Discussing the reasons for leaving your job is never easy, especially if you are walking out of the door for less-than-positive reasons. For example, due to a toxic work environment, workplace conflict, meager pay, or upper management issues.
While honesty is the best policy for job interviews, don’t rush to spill all the beans when getting pressed with an interview question about why you are leaving your current job. Why? Because your answer will giveaway what satisfaction, engagement, and growth at work look like to you. And the interviewer will use this information to decide if you are a good fit for the role and the company as a whole, based on the above.
How to Answer “Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job” Interview Question Strategically
This is a pretty standard interview question recruiters ask to get a sense of your career goals, job motivators, and personal attributes. Of course, it’s also a stress test to assess your levels of professionalism and candidness when it comes to talking about a former employer. We all know outright criticizing and bad-mouthing is a big no-no.
To come up with an honest and compelling answer, try using this framework:
- Formulate your reason for leaving the current job
- Back it up with a sentiment of why you think this position is a better fit
- Explain what makes you believe the above and why you could be successful
Now let’s further drill down each of the above steps.
1. Describe the Reasons for Leaving a Job
Discussing the reasons for leaving a job can be a slippery slope since you don’t want to be:
- Suspiciously vague (i.e. All was wonderful, but I still quit)
- Or blatantly negative (i.e. My job was so boring that I’m literally ready to move on anywhere else)
Your goal is to be maximally honest, and yet tactful. What this means is framing your actual reason for leaving in an emotionally neutral, professional manner.
For example, you can open your answer with an “I’m looking for a new job because….”
- I have reached a ceiling with my current employer and there’s no potential for further vertical growth (aka I want a promotion)
- I’d like to work in another industry/sub-niche to further expand my skillset and address new challenges (aka feeling bored and rusty)
- The current job doesn’t provide further learning and professional growth opportunities (aka my job is just meh)
- I’m eager to take on more responsibilities and apply the newly acquired skills I couldn’t effectively use at my current job (aka not the most progressive work environment)
- Since accepting the positive, I have grown both personally and professionally and now feel underemployed (aka I want more money).
Surely, there are many other reasons why you are so eager for a new line on your LinkedIn profile summary and resume such as relocation, career change, unfavorable managerial/operational changes with your current employer, better work/life balance, change in life priorities. It’s okay to bring those up too!
2. Explain Why This Position Is a Better Fit For You
Now that you’ve laid down your cards and explained the rationale behind your intention, don’t leave the HR manager speculating any further.
Instead, fill in the gaps for them and continue your answer with a short explanation of why this job caught your attention and how it fits with your career trajectory.
For example, your why are you leaving your current job answer could go like this:
“After spending 5 years at one of the highest-rated Manhattan Corporate Law firms, I feel that I’d like to transition to a less high-paced and more community-oriented work. That’s why the Legal Counsel role at your NGO caught my attention. I know you do a lot of work in support of more fair housing policies. Given my experience with the real estate companies, I know exactly which legal loopholes such businesses tend to exploit.”
3. Show How You Could Become More Productive in the New Role
At the end of the day, most hiring managers worry about ensuring high employee engagement rates and low turnover (especially in competitive job niches such as IT, marketing, legal, etc).
Your reasons for leaving the current job can foreshadow your decision to quit the role they are proposing later on. So to make a compelling case, address those reservations with a quick note on why you think this job could make you more content and what job satisfaction factors you see as important for yourself.
Here’s a sample answer:
“I joined Acme Corps as a customer support representative and then was promoted to Customer Success manager in two years. However, I feel that there isn’t any further room for growth since they are a local company. The opportunity to join MENA Inc made me excited because you have a global presence and serve much more diverse markets. Given my fluency in Chinese, I feel very thrilled about joining your SEA desk and working with stakeholders in that region”.
In the current market, people stay employed with the same company for 3.9-4.3 years on average. And that figure holds true for both Millennials (despite the job-hopping myth), Gen Y, and Boomers. Every HR understands that the best candidates will drift from one employer to another for both personal and professional reasons. So don’t try to gloss over those cold facts too much. Instead, focus on explaining why the proposed position attracts you and what would make you successful in it.
Practicing for a job interview? Read more posts, featuring questions and answers to common interview questions:
- Why Are You Interested In This Position? How To Answer This Interview Question
- “Tell Me About Yourself”: How To Nail The Answer To This Job Interview Question
- Do You Want To Tell Us Anything Else About Yourself? How To Answer This Interview Question
- What Makes You Unique? How To Answer This Tricky Interview Question
- Tell Me About A Time You Failed: How To Answer This Interview Question
- What Motivates You? How To Answer This Interview Question
- Why Should We Hire You? How To Answer This Tricky Interview Question
- What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses? A 4-Step Approach To Answering This Interview Question
- Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years? 5 Ways To Answer This Question
- Why Do You Want To Work Here? Best Answers To This Interview Question