I was employed by the same company for 10+ years, was promoted and took on many duties. Over the course of the last few years, the company has been doing terribly financially, payroll bounced or we were asked not to cash it right away and many vendors stopped working with us because they were owed. There were also multiple lawsuits due to monies being owed. Last year, the health insurance carrier dropped my company due to nonpayment. I went 5 weeks with no insurance and the money was still being taken out of my check. The insurance would also often be cancelled and then reinstated prior to this for the same reason but somehow they would make the back payment. So this year when it was time to renew the insurance (8/1/16 because of when we were dropped before) we were told by HR that were keeping the same plan.

At the end of August, I found out that we never had insurance for the month, the carrier dropped us and would not work with the company any longer. HR never told anyone, was very evasive when confronted and the money was still being taken out of paychecks. After a lot of runaround, HR told us we would not have insurance until Oct 1st. She was very sorry, made every excuse, blamed the insurance company, etc.

After a lot of thinking, I decided to quit- I had no trust or confidence that things were going to improve, I was tired of wondering everyday if I and my family were covered by the health insurance or if my paycheck was good. It became a toxic environment because all the employees were demoralized, clients and vendors were unhappy with us and I had to do my job without adequate resources. It's a small company owned by a married couple and the wife handles HR duties as well as accounts payable, so there was no one else to go to. I gave two weeks notice, was as professional and polite as I could be and feel I left on good terms. My supervisor and previous coworkers are my references.

So how do I answer this in an interview? I know I am not supposed to speak negatively but I know I already look suspect because I am not employed. They are still in business, I have no idea how.

  • 1
    two words "Bad Fit". Dec 15, 2016 at 21:11
  • Possible duplicate of Why is it not a good idea to "badmouth" a previous employer?
    – gnat
    Dec 15, 2016 at 21:18
  • 2
    I was in the same situation in my last job search. I simply told prospective employers that my (then) current employer was having some financial struggles and I was searching for a company that was on a more solid footing. This wasn't seen as a negative by anyone, and it was a great lead-in for me to ask questions about the financial health of the companies interviewing me.
    – Kathy
    Dec 15, 2016 at 23:31
  • Explain it in an interview just like you explained it here. Simple. Done. Dec 16, 2016 at 9:44
  • 1
    Thank you, i didn't think it would be badmouthing either, if I kept it short, polite, and unemotional
    – Stella
    Dec 16, 2016 at 18:41

7 Answers 7


Responses such as "they kept missing paydays" and "they deducted my check for insurance premiums, but didn't pay the provider" are not negative statements, they're objective truth. You don't even have to convey how you feel about what's happened. Any reasonable person should understand that if you go to work and aren't getting paid for it, it's time to go.

  • 27
    "My last company regularly was unable to make payroll" is about as good a reason to leave as there is.
    – Chris G
    Dec 15, 2016 at 21:50
  • This is the correct answer. "The truth shall set you free".
    – Neo
    Dec 16, 2016 at 1:49
  • Yes, thank you, I feel the best option is to tell the truth, especially because I would still be there if it was a stable comapany
    – Stella
    Dec 16, 2016 at 18:42
  • True enough but if I liked my current employer, I'd want to give them every chance to recover. Claiming that my current employer is not doing well might be totally true but it is also a kick delivered to my current employer while they are on the way down. But that's my attitude and others may take a different tack. Dec 18, 2016 at 18:19
  • @Vietnhi I don't know what planet you live on, but I prefer having food in the fridge and the sheriffs not putting me out on the street cause I can't pay my rent.
    – Xavier J
    Dec 19, 2016 at 14:47

This question get's asked a lot in different forms.

Really the question from the interviewer is "Why did you leave the place you were at"

Though honestly this question is rarely asked unless you were there for a long time (5+ years) or a really short time (less than a year)

What the interviewer is really asking:

  • Did you leave voluntarily
  • Did you leave on good terms

And from that they can judge if you are a good worker, and what your values are as an individual.

So how do you answer this question?

You answer succinctly, and with basic details. There's no need to go into details, but do tell them the basics, because that way they know you're not hiding things.

I would put it like this:

"I left my previous job because the company was not financially stable, and this caused me a lot of stress as the company did not maintain my Insurance, and could not always pay wages. It was an amicable parting, they understand my need for stability as I have a family that depends on me"

That's more than enough details and is totally honest, without slandering anyone.


"I loved my job, I loved the company and my colleagues, but I also love being paid for my work".


Just tell them that the company you were with was declining, and you got out. There is nothing wrong with that. If they ask more, mention that they stopped paying your health insurance.

Don't just say that you didn't want to work there anymore, because that can sound like covering up that you got booted out. Specifics like the company is losing money and not paying their vendors are real facts that could be checked if needed to be.


Failing to make payroll is actually a violation of the law - this is one of the very few situations where you should NOT sugar-coat your answer. Simply say "I left when my paycheck bounced" and leave it at that. The fact is your former employer was lucky you didn't report them to the bureau of labor in your state. A new employer may appreciate that you choose to walk when asked to participate in something illegal, instead of calling in the authorities, so this answer is actually a plus.


You can be honest without being critical or negative.

My previous employer had a number of issues that convinced me I didn't want to work there any longer.

That should be enough information. If they press for details, you can reply that you don't feel comfortable saying any more.

  • This is unhelpfully vague, and leaves open the possibility that the situation is your fault. "My previous employer was regularly unable to make payroll" is factual and leaves no room for blaming you. Mar 6, 2017 at 11:10

You can probably say that your former employer is - shall we say, no longer in growth mode. If your interviewer tries to pry further, say that they are going through challenges, that you worked for them for more than ten years, that you wish them well and you'd like to leave discussion of your former employer at that.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .