Reasons for leaving on job applications

When filling out a job application, the column marked "reasons for leaving" can cause a lot of stress. People leave jobs for all kinds of reasons, and prospective employers understand that. While there are certain words that can reduce your chances of getting hired, you'll do fine as long as you reframe potentially negative words into a positive context and relax--reasons for leaving are just one part of a long job application.

Words to Avoid

While you should not lie on a job application, there are certain words you want to avoid. These include fired, laid off, quit, personal reasons or illness, notes the Idaho Department of Labor. While these could be your real reason for leaving a job, they're also words that can turn an employer off. If these words describe the reasons you left, creative wordplay can help you.

Trying to Improve

If you quit your job, try to qualify it with something that explains the behaviour. Maybe you quit to go to school or to move. If you were laid off due to lack of work, downsizing or a seasonal job, include this information to give context. You can also try writing "job ended," suggests Quint Careers. If you had valid personal reasons or an illness, think about what you want to disclose. If you had to take care of an ailing parent, for example, write that because it's honest and doesn't reflect badly on you. If you have a serious depression, skip it--your potential employer could think it might happen again.

Why do They Ask?

Employers ask why you left a previous job to gauge your merits as an employee and examine the decisions you have made about your career. If you have made employment moves to further your education or your career, explain these things. Don't leave blanks on a job application, and don't write that you'll explain later or in person unless you are prepared to do so.


As long as you are honest and try to put a positive spin on your reasons for leaving, you'll do fine. Don't lie, because this could come back to haunt you later. If there's an employer from your past you're worried about, consider calling them to see what they say when contacted by prospective employers. Explain that words like "fired" harm your chances of finding new work and see if they're amenable to using words like "resigned," suggests the Idaho Department of Labor.

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