News And Advice

Insights, tips and news for job seekers and employers.

Understanding Why a Candidate Left Previous Jobs

There is no way around it – there’s often an awkward moment when you ask a candidate about reasons for leaving previous jobs. However, understanding why a candidate left their previous jobs can give you significant insight into their work ethic, ideal work environment and career goals. When you get a grasp on these details, you have a better picture of the kind of employee you’re considering hiring.

It’s important to remember that there is no stock phrase when it comes to explaining why a candidate left their previous jobs. And, don’t rule them out immediately if they were terminated or laid off. Get the facts about the situation before you make a decision. Here are a few other ways that the answer given for leaving a job can reveal key details about the candidate in front of you.

Moved or changed locations

You may find that a candidate left a prior position because they moved too far away, making continuing the commute unrealistic. This can reveal a lot about that the candidate.

Positive: The candidate isn’t scared to embrace change. He or she is adaptable and independent.

Negative: Will the candidate ever move back? Does the candidate consider this current town ‘home’?

Fired or terminated

Getting fired isn’t necessarily a blemish on a candidate’s professional character, but it does require an explanation. First and foremost, you want the candidate to be respectful of the past employer. Any negative, harsh or blaming comments are a major red flag.

Positive: Has the candidate learned something valuable from this experience?

Negative: The candidate may have qualities that will not mesh well with your company.

Looking for more responsibility

Often employees leave their jobs for a promotion at another company. When they no longer feel challenged, work can have less meaning, which leads to a decrease in motivation and morale. There are two details you need to be sure to uncover – was the candidate actively seeking another job or did the company approach him or her?

Positive: This candidate is someone who likes a challenge and thrives as a leader. He or she can make decisions with confidence.

Negative: Will this position offer the upward mobility this candidate craves? If not, how long will he or she stay at your company?

Lateral moves reflect personal preference

If the candidate left the previous position in a lateral direction, that could mean that the company culture wasn’t the right fit. You need to find out what qualities about those companies were unsatisfying. If the candidate felt a lateral move was the smart choice, it generally means the previous employer wasn’t the right fit.

Positive: This person is looking for a place that satisfies him or her, both professionally and personally, which could mean a long-term investment.

Negative: This candidate may be quick to bail on jobs that cause friction, instead of staying and working on conflict resolution and communication.

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