Good Vs Bad Reasons for leaving a job

Good Vs Bad Reasons for leaving a job

One of the first and most important questions asked in an interview is to establish why you are leaving your job. So why are you moving on? What do you say? And what are good and bad reasons for leaving a job in the first place?

All of us over a period have had or will have other jobs with other companies. Sometimes, if we are lucky enough, those career moves will be on our own terms and sometimes they unfortunately won’t. But have you ever considered that the reason why you left one job three companies back could return to bite you in the backside in future?

This will make a little more sense when you consider how a reason for leaving can be interpreted. A recruiter or a hiring manager dependent on their experience, skillset and any prejudgements that they have (right or wrong) could construe your reasons for leaving differently. For example, here are several interpretations of reasons for leaving that I have experienced others having fed back on about candidates:

“I got headhunted”.

GOOD: They must be very good to have been headhunted. Impressive.

BAD: Sounds like a money grabber. If I took them on they might jump ship as soon as someone offers them more money.

“I didn’t get on with my boss”.

GOOD: They must have had bad management there. We’re much better here and will treat them well.

BAD: They sound like they could be a trouble maker. The boss will just be doing their job.

“I want a new challenge”.

GOOD: I like the ambition. They sound like they have a Can-Do attitude.

BAD: Haven’t I heard that same reason for leaving from the last 50 applicants? Have a day off.

I tend to find that how recruiters and hiring managers interpret reasons for leaving comes more down to pre-judgement than evidence. That in itself can be dangerous as the applicant’s reasons for leaving can be genuine and honest, but because of an unfavoured individual using that terminology before in a similar circumstance, it can be misunderstood.

Therefore, usually a good recruiter or hiring manager will explore a bit deeper to gauge a more accurate assessment. In doing this they will ask why you left your last three or more jobs. It can be an easy mistake not to think about this prior to an interview and instead get caught up considering how you should communicate why you are leaving your current job only.

I explored good interview technique in a previous post which covers how you should handle this in more detail:

Regarding this post though it’s about exploring Good Vs Bad reasons for leaving a job and therefore it’s less about what you should and should not say, but more about your own career and whether you are doing the right thing leaving in the first place.

Ask yourself how many people aged 50 or above that you know? Then ask how many of them regret one of their career moves? I have friends and relatives in this age bracket and it is very rare that they don’t have at least one or two career moves that they regret in hindsight. When it comes down to it, often they simply hadn’t thought it through. We’re only human. We make mistakes. But when you consider that you’ll spend most of your waking life in work do you really want to have a job you regret?

A bad reason for leaving isn’t just about saying the wrong thing in interview. Your reason for leaving a particular job may be absolutely correct and completely justified, but your haste in doing so could lead you to an even poorer change. It is not unusual for people to leave a job by walking out in a huff. In my career in and out of recruitment I’ve experienced people be so severely treated in companies that you could understand them landing a fist on the boss’s nose. I’m not saying I agree with that tactic, but you could at least comprehend how a person could be pushed to that extreme under the right circumstances. Yet walking out of a job or, in a moment of misaligned satisfaction, landing your fist firmly on the boss’s snout is likely to cause you problems down the road. Companies do not like career gaps. The only viable excuse is due to redundancy, but if you fibbed about being made redundant and it came out, you could be fired for lying on your application anyway.

The sensible thing to do is to manage your emotion and think logically. I know this is easier said than done, but do you really want to inadvertently cause yourself future career problems by behaving recklessly?

Why is it then that you are looking to leave? And don’t get caught up in that trap of giving what you think is the answer a hiring manager wants to hear. Throughout my career there is a buzzword that’s the popular “reason for leaving” at that particular time. Currently it is “I want a new challenge”. I hear that from probably 1 in 5 candidates and when you get down to it, that’s not even remotely related to why they are looking to leave their job. It’s that their mate who apparently knows about recruitment told them that’s what we like to hear.

This post is written from the viewpoint of permanent recruitment rather than people looking for contract or temporary jobs. In permanent recruitment clients are thinking longer term when it comes to hiring someone. And if you are a permanent recruiter you tend to want to keep your clients. We are therefore only interested in candidates that we believe will stay working for our clients for the long term as if candidates don’t last the client will lose faith in our ability and utilise our competition instead. We formulate this opinion based on evidence from our initial telephone or face to face interview with you. If you are therefore dishonest or try telling us what you think we’ll want to hear, any self-respecting and useful recruiter will pick up on it.

When you get down to it if you actually want to leave your job you will, when you think about it, have a straight forward reason for wanting to leave. If it has something in common with what you want and don’t want from your next career move you are on to a winner. With this information we can therefore find you a job that you’ll actually be happy in, won’t regret and could be in for many years. Therefore, our clients happy, you’re happy and we’re happy.

But how can you be sure your reason for leaving is a good reason? Or that an interviewer will see it as a good reason for leaving?

A good reason for leaving typically has something to do with the career move you want being able to negate the reason you left or are leaving your current or last role. For example, if you are on a permanent night shift job role and have recently got married and you and your partner want to see each other in the daytime you will likely want a days-based job for your next career move. A good reason for leaving is therefore pretty simple and if you examine a good career you’ll see people leaving one job to go to another job that negates the reason why they left each previous role. That sums up what makes a good reason for leaving.

But what about if the interviewer doesn’t see it that way? Sometimes, you will be interviewed by somebody that doesn’t know how to interview properly. For that I cannot offer any advice, other than this observatory point: Would you really want to work for a company that has poor judgement in the person who interviews their talent in the first place? That could be the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, they might have an ulterior motive for not wanting to hire you. There could be a favoured candidate and your interview process could be for no other reason than to make up numbers.

Also consider that companies these days like to present a positive public image much more so than they focused on in years gone by. There’s competition for talent, so portraying a public relations image that will attract that talent is increasingly important. The only drawback is that if that public image is nothing more than pure fiction, that talent won’t stay long. So, some crafty companies, and some of these can be household names, will spin a false PR image in the short-sighted strategy of attracting talent. In many circumstances the hiring managers will not only know and even be shamed by the truth but recognise that certain people that they interview would identify the PR stunt soon after joining and leave just as quickly. Therefore, they could be inadvertently doing you a favour by rejecting you.

The point I’m making in the last couple of paragraphs is that sometimes not getting a job by being honest about your reasons for leaving can be a blessing in disguise. Companies and recruiters won’t want to hire and place permanent staff that are unlikely to stay in their jobs.

I wrote a post about Why motivations are more important than skills:

It discusses and examines that good recruiters tend to have very low churn rates. A churn rate is the ratio of people that the recruiter places in roles that stay rather than those that leave quickly. This in itself is found in matching motivations of candidates to what companies can actually offer. We are a very cautious company in terms of the clients we tend to work with because we like to operate at a certain standard rather than just trying to make a quick buck and therefore good candidates tend to stay for the long term with our clients. This is based down to simply understanding reasons for leaving and what the candidate really wants and understanding our clients and what they can really offer.

As a closing point you need to be logical and sensible when it comes to career moves. You’ll probably move a few times in your career so ensure that they are the right moves for you. Be honest with yourself about why you are leaving to understand what you will want and will not want from a new career move. Do not concern yourself with trying to say what you think a recruiter or hiring manager wants to hear when giving your reasons for leaving as you’ll inadvertently send the wrong messages. It may sound illogical, but just because the job sounds wonderful from a far if it’s not inline with your motivations you’ll only find yourself looking again a few months down the line. Be bluntly honest with yourself about your reasons for leaving and what you actually want and you’ll be much more likely to find it.

KEY WORDS: Reasons for leaving, career advice, careers moves, job hunting, new job, careers, recruitment

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DISCLAIMER: The thoughts and opinions displayed in this post are purely personal and do not reflect the company or claim to be factual apart from any links to external evidence, which to the best of our knowledge, can be considered factual. The purpose of this post is purely for entertainment and advice with the best intentions of the reader in mind. We accept no responsibility for any incorrect interpretations or mistakes in the articles accuracy.

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