How to Explain a Resignation in a Job Interview

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During interviews, you may be asked, "Why are you resigning from your current position?" or "Why did you resign from your job?" Respond to this question carefully—if your answer is full of complaints and veers in a negative direction, interviewers may find it off-putting. 

Here's what you need to know about answering questions about resigning during interviews. 

What Interviewers Really Want to Know

Potential employers will want to know about your reasons for moving on, to help them decide if you’ll be a good addition to their company. Your response will help give interviewers a sense of your character and what motivates you. Interviewers may also be trying to determine if you left for a good reason or are perhaps a bit impulsive. 

When answering this question, you should strive to remain as positive as you can, focusing on why this new job is the right fit for you. 

There are lots of good reasons to resign from your job. Some of them are easier to explain than others, and some should be phrased very carefully to avoid placing blame on your previous employer or colleagues. Hopefully, when you tendered your resignation, you were able to leave on a positive note, on good terms with your former company.

Remember to be honest with your response, but don’t mention any negative feelings you may have left with. Your explanation may well make it back to your previous supervisor, during a reference check or other routine contact, and your story should match what they will share.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it’s crucial to try to remain positive. 

Keep your explanation brief, and turn the conversation to the qualities you have that will make you an ideal employee in the new position. Don’t go into detail about your terrible boss, or the horrible work conditions. You should answer the question honestly, emphasizing what you did like about working there, while explaining the unavoidable circumstances that led to your departure.

For example, maybe the job was ideal for right after college, but now you are ready for more responsibilities. Or perhaps the schedule didn’t fit your situation anymore, but this job’s schedule is ideal.

Along with being positive about your previous experience, you should keep the focus on the new job you’re interviewing for. Once you say why you left your previous job, you can give examples of the reasons why you think this new job would be a better fit.

Take the time during your interview preparation to come up with a few examples of how you have successfully used the key skills for the new position during your previous employment.

It will help you keep your answer positive while allowing you to segue into why you are an ideal candidate for the open position.

Examples of the Best Answers

Below are some sample answers to the question, “Why did you resign from your last job?” Use them to help come up with your answer to this challenging question.

Example Answer #1

I took this job right out of college, and the position helped me develop a number of skills necessary for this industry. However, there was little opportunity for growth, and I felt it was time to move on to a job with more responsibility. This job will allow me to use the skills I developed at my last job while taking on challenges that I know I am ready for.

Why It Works: This answer is positive and shows that the candidate is ready for the role at hand. 

Example Answer #2

I resigned because the schedule was no longer manageable. The position required me to be on-call evenings and weekends, and it was difficult to arrange childcare on short notice. This job will allow me to continue to use my nursing skills in a more ideal schedule. 

Why It Works: This response is honest and quickly pivots to explaining why the role at hand is preferable. 

Example Answer #3

I resigned because the position was part-time; while I loved the responsibilities I had there, I am ready for a position where I can perform similar duties full-time.

Why It Works: With this response, the candidate shares a non-emotional, practical reason for resigning. 

Example Answer #4

My skills weren't a good match for my previous employer's needs; however, it looks like they'd be a terrific fit for this position.

Why It Works: This answer puts the focus on the job the candidate is interviewing for. 

Example Answer #5

I resigned due to family circumstances; however, I have regained the flexibility I need to work effectively in a full-time job.

Why It Works: This response is honest, without going into too many personal details. The candidate makes it clear they're ready to work in a full-time role again. 

 Tips for Giving the Best Answer 

  • Have an Answer Ready: You'll want to have a response in mind here, and one that makes it seem like you direct your career, and haven't resigned for impulsive reasons. 
  • Stay Positive: Leaving a job is a bit like a break-up. If the role and company were perfect, you'd probably still be there. But even though you may have negative feelings about the company and why you departed, keep them to yourself. Aim to be positive in your response. For instance, instead of saying, "I felt bored doing the same thing over and over" you might phrase your response as, "I'm eager to find opportunities to grow and learn new skills." 
  • Be Brief: Ideally, you want to be talking about the role at hand. So keep your response about why you're leaving short and pivot to how you're ready to work in the role you're interviewing for.  

What Not to Say 

  • Complaints: A list of complaints about a manager, working conditions, or hours will make an interviewer wonder if you'll have a similar attitude if you were hired for this role.  
  • Dishonest Answers: While of course you want to paint yourself in a good light, lying is a bad idea, even if being honest may reveal something less-than-ideal about you. That's because lies are often uncovered during reference checks. So be careful about how you word things and avoid fibbing. If you left because you were fired or laid off, just say it plainly, give a brief explanation, and try to move on quickly to other questions. 
  • Don't Focus on Finance Too Much: Often people leave roles because they can make more money elsewhere. Still, it's best not to emphasize this in your response, since it can make you seem like money is your primary motivator—this makes an interviewer wonder if you'll leave the job quickly to seek higher pay. 

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  • Did you look for new roles at your current company before deciding to resign? 
  • Why do you want to work here? 
  • What do you know about this company? 

Key Takeaways

HAVE AN ANSWER IN MIND. It's a good idea to be prepared to answer questions about why you resigned, so you can share a brief response. 

KEEP IT POSITIVE. Talk about the advantages you'll get with a new role, rather than the negative aspects of your previous one. 

BE HONEST. Don't linger on the negative aspects of your departure but do not lie, since fibs will likely be discovered during reference checks.