My current coworkers at a small privately owned company have no problems saying racist, homophobic, and misogynist things. They have no problem vaping at MY desk without asking first. There's not a right wing conspiracy that they don't believe. I was hired for a report writing / data analysis position but no one outside my boss and one sales manager is really interested in my work. The COO openly diminishes data driven approaches and took six months to respond to an email from me. All of these traits go directly to the owner.

After the George Floyd related protests in June and the open racism took off, I reached out to my recruiters and they asked why I was looking for a new job. I tried to go vague by saying "It's not a good culture fit" or "It's a negative working environment" and other things along those lines. Each time, they pressed for details. I didn't know what else to say, so I went with the truth, and that was awkward for everyone.

Because of the pandemic, there's not been a lot of job opportunities come up, but next month there's two spots opening up that I should have a decent shot at.

Assuming I make it to the interview stage, and they ask me why I'm looking for a new opportunity, especially since I've only been in my current job for a little over a year, how do I politely summarize the first paragraph so I can effectively answer the question, but not make things weird?

  • 1
    May I ask what does "vaping" mean in They have no problem vaping at MY desk without asking first.
    – iBug
    Dec 23, 2020 at 3:49
  • @iBug Using electronic cigarettes. They're smoking at OP's desk.
    – BSMP
    Dec 23, 2020 at 6:33
  • Is it possible that the recruiters want to know if the company is horrible to work at, so that they know not to work for them, and maybe they might try to recruit other unhappy people away?
    – swbarnes2
    Dec 27, 2020 at 19:14

3 Answers 3


It was not a cultural fit for me.

Its just that simple. Getting into the minutia will not help your cause in getting another gig, so simply don't.

Having said that, if you feel pressed into giving reasons, I would stick to these two:

  1. Vaping was allowed in the office. ( if your a non smoker point that out too )
  2. The company did not fully support data driven approaches.

All of those reasons you mention in the question at one company may come across as dramatic, and as a general rule you should never bad mouth your current or former employers.

  • 2
    I understand sharing the minutia is bad, but every single recruiter, both ones I've known for a decade and ones that were cold calling me, pressed for details. As far as the second bullet point, you don't think that won't prompt follow up questions that get equally awkward?
    – Nick
    Dec 22, 2020 at 16:22
  • It might @Nick, but the other options will prompt more. I have been able to interview for a long time without giving up a ton of details about previous employers or the current one.
    – Neo
    Dec 22, 2020 at 16:28
  • Given the multitude of issues you have these 2 seem the safest. Getting into the political waters is dangerous even if you feel you were 100% in the right. Focus on 1) which is a health and safety issue and 2) which directly impacts on your work.
    – deep64blue
    Dec 22, 2020 at 17:58
  • 1
    @Nick, As to bullet point #2, it's on you to prepare more canned answers in case they dig deeper. Just make sure that whatever you say about #2, that you don't sound like a prima donna. Make up some examples if you have to. Also note, that you don't even have to bring up #2, you could use some other excuse. Dec 23, 2020 at 1:54
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    I would worry that "I wasn't a good cultural fit" would be seen as a euphemism for "My coworkers got sick of how much of an a-hole I was". Dec 25, 2020 at 2:52

Don't give a reason to your current employer for leaving. If they fire you, they have no obligation to give you a reason either.

For a new employer, never give your reason for coming to them as wanting to escape your current employer. The reasons you should give your new employer for coming should be positive reasons, not negative reasons.


Use this as an opportunity to sell yourself to the company. Emphasise how much you want to work in company industry and how you love working on whatever it it you're applying for.

Saying "it wasn't a cultural fit" is mysterious, and also doesn't sell you. Don't ever spend a breath in an interview that isn't about selling you. Come out eager that you want to work at company, and that when you saw a chance to apply for them you leapt at it.

Then mention all the great work you're doing at current place, and how it has let you really grow your skills in whatever you're applying for. That you're reporting directly to whoever and also helping sell how important your work is to COO and really making great changes.

  • I like this approach a lot.
    – Nick
    Dec 22, 2020 at 17:02
  • 4
    I believe the advice for "it wasn't a culture fit" is meant as a strategy to deal with probing questions you can't avoid but don't want to answer in detail. This is certainly good advice for any part of the interview that you control.
    – employee-X
    Dec 23, 2020 at 12:08

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