Explaining Why You Left a Toxic Job in an Interview

How do you answer?

Some jobs are just bad. Maybe things didn’t start out that way, but one day you realize you work in a toxic environment. It could be because of nepotism, shady business dealings, gossip in the office, or co-workers spying on you. Instead of staying in such an unpleasant situation, you decide it’s time to move on.

But now you have to explain why you left in an interview. You want to be positive, but you don’t want to outright lie; how do you strike a balance? We’re here to help.

Tell the (Curated) Truth

You don’t have to lie to explain why you left your toxic job, but you don’t need to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth either. Interviewers only want to know why the job you left wasn’t a good fit to make sure you don’t run into the same problems when you work with them.

Try to keep thing professional. For example, if the CEO was only letting friends and family get promotions, opt for something like “I was ready and willing to take on a managerial position with more responsibilities, but the company went in another direction. I respect that decision, but I am now ready for a position like [the position you’re interviewing for] and am excited for this next step.”

Let Your Talent Shine

The interview is about you and how you’re an amazing fit for this new job. As such, stay away from talking to much about how awful your last job was. Keep your answers about why you left your toxic job quick and simple to keep the focus on you and your achievements. Dwelling too long on why your last job was toxic might make your employer think you’ll trash talk them in the future.

Prove You Learned

Instead of placing all the blame on your company (even if they totally deserve it), focus on what it was that truly made you leave. Turn your departure into a learning experience.

For example, if the future of the company was uncertain, resulting in office gossip, don’t say “I left because other people wouldn’t stop talking about me.”

Instead, say something like “the company didn’t have a clear direction for the future, and that resulted in discontent among employees. I didn’t really know where the company was going, but instead of sitting around and hoping for things to change I made an action plan for how the company could improve. I showed this plan to my manager, but nothing changed. I wish them all the best, but for me, I think it’s time for a change.”

Remember, this interview is about you and your accomplishments. You should only mention your old, toxic job if your interviewer asks about it. Keep things short, bring the focus back to you, and show that you’re a better employee for the experience.

Have you ever left a toxic job? Let us know how it went in the comments section below!


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