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I worked for a Christian charity that has changed its policy in 2020, now moving from charity to mission. While I strongly supported the charity causes of said institution I do not see myself as a promoter of a specific worldview, no matter how much I personally respect them. So I decided to quit by end of this year.

Now I have been there for less than two years (the shift was not planned yet when I started and I had planned to stay for far longer than this). So I need to explain somehow why I am looking for a new challenge already after so short time.

I wish to be honest but I do not know how to put it best. My current version reads like this (think of it as the final paragraph of my covering letter):

I am leaving my current position on my own accord. Our institution's focus has shifted in 2020 from charity and developement aid to promoting a specific religion. While I respect these values as an individual (as also many other religions') I do not see myself in the role of an active promoter of a specific worldview thus I decided to look for a new challenge in a more worldview-neutral environment.

I still have great respect for the institution and I am on good terms with my former boss who would even be willing to serve as a reference and has given me a great letter. So I do not want to be aggressive in any way against my former employer and not sound in any way frustrated about this shift (which I am not, it's just not "my thing").

How would you explain to somebody outside of a specific religion that you are leaving for such a reason?

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    Does this answer your question? Why is it not a good idea to "badmouth" a previous employer? – gnat Dec 21 '20 at 11:13
  • @SouravGhosh: I think your statement would make an excellent answer to the question. – JustLudo Dec 21 '20 at 11:46
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    @SouravGhosh Legally it probably still is a charity, and they might even still do what we think of as charity, while now also or primarily mission. I think the less black & white, more future-focused answers below are better ideas. – Luke Sawczak Dec 21 '20 at 12:47
  • @Accumulation, A spell check, and a grammar check. "covering" is spelled correctly. It's just not grammatically correct. On second thought, he should just get one of his friends to proofread his cover letter. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 22 '20 at 0:15
  • Have you already left or are you planning to wait until you have a new job lined up before you give notice? – user3067860 Dec 22 '20 at 16:10
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First of all, two years does not seem like a particularly short tenure in a job to me. Certainly not short enough that you should need to explain it.

Others have said that avoiding details is good and I agree with that. If someone asks why you are leaving you can say that the focus of your previous employer had changed and you were looking for something more in line with what you wanted to do. Ideally then move immediately to say why you think the prospective employer would be aligned with what you want to do.

I wouldn't preemptively bring up the subject of religious evangelism at all but if the interviewer asks then what you put in your question seems fine to me.

I wouldn't use "of my own accord" if I were you. That highlights the fact you chose to leave in a way that would make me wonder. I think rephrasing your opening as "I decided to leave because I prefer to work for an organisation that focuses purely on charitable work.", assuming that charity work is a driver for your interest, would be good. Otherwise, somewhat cynically, you claim your are more interested in whatever it is the prospective employer is known for. This makes it clear that you weren't fired and doesn't go in to unnecessary detail. Only if they follow up would I mention that your previous employer had changed to charitable work plus evangelism.

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    Of course, the "I prefer to work for an organisation that focuses purely on charitable work." only works if the new job also is at such an organization. – Paŭlo Ebermann Dec 22 '20 at 0:19
  • @PaŭloEbermann Very true, I assumed that was the case, perhaps incorrectly. I will edit. – Eric Nolan Dec 22 '20 at 11:31
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You should not explain your reasons for leaving in an application.

Employers do not expect it, and seeing a statement like that in an application will lead them to think you are unduly focussed on your previous employer.

You may or may not be asked your reasons for leaving your previous employer in an interview. In general it is best to keep your reasons vague at first: "My employer's mission and focus changed" or "I found the company culture didn't fit me any more" are good. You can be more specific if they press you. Avoid sounding bitter or angry, or implying your previous employer did anything bad. Be aware that for all you know the person interviewing you may be a supporter of your previous employer, and will want to be sure that you can work together without animosity.

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    In some jurisdictions (e.g. mine) recruiters and prospective employers often explicitly ask for such reasons right at the start. Which I can sort of understand; they want some indication of a candidate's loyalty etc. Whether it's legal to do so is another question... there hasn't been much backlash against the practice. Neither do I think it is necessarily useful since there's a lot of room for "creativity" a.k.a. spin. – fr13d Dec 22 '20 at 10:35
  • Agreed - I'd not put this into a written application, but it would be appropriate for this to come up in a personal interview, especially if the interviewer has any historic connection with the charity, people who work there, or the associated church. – Criggie Dec 22 '20 at 22:58
  • "no longer fit for company culture" could be perceived as "either your previous company, or you, have one heck of an attitude problem", though :) – rackandboneman Dec 23 '20 at 8:02
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I would try to keep it simple, you are looking for a new employer because of cultural differences, that's all. If you feel like it, add a phrase that those cultural differences were not there from the beginning. And if you are asked what that was all about during an interview, you can still provide context.

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I think you covered it pretty well, however, majority of the cases, you don't even need to provide this much detail. You can mention that the focus / course of the organization has changed and they are not targeted towards unbiased / selfless charity and aid anymore. No need to explain what it's going to turn into - that's not really relevant.

State that, as a professional, you're not comfortable with the new policies / strategies/ roadmap and therefore looking for a new opportunity - that should also do the job of conveying the reason just fine.

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  • Any comments for improvement? – Sourav Ghosh Dec 21 '20 at 11:03
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    I did not downvote, but “they are not targeted towards unbiased / selfless charity and aid anymore” would be an obnoxious thing to say, and likely an unfair assumption. – Jim Clay Dec 21 '20 at 15:45
  • @JimClay Thanks, but why do you think that's not a correct statement? That's the reason, is not it? – Sourav Ghosh Dec 21 '20 at 15:46
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    It could be the reason for OP, only they know exactly how they feel about it, but it would still be an obnoxious thing to say. Why? Two reasons: 1) saying that their charity will be biased assumes that they will change who they give their aid to based on religious criteria. I see no reason to assume that. 2) Saying that the charity will no longer be “selfless” seems to be quite an uncharitable take on the motivations of religious people. If you were to venture inside their heads, how would they see it? – Jim Clay Dec 21 '20 at 16:02
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    I never doubted your good intentions, Sourav. We’re good, as far as I’m concerned. Merry Christmas. – Jim Clay Dec 21 '20 at 16:59
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"I worked for Charity X for 19 months. I've decided to pursue other opportunities".

Employers (HR departments) aren't particularly bright, but they are easily triggered. Don't even hint at "difficulties". I have been an expert (retired now, don't put full time into maintaining expertise), and had to help HR depts at several companies (medium to large) evaluate resumes in my field. Their first step is to discard resumes for any excuse (misspellings, incorrect sentence structure, any perceived imperfection at all), without regard for the content of the resume. This reduces the Unmanageable Heap of Resumes to a Pile, which is easier for HR to handle.

Your new (potential) employer has no need to know about your previous employer's problems or internal state. Depending on where you are, and what industry you're in, it could be restricted.

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    "Employers (HR departments) aren't particularly bright, but they are easily triggered." seems like an offensive generalization. I get what you mean, but first of all it's rude to call all HR people "not particularly bright but easily triggered", and moreover it is dangerous assumption which can get you burned (and not just with HR, also with friends etc). I'd try to express what you mean in a non-offensive way. – hyde Dec 22 '20 at 9:16
  • @hyde I don't consider it offensive whatsoever. You only need capital to become an employer, whereas you need talents or abilities to become an employee. These systemic selection pressures explain why so many HR people and employers are unintelligent and selfish. – iono Dec 23 '20 at 15:23
  • @iono Then the text should add "some" or even "many", and the issue in the answer would be fixed. I know the selfish/stupid kind, but I also know several companies (including some with >1000 employees) which are better than that. – hyde Dec 23 '20 at 15:57
  • @hyde there is no such thing as a company which is not selfish & stupid; all companies must profit by paying employees less than what the employees produce in revenue, or they get outcompeted by other companies who do – iono Dec 23 '20 at 18:09
  • @iono Yet not all companies match general claim "Employers (HR departments) aren't particularly bright, but they are easily triggered." – hyde Dec 23 '20 at 21:42
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Your application does not need to mention the reason why you are leaving your old employer. Every sentence in your application matters, so you should rather use that one to give another reason why you should work at the new employer.

When the question comes up during the interview, evade it by saying something like

"Everything is allright at [current organization], but I think I would be an even better fit for [your organization] because of [your positive qualities] and [my qualifications]".

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So I need to explain somehow why I am looking for a new challenge already after so short time.

You don't NEED to explain anything, just hand in notice and move on. If you want to make a point that it's because they're promoting a religion, at least be honest with yourself first.

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    @JoeStrazzere the answer works either way in my opinion. – Kilisi Dec 21 '20 at 22:25

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