I took a job directly out of school 18 months ago with an employer I'd done an internship with and because we had mutual "good feelings" about each other. When I was offered the position, the salary was much higher than I'd expected, and I decided to leave a job behind that I'd been at for almost 10 years for this new position.

At the time I was hired, my boss and HR informed me I'd have 12 months to sit for a certification exam for this job in order to keep my position. This test is only offered twice a year, and the test was to be offered a month after my start date, and again in 10 months from my start date. Because I was new to the field, my new boss encouraged me to wait until 10 months to take the exam and even had that approved through HR. We'll call new job "Job A", old job "Job B" and the upcoming job I'm about to describe "job C".

Flash forward 6 months into Job A---things are going swimmingly, I'm about to buy a house (was pre approved, found one I liked, etc etc) when my boss and her boss have a meeting with me telling me HR made a mistake at my time of hiring and I actually only had 6 months to sit for this exam. They apologize profusely and then tell me the bad news-I get a 20% pay cut until I'm certified.

I schedule my exam and start studying, and also call the mortgage company to see how this affects my upcoming home loan. They call my employer flakey, ask for something in writing from HR about my salary returning to the previous amount, and HR says no. I lose the mortgage (no, not planning on telling future employers the house drama, but it seems as though a few people are confused as to why I wouldn't trust HR through this whole ordeal and somehow I'm at fault for deciding to leave this job).

So I start applying for new jobs. I have several interviews and people keep asking me why I'm leaving Job A, as I sound like I really enjoy it (in hindsight, I was probably over-doing the enthusiasm as I didn't want to sound as bitter as I truly felt towards Job A). At first I gave potential future employers the abbreviated truth-my salary was cut due to an issue with certification, but when I didn't get called back by those folks, I just started telling interviewers that I was ready to move on from Job A.

And I get a job-Job C-and it's been 7 months and it's not challenging, nor do I have a great team, nor is it interesting in the slightest (tbh, I settled, and have learned my lesson, but the disaster of HR at Job A really had me burned out by the time I left). I'm ready to throw a few hats in the ring but don't want to look like I'm a job-hopper (I was at Job B for 10 years prior to this) and would like to have a way of explaining this whole mess in a way that won't be a turn-off to employers. I also don't want to throw Job A under the bus. So what do I say?

(And yes, I have learned so much throughout this process about getting things in writing and not jumping into something else just for the sake of leaving and not being tempted by larger salaries and anything else sinister that could potentially be extrapolated from this whole mess)

  • Were you on track to complete that certification?
    – alroc
    Nov 22, 2014 at 17:28
  • Yes. I took the exam and obtained the certification as soon as I was able.
    – valerie
    Nov 22, 2014 at 17:32

4 Answers 4


Yes, be honest - but be careful not to come across as too whiny.

State that you liked the look of the job, but developing conditions there have caused you to re-evaluate the position and move on. If asked what happened, just say that the job became different to what was originally promised (true, but no details), and just that you could see it wasn't going to work out.

A short stint at one place after holding 10-years somewhere will not make you look like a job-hopper.

Whatever you do - do not mention the pay cut or the HR shenanigans, and just take it as a learning experience, which is: Any part of your hiring agreement must be in writing - that 12 months to certify should have been in writing and signed as part of your joining paperwork.


You should be honest, yes, but I'm not sure you should give 100% of the details in this case. Let's recap:

  1. Your employer hired you and gave you a salary that is earned by people with a certain certification which you didn't have.

  2. You took 10 months to receive that certification

  3. This was your 'dream' job.

Those three alone start to sound questionable. You knew you were being overpaid for your skill set(lack of a certification) but you took 10 months to get around to getting certified. You state that the tests happen twice a year, so you should have been able to get certified sooner. If this really is your 'dream' job, then I(as a prospective employer) would expect you to at least do the bare minimum to ensure you meet the requirements of the role. The employer stuck their neck out by paying you more than you're worth and you repaid that kindness by sitting on your hands for the better part of a year.

The bit about your personal finance woes with a house is irrelevant, and smells of poor decision making skills - you knew you were overpaid, you knew a pay cut was coming, and yet you bought a house before getting your certification. You should leave that out entirely.

Also, about getting the pay cut at 6 months rather than 1 year, I'd say you need to chalk that up to 'get it in writing' experience. Verbal agreements don't mean anything. Who verbally agreed with you? Did they have the authority to make the agreement? Did they write it down? (There's a lot that can go wrong...) Next time, get it in writing. Make sure it's signed, and make sure that both you and your employer have a copy.

People who land in their dream job usually bend over backwards to keep it, and you didn't even do the bare minimum. I'm sorry to be so blunt about it, but it just doesn't look good with the information you've provided so far.

There may be better ways to say it, but something like "I had a disagreement with the terms of my employment that lead to a pay cut about 6 months in. Trying to resolve the issue didn't lead to an acceptable solution on my side, so I left. I guess next time I'll make sure to get it in writing. Lesson learned."

  • The certification exam is given in a very short window twice a year. The first window was 1 month after I started the job and it's recommended a person study for 3 months prior to taking said test. Because I was told by the person who hired me that HR had made an exception for me to take the exam at the next window, which yes, was 10 months after being hired, I assumed it to be true. Yes, should've gotten that in writing. I am not looking for validation for leaving that job, I am simply asking how far into detail I should go about the situation. And yes, I most certainly learned my lesson.
    – valerie
    Nov 22, 2014 at 20:15
  • 2
    @nadtorious That sounds precisely the way you should talk about it. Having a 1 month window to take the exam and needing 3 months to prepare justifies waiting so long to take it.
    – Shaz
    Nov 22, 2014 at 20:19
  • See the addendum I just added as well. I appreciate your bluntness and I like your suggestion of how to talk about it without going into nitty gritty details. And just in defense of my actions, I'd been saving up for a house for years. My mortgage company saw the actions of my employer as un-trustworthy; it wasn't an issue of income that caused the loan to fall through. Next time I'll be more specific so I don't look like such a schmuck :)
    – valerie
    Nov 22, 2014 at 20:36

IMO, you should not be too honest. You never know what damage it could have on your career to be honest to say that you didn't like the way your manager managed you, or you were bored of doing the same tasks over and over again for instance. You can say you are quitting for personal reasons and without going into details when questioned too much.

As a general rule, you should have a pre-formatted speech and say that you loved working at that company, you enjoyed the challenges you faced with your work etc... If you lack ideas, you can just refer to these emails people send to everyone when they resign. They are all exactly the same. The corporate world is very much hypocrite. Even if you hate hypocrisy as much as I do, you should use the emails I mention as a template when questioned about you quitting.


The simple answer is, you have to be 100% honest with all employers. So tell all that was going on and if the future employer has a problem with your honesty, then you don't want to work there anyway.

Sounds like you just had a bad manager at the last position.

  • 7
    Being honest is hugely different from voluntarily divulging messy facts. Nov 22, 2014 at 20:14
  • 3
    And while you're at it, tell the interviewer what you really think of that tie.
    – user8365
    Nov 23, 2014 at 22:57

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