Ask Gayle: I left my job because I didn't like my coworkers. What do I tell future employers?

Hi Gayle, I have a question. Basically I was moved to a group that was really bad in terms of people, nature of work and my career began to stagnate. I had a vacation planned and wanted to take up a new job immediately after that. So I quit, immediately left for a vacation and back and right away applying for new positions. Before I quit, I was one of the very few people in the company who got a bonus and a letter of appreciation from the CEO.

When looking for a new job, I am confused what to tell my prospective employees. Is it fine to tell them that I quit as I did not like my new group? I am not sure if this would reflect negatively on my personality. Or is it better I tell them that I was planning a career change, so quit and took a vacation and looking for a new job now?

Could you please advise me on the best approach to take?

Thanks, Gary

Depending on how you word it, it can unfortunately reflect negatively on your personality.  Teams want to work with more positive, upbeat people - not someone who complains all the time.  Additionally, if you're complaining about your last job, a new team will fear that you'll complain about their company too.  And no one wants to take that risk.

It's better to spin it in a more positive way: what were you looking for that your old company couldn't offer (and that conveniently this new company can offer)?  I don't know the specifics of your team and why you didn't like it, but consider an answer more like this:

  • Interviewer: Why did you leave your last job?
  • Gary: I really wanted to take on a role that's more focused on the client and on feature design.  I really enjoyed at the opportunities I got to interact with clients at my last job, and I even got a bonus and a letter of appreciation from the CEO for this.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a role that would match my new focus, so I wanted to move to a faster paced firm that could offer me more of these opportunities.

A response like this shows a positive attitude while simultaneously mentioning what you're interested, and what your relevant experience is.