How to tell a recruiter why you left your last position

It’s almost impossible to make it through a job interview without being asked why you left your last position.

Just don’t stop in your tracks when it happens to you — here’s how to handle the situation the right way, instead of visibly clamming up.

Don’t go in cold — do some trial runs

Alison Doyle, a career expert, author, CEO and founder of, writes in The Balance about how you should “practice” before telling a recruiter why you quit a position.

“Practice your responses so you come across as positive and clear. Practicing (especially in front of a mirror) will help you feel more comfortable answering this difficult question. This is particularly true if you were laid off or fired. In a situation like that, give a short, clear, and unemotional response,” she writes.

Once you make it to the interview, this can only work in your favor.

What to say if you were let go

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog, writes what to say when this is the case in a piece for The Cut. After explaining why you shouldn’t lie about it, and how you shouldn’t “overexplain” what happened, she includes a few sample responses. This one demonstrates how to show what you learned from the situation:

“Actually, I was let go. The workload was very high and I didn’t speak up soon enough and ended up making mistakes because of the volume. It taught me a lesson about communicating early when the workload is that high, and to make sure I’m on the same page as my manager about how to prioritize.”

What to say if you left because of your manager

Keep things general, not specific — doing the latter will likely come back to bite you.

Lily Zhang, Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab, writes in The Muse about what to say when your terrible manager was the reason why you quit.

Here’s her sample answer for a recruiter:

“I realized the leadership of my team was going in a different direction, and I’m interested in working in a more collaborative environment. It was a hard decision to make because I love the mission of the company, but I ultimately think this is the right choice.”

Each of these tips should come in handy when you leave one job for another — just as long as you left your previous position on good terms, of course.