Yes, you can ask applicants why they are leaving their current job. The employment application is a good place to collect this information. In the section where the applicant lists their previous employment experience, you can ask for the reason they left each job. Trends you notice may be cause for follow-up questions during the interview or a reason not to schedule an interview at all.
If you ask about previous or current employment during the interview, be mindful of the direction the response goes. As with any interview question, you should redirect the candidate if they start to share sensitive information. For example, if a candidate says they left past employment due to medical reasons, don’t ask for details about their condition. Instead, you could ask whether they provided notice of their need to resign and whether they left on good terms.
Answer from Kyle, PHR:
Kyle is a professional author, editor, and researcher specializing in workplace culture, retention strategies, and employee engagement. He has previously worked with book publishers, educational institutions, magazines, news and opinion websites, nationally-known business leaders, and non-profit organizations. He has a BA in English, an MA in philosophy, and a PHR certification.