How to answer: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

By Robert Half 23 July 2019

This question isn’t designed to trick you into making yourself look bad.

In fact, it's one of the more common interview questions used by hiring managers.

"Why are you leaving your current job?" is designed to allow an interviewer to uncover the reasons for why you are considering a new career path, whether you left on good terms, and whether your career motivations will suit the needs of the organisation.

What is a positive reason to leave a job?

There may be many good reasons for wanting to leave your current job. Rather than planning an overly-contrived response, try viewing the question as an opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic and desire to grow.

Here are some examples of strong answers that potential employers look for:

Wanting more responsibility and better career growth

If you weren’t being given the appropriate tools to grow and learn within your last role, it’s important to bring this to the attention of a new employer when giving your reasons for leaving a current job.

Wanting to develop is a sign of employee engagement and adds extra value to a company, making it an attractive quality rather than a liability. Remember to give examples of the kinds of skills you wanted to build on and tangible ways you’d like to go about doing it.

Relocation

Sometimes a good answer to why you’re leaving your current job is as simple as the desire or need to relocate.

If this is the case, explain why you’re making the move and what you feel a new opportunity will give you.

A career change

Wanting to change careers doesn’t make you fickle—it can serve as an indicator that you’re dedicated to finding interesting and meaningful work that engages you.

By explaining your career development plan and outlining your ultimate end goal, you’re demonstrating passion and commitment rather than coming across as indecisive.

Company reorganisation

Company restructuring can often lead to staff cut-backs or new team dynamics which can cause employee dissatisfaction. If this is your reason for changing jobs, it’s helpful to give some examples as to why the new structure didn’t work for you, what you did to try and improve things and what you’d have changed.

This shows your level of investment, your problem solving skills and how you were committed to working as a team in the face of a challenge.

Better work–life balance

On the face of it, this may feel like a negative answer. The misconception is that it makes you look lazy or unwilling to do your share, however, many employers know that offering staff a good work–life balance leads to better performance and increased workplace happiness.

Supporting an employee who wants to strike a good work–life balance is a way for organisations to manage risk and is often encouraged. When giving this answer, avoid blaming your previous employer and instead focus on the changes you’d like to see.

What does an inappropriate response look like?

It’s all too easy to stray into dangerous territory when answering a question like, "why are you leaving your current job".

Here are a few examples of what a poor answer looks like and how you can avoid them:

Complaining

This question is not a cue to launch into a barrage of complaints. Doing so will only demonstrate a tendency towards negativity which can have a harmful impact on company culture.

Always endeavour to emphasise the positives, such as what you learned and the opportunities you enjoyed.

Criticising a manager

Even if managerial conflict was your reason for leaving your last role, try to approach the subject in a more positive way.

Explain why the management style didn’t work for you and the steps you took to amend it before moving on. Speaking badly of a previous employer is more of a reflection of your character and may come across as being unprofessional.

Want to know if you did well in a job interview? Here are seven potential clues.

"Why do you want to leave your current job?"

Now that you have a firm understanding of what potential employers are looking for when they ask "why are you leaving your current job", take the time to formulate a productive, positive answer that can help you prepare for your upcoming job interview with confidence.

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