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Ask L2: How to Explain Leaving a Role?

“This question is in response to the post that weighed the options of leaving versus staying in a role that is not a good fit (leaving after a few months versus staying for financial reasons).”

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.

How can someone explain why they have suddenly and mutually parted ways (less than a year and with an offered severance) after realizing all around that the role was NOT a good fit, without harming their job search? Their prior work history has been pretty consistent in terms of three to five years in each role. I'm also inquiring from an HR leader perspective.


Interviewing is scary enough without a job history that you think people are going to poke holes in. I’m sure the anxiety of wondering what they’re thinking compounds that immeasurably.

That said, I tend to look at this two ways. One of them is the way that I would handle it, which admittedly is not the way that most people would be comfortable handling it. The other way is maybe the more middle-of-the-road way that won’t necessarily remove all questions, but it is probably a more comfortable response.

Me? I would tell them. I would be upfront about it. I don’t want to work for someone who would penalize me unfairly for the reality of a situation that I was fully transparent about. I lean heavily on letting people self-select out, and if they take issue with an amicable parting after a short period of time, then it’s not the opportunity for me. The Universe has led me away from things like that with issues that I’ve now realized were little gifts, even if I wasn’t sure it was good at the time.

I understand that walking away from an opportunity may not be the right thing for someone who is on the job hunt, and I am certainly not suggesting that passing is the way to go for everyone. I think there is power in being transparent to an extent and letting them ask follow-up questions.

If they were to ask about your short tenure, you could just explain that the expectations of the role and the needs of the company changed, and you parted amicably because you couldn’t close the requirements gap. It would have required a new skill set that you were not hired for, and you have only great things to say about the experience.

If they ask for more, stick to your response. You were hired for X, but the needs of the company shifted to Y. With the current environment and limited staffing, it just wasn’t tenable even though you were invaluable in the role that you served previously. It’s not the place to bring up the gripes that you have with the company, and it’s noncommittal. And go with your gut. If they’re super hung up on that response and want to do a forensic investigation into that history, maybe it really isn’t the right fit.

From an HR perspective, that should be enough. If they’re kind and compassionate to both themselves and their former employer, you should be confident they have tact and situational understanding.



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