too good an opportunity to turn down:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

10.

A phrase where you blame a change in your position/job for being fired/sacked, is

         

The role of the position I had, changed from:
(phrase) If you were fired/sacked from a job, there will have been reason(s) why. The worst thing you can do is to directly blame others or the company for you being fired (e.g. 'my manager felt threatened by me' or 'the company was badly run' etc...).

But you can partially blame a situation for causing you to be fired. You can say how something was changed in what you did or you were moved into a new position in which you had no experience. For example, 'the roles and responsibilities of the job I was doing dramatically changed'.

The phrase 'the role of the position I had, changed from' is used when you want to blame a change in what you were doing in the job for you being fired/sacked. You would normally follow this by saying what the change in your role was. For example, 'the role of the position I had, changed from directly selling to customers to doing marketing'. You would then explain how you didn't have the skills to do this role well.

In addition to this, you should take some personal responsibility for what happened. Taking responsibility for your own actions is something which potential employers like to see.

Close

The role of the position I had, changed from:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

11.

A phrase which is used to say what you would have done differently, is

         

In hindsight, I should have:
(phrase) Admitting in a job interview that you were partially to blame for being fired/sacked from a previous job will make you seem honest. This is a good thing, honesty is a quality that employers are looking for in potential employees. But if you do this, you need to reassure the people interviewing you that you no longer make the same mistakes that caused you to be fired/sacked from the job.

After recognising what you did wrong or didn't do well (e.g. 'although I knew the job perfectly, I didn't really know how to run a team'), you should then say what you would have done differently. To introduce this, you should use the phrase 'in hindsight, I should have'. For example, 'in hindsight, I should have been spending more time with the members of my team'.

After doing this, you should then tell them what you learnt from the experience. For example, 'The situation taught me a very important lesson. A leader is more than just somebody who tells their staff to do things'.

Close

In hindsight, I should have:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

12.

A reason why you left/resigned from one job to take another, is

         

A more senior role with more potential for self development:
(phrase) Leaving one job to take another job in a different company is very common these days. It's very likely that the people interviewing you for the job will have done the same themselves a few times.

But when you explain why you left/resigned from one job, there are a few things you shouldn't say. You should never give money as a reason for leaving a job (it will question your commitment). And more importantly, never be critical of the company you left in your explanation. They may have lied, cheated or done something bad to you, but you never give this as one of the reason why you left (no potential employer will like to hear this).

Instead, always focus on the positives of the job you went to. This will vary from job to job, but talking about more responsibility, a higher position, improving or diversifying your skills are good reasons to give (and they are things which most potential employers can appreciate).

Close

A more senior role with more potential for self development:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close





Practice

Now that you understand the vocabulary, practise it. Click on the icon and listen to the words/phrases and then test your own pronunciation in the 'prounciation speaking test'. Then create your own sentences with the new words/phrases.

Blair English online classes