Smart Ways to Explain Your Job Changes

By Ken Sundheim

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Employers will heavily scrutinize drivers behind job changes in hopes of determining an applicant’s potential longevity, their ability to succeed or both.  For many job seekers, this presents a problem as to how to phrase why they are moving jobs.  After all, they want to be honest.  Yet, at the same time, it’s important that they don’t make themselves look unreliable, incompetent or unproductive.  Below, we give some advice on how to describe the reasoning behind your job changes without being dishonest or painting yourself in a bad light.  

General Advice 

  • Employers will heavily scrutinize drivers behind job changes in hopes of determining an applicant’s potential longevity, their ability to succeed or both.
  • It’s important to mention your desire to remain at your next company for an extended period of time.
  • Try to have the reasoning behind leaving make you appear level-headed, competent and reasonable.
  • Keep the reasons business-oriented not personal.

General Strategy

There are two main strategies to describe job departures. In many instances, candidates will want to pick a combination of two reasons.

  • Recruited for specific talents by another company.
  • Describing an issue with the business, business strategy or industry.
  1. You were recruited by {NEW COMPANY} due to your ability to:

    Some potential answers could be:
  • Further, expand new business.
  • Determine the client's needs and utilize that information to close new deals.
  • Your ability to understand and exhibit a level of customer service necessary for the firm to succeed.
  • Improve the digital user experience.
  • Increase user engagement.
  • Organize and lead a division under one common goal.
  • Create individualized client experiences that led to revenue generation.
  1. If there were an issue with the business, business strategy or industry sector

    Here are a list of some of the more common business issues that cause employees to leave voluntarily, get laid off or fired
  • Cash flow problems
  • Business process issues
  • Change in management that had a different vision and direction that caused skepticism
  • Profit margin trouble
  • Logistic issues
  • Lack of momentum and innovation across our businesses


Why did you leave your last job (if you were laid off)?

  • The typical rule of thumb is to avoid the answer, “I was laid off” as it could allow the interviewer to draw unnecessary negative conclusions.
  • A better way to phrase that aspect is that the company could no longer afford its _____ division.
  • Also, it is recommended that tell a story that focuses on the business landscape and what led up to that point.
  • Describe what you did to make sure that you did as well as possible despite the circumstances.

Why did you leave your last job (if you are currently out of work)?

  • There is nothing wrong with being out of work, but a mistake that many people make is that they begin to discuss how someone in their family was sick. In most instances, it is recommended to not get too personal and keep the answer as positive as possible.
  • Ex: I took time off to raise 2 great children, but the plan was to always have you go back to work because you love what you do.
  • Ex: I was fortunate enough to have done very well in my past career and jobs so at the time the firm had to financially cut divisions, I didn’t have to jump at the first job. I was able to take some time off to step back and make sure that I chose a company in-line with my values and that offered a product or service that has staying power.


About the Author:
Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement, a sales and marketing recruiting firm specializing in staffing business development and marketing professionals around the U.S.  Ken has written for Forbes, Business Insider, AOL, Wall St. Journal and many others. 

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