“Why are you leaving your current job?” is one of the most common interview questions out there. Your answer can provide valuable information to the interviewer, which is why it’s asked so often.
This guide will teach you why this question is asked, and teach you how to answer it.
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The Reason Interviewers Ask “Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?”
Everyone has their reasons for leaving their current job and seeking new opportunities. Many people assume that the reasoning for their departure is irrelevant to potential employers. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Why are you leaving your current job?” is a question that comes up in almost every job interview. It’s a common query that can take many forms. No matter how the question is worded, the goal is the same. The hiring manager asking this question wants to learn more about your career goals, how you work, and whether or not you’re leaving your current company on good terms.
It seems like a simple enough question, but interviewers can gain a lot of information from your answer. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about tricking you into bad-mouthing your current employer or making yourself look bad. Your answer to this question highlights vital facts about your career trajectory and what you’re thinking.
When you explain what drove you to leave your existing job, you’re giving insight into what a satisfying and engaging job look like to you. It’s telling the hiring manager what makes you happy in your work and what factors might lead you to lose excitement or interest in your position.
That’s some important information the interviewer needs to know. They know what the position you’re applying for is like and what you’ll be doing every day. If there are similarities between your current job and this open position, it might show them that you won’t last long or be satisfied with their job for very long.
On the opposite side, it could cement their decision that you’re the right candidate. If your needs align with what the job offers, it can provide some peace of mind that you can fit in and stay engaged.
It’s also an important question that clarifies your career goals. Hiring managers want to hire people who have goals that align with their organization. They want to hire applicants who have the necessary skills and who can grow and advance with the company instead of merely using it as a stepping stone.
Once again, how you answer is crucial. It sheds some light on what you want out of this open position and how it fits into your bigger career aspirations.
“Why do you want to leave your current job?” is more important than people realize, so preparing an answer before you get to your interview is a must!
Common Reasons To Give
Before you have your first interview, take some time to give this question the thought it deserves. Think about what drove you to consider a new job, and if it helps, jot down all the reasons. Organizing your thoughts can help you develop an answer that puts you in the right light.
Career growth is natural, and your needs will evolve with your skills and experience. Here are some common reasons you might consider leaving your current job.
- You’re changing career paths: It’s not uncommon for people to realize they want something different out of their professional life. Whether you’re going back to school, changing industries, or pivoting your focus to another type of work, these are all good reasons to leave your current job.
- You want a better opportunity: Sometimes, other jobs provide better opportunities for growth and advancement. There’s nothing wrong with chasing those positions. If another company has more to offer, there’s no shame in going after open positions.
- The current job no longer challenges you: Unless you’re at the pinnacle of your career, you need challenges to grow professionally. In many cases, jobs run their course. You might feel that you have nothing more to give or gain, and it’s time to leave.
- You want to take on more responsibilities: Maybe you’re ready to take on more responsibilities and can’t do that at your current job. For example, you may want to take on more projects or try managerial roles.
- You’re looking to relocate: If you’re looking for a job in another state (or even just a different city nearby), that’s more than enough reason to leave your job. It’s always good to have a manageable commute.
- You desire a better work-life balance: Some jobs are more demanding than others. If you struggle to balance your personal and professional jobs, there’s no shame in seeking a less stressful position.
- You’re not happy with company changes: Corporate restructuring happens all the time. When significant changes occur, so can team dynamics, day-to-day operations, and more. Those changes could impact your job satisfaction, forcing you to look elsewhere for something that fits your needs.
- You’re ready for a higher-level position: You may want to leave your job because you’re ready for a promotion that’s not available. Maybe this new position is your opportunity to advance your career.
- You want to work at a company that aligns better with your goals: Your career goals can evolve as you gain more skills and experience. While your current job might have fit the bill at one time, things can change. It’s always good to seek a new job that fits your desired career trajectory.
- You were laid off due to restructuring: Unfortunately, leaving your current job isn’t voluntary. If you’re laid off, you have no choice but to seek employment elsewhere.
- You were fired: If you were fired from your last job, explaining that reasoning can be tough. It’s better to be honest and upfront rather than disguise the truth.
- You’re not happy with the salary: Of course, salary issues could be to blame for your departure. This is a delicate issue to bring up. While you can mention it, it’s important to avoid dwelling on compensation (more on that later).
How to Answer This Question
When you’re asked “Why do you want to leave your current job?” don’t let this question catch you off guard! It can be a daunting interview question to answer, but planning for it can help you use it to your advantage. Your answer is an opportunity to impress the hiring manager, show off your enthusiasm, and highlight why you’re a good fit.
Here are some tips on how to talk about why you’re looking to leave your current position.
1. Keep it Brief
Our first tip is to keep your answer short and sweet. A couple of sentences is ideal. The hiring manager might ask you to expand on some things, but the initial response should be relatively concise.
It’s easy to go off on a tangent (this often happens when this question is asked as a phone interview question). Your reasoning behind leaving your current job is complex and multi-faceted. Like most people looking to change their employment situation, you likely have plenty of thoughts that you could divulge.
However, it would be best to resist the urge to run down the list of reasons. You might have a laundry list of things you don’t like about your current job. If you prepared early, you might even have all your reasons written down!
Don’t go into the details. Name one reason and move on!
Keep in mind that this question can say a lot about how you work, your career goals, and what you expect from the available job. It can work in your favor or paint you in a bad light.
To avoid potentially ruining your chances, keep your answer short and only expand on things if the interviewer asks for it. Otherwise, you might come off as long-winded, unappreciative, or even annoying.
2. Stay Positive
Here’s a tip that many interviewees have a hard time taking to heart. No matter how much you want to, avoid bad-mouthing your current employer. Keep things upbeat and resist the urge to trash talk!
Again, that can be hard if you have multiple issues with your current job. Talking bad about your employer is not the goal of this question. Doing so could end up hurting you in many ways.
Word travels fast. Your industry is relatively small in your area, and your venting about how much you hate your current job could make it back to your employer. Even worse, it’ll be something the hiring manager you’re speaking to will remember.
If you’re willing to talk bad about your employer now, what will you say in the future? What kinds of bad-mouthing will you do if you leave this job and go somewhere else?
You don’t want to burn bridges or ruin your chances of getting a job before you can even discuss your qualifications.
Positivity is always the best policy. Hiring managers want people who will bring light into the workplace and contribute to the bottom line.
When answering “Why are you leaving your current job?” do your best to find a positive spin. Even if you were fired, you could highlight how you’ve grown as a person and what you’ve done to prevent yourself from making similar mistakes. There’s always a way to shift the perspective and keep things light.
Focus on your skills and what you learned. Leave the vitriol behind and try your best not to complain about the company or the job you did. Don’t forget that you’re in a professional environment.
3. Don’t Avoid the Question
Our final tip is to be upfront and answer the question truthfully. You might feel tempted to skirt the question or provide a frilly answer you think the hiring manager wants to hear. But if you do that, you might end up hurting your chances of progressing through the hiring process.
Like we said before, everyone has their reasons for wanting to leave their current position. No matter what they are, they’re likely valid and reasonable. There’s nothing wrong with wanting better opportunities.
Be clear about why you want to leave. Give the question plenty of thought before you go into the interview. Write down a list of reasons and focus on the most important.
Again, you don’t need to have this drawn-out answer, and it’s unnecessary to go into great detail about every little indiscretion. Keep it simple, brief, and to the point.
You want to be truthful and upfront while still keeping it positive. Avoid the bad-mouthing and focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negative.
Combining these tips might seem tough, but if you practice early, you can have a sincere, well-thought-out answer without being negative.
Why You Shouldn’t Linger on Salary
So, what if your main reason for leaving your current job is a salary dispute? That’s not uncommon. In fact, it’s often the deciding factor for many job-seekers looking for better opportunities.
The thought of mentioning salary issues will undoubtedly come up as you’re thinking of a good answer. When explaining why you want to leave your current job, you can briefly mention that salary is a problem at your current job. However, you shouldn’t dwell on it or even lead with it. If you’re strategic, you may not even need to mention it at all.
Salary is one controversial topic that is best left unspoken until you have a concrete job offer. Questions about your desired salary will come up later. Now is not the time to talk about it.
Bringing up your current salary can be detrimental to your negotiations. First, talking about your salary this early can make it seem like that’s the only thing you care about. Suddenly, every other answer you provide will feel like it revolves around compensation.
That’s not exactly the best way to approach a job interview.
Secondly, it puts you at a disadvantage. Right off the bat, the interviewer knows what you felt about your salary and how much of an impact it has on your overall job satisfaction. You no longer have the upper hand because the hiring manager knows your pay threshold.
It’s best to leave salary issues to much later in the hiring process.
This isn’t the hiring manager’s first rodeo! They understand that salary is a significant factor in career decisions. The interviewer will put two and two together if you talk about your strengths and career goals instead of dwelling on salary. Put yourself on a pedestal, and your interest in getting better pay than your current job will be obvious.
There are many ways to answer “Why are you leaving your current job?” Of course, your exact reasoning and current job situation will shape how you respond. But here are a few examples to give you some inspiration.
In this first sample response, the answer is to the point. However, it stays positive and highlights what you can bring to the table.
“I’ve enjoyed my current role and have spent the last three years expanding my skill set. At this point in my career, I’m ready to take on more responsibility and move toward managing larger projects. I’ve seen the types of projects you do here at [COMPANY], and the prospect of contributing to them is exciting.
My current company doesn’t have the capacity to handle projects of this magnitude nor the room to let me take the helm. I believe my skill set is a perfect fit for [COMPANY], and I’m eager to continue developing my career here.”
This does many things. It shows that you’re focused on building skills and furthering your career. Plus, it indicates that you’ve done your research about the company. That’s always a plus!
In this next sample response, the main reasoning for leaving is to take advantage of a better opportunity.
“My current position has helped me hone my skills, and I’ve enjoyed my time learning there. However, I’m ready for the next step. Despite my growth there, my current company doesn’t offer the resources to help me reach my full potential.
Through my research, I can see that this position is a better fit for many career goals, and I’m hoping to show you what I can do as a part of the [COMPANY] team.”
Once again, this answer is simple. It indicates your need for more career growth opportunities without bad-mouthing your current job.
Now that you understand the reasons interviewers ask “Why are you leaving your current job?” and know how to answer it, this question shouldn’t be intimidating!
In fact, your answer is yet another opportunity for you to set yourself apart from other candidates. Prepare and run through your answer ahead of time, and you’ll shine during the interview.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.