People are going to be curious about why you’re leaving your job and hiring managers are no exception. If you’re currently employed and interviewing elsewhere, don’t get caught off-guard; go in prepared to answer the question head on. Just keep your response positive and future-focused, never mention pay or benefits (even if those are significant reasons), and don’t bash or blame your boss or coworkers.
Your body language and tone are just as important to your answer as your words. If you stutter or struggle with getting your words out, the hiring manager might think you’re not telling the truth or haven’t given your reasons much thought, neither of which will fare well for you as a candidate. While the question can be uncomfortable or challenging to answer, you’ll ace this stage of the interview by addressing it optimistically, confidently, and thoughtfully.
If you’ve just put in your two weeks’ notice or are looking to make your next career move, consider these 10 ways to answer that inevitable question… why?
1. New Challenges
It’s natural to outgrow a job you’ve held for a while, and hiring managers will be glad to hear you’re eager to tackle different projects and responsibilities. Just don’t give the impression that you get easily bored (using the word ’boring’ when talking about your past job probably isn’t a good idea). Explain that you sought out additional challenges and opportunities where you could in your past position but you’re ready for a new level of challenge. Strengthen your response by giving examples of the types of new challenges you expect to encounter in this new position.
2. Use my Education
If you’re about to graduate or just made your away across that stage, congratulations! Finishing a degree is a great reason to seek new employment. In fact, getting that dream job is why many people seek additional education in the first place. It’s fine to brag a little bit about all of the hard work you’ve done and how much you’ve grown. Revel in that, because it feels good and you deserve it. Describe for the hiring manager how your education helped you build your knowledge and skills and ultimately prepared you for this great next step in your career.
3. Great Match for my Strengths
If you’re a sales representative but the thought of pitching products and persuading customers keeps you up at night, then your job isn’t a good match for your skills. Hopefully you’re interviewing for a position in which the primary responsibilities play to your strengths, so tell the hiring manager how your skills make you the best candidate for the job. Notice you’re not putting the spotlight on any personal weaknesses and instead calling the hiring manager’s attention to your best assets.
4. Company’s Values are Consistent with Personal Values
If you’ve got a strong sense of personal values, it’s entirely possible that at some point you’ll end up working for a company that doesn’t share those values. For instance, you might take a job with a gas company only to find out the company’s impact on the environment makes you shudder. It can become really difficult to work for a company day after day when your core beliefs are challenged or undermined. When you’re applying to new companies, check out their mission and vision statements to get a sense of whether or not your values are shared. Sometimes their external missions and visions aren’t necessarily consistent with the company culture, but it is a great place to start. In your interviews, tell the hiring managers how the company’s core values measure up with your own.
If you’re moving, then answering this interview question will be a breeze. Mention you are relocating to the area, but also share other reasons why you want to work for their company. Maybe the position is a great fit for your skills, represents a chance for growth and new challenges, or the mission and vision is in line with yours - whatever best fits your situation. Hiring managers don’t care that their company is conveniently located near your future home, so make them feel special for other reasons, too.
6. Advance in Career Field
As you climb the ranks within a company, you may reach a point where you can’t move any higher. Maybe the person who occupies the next-level position openly admits they’re not going anywhere (if this is the case, don’t divulge those specifics in the interview), or maybe you’ve already worked your way to the top of the totem pole. Either way, it’s okay to tell hiring managers that their open position represents a chance to take the next step in your career. Just be to emphasize that you’re up for the challenge and focus on the skills and qualities you can bring to the position, not on the personal advantages the step up may represent for you.
7. Dream Company
Sometimes you have to take on different jobs to gain the right skills and experiences your dream company seeks. If you’re interviewing for your ideal company, by all means, tell them! It’ll stroke their egos and let them know you’re genuinely interested in that company over others. But as with any interview answer, just saying you’ve always wanted to work at that company isn’t enough. Give them one or two good reasons why you’ve always wanted to pursue a career there.
8. Current Employer’s Restructuring Period
Sometimes companies need to change their organizational structures or cut positions because of their present or future priorities, financial standing, or changes in upper-level management. Companies often experience a higher level of employee turnover at those times. Change is hard for people, or they may not be able to control what will happen to their jobs, and there’s a lot to be said for job security. Keep the details to a minimum when using this reason in an interview. State that your department was undergoing a change in structure, and follow up by focusing on why you’re interested in working for this new company.
9. More Creative Role
Maybe your job or boss hasn’t given you the creative freedom you need for ultimate work satisfaction, and for a lot of people that can get really frustrating. Or maybe your job, by its nature, just doesn’t allow for much creativity (like performing data entry or answering phone calls). If you’re telling the hiring manager that you’re eager for more creativity, just make sure the job description includes tasks that require some level of creativity. Describe how you expect to be able to flex your creative muscles in your next position.
10. Position is Ending
If you’ve been freelancing, finishing out a contract job, completing an internship, or nearing the end of your time in a temporary role, it’s inevitable that you’ll be back into the throes of a job search. This is an easy scenario to recount for hiring managers. Sometimes, if a company is struggling financially, you might find yourself getting the pink slip due to budget cuts. This also doesn’t have to reflect poorly on you as a candidate, but on uncontrollable external factors facing the company.
But let’s also talk worst-case scenario – maybe you’ve been fired for a reason such as poor performance. If you were fired, it’s best to be transparent about it, but don’t let it turn into a blaming session. For example, it’s possible you were fired because the position wasn’t a good fit for your skill set, and therefore you weren’t able to meet expectations. Tell the hiring manager how and why you know you’re prepared for this new position. If you learned any lessons from being fired, briefly share them to show the hiring manager you’re mature, reflective, and have made a plan to change. No matter what, tell the truth, because if you don’t, he or she may find out when calling your references.
Your answer to this sometimes-frightening interview question may vary depending on your past and present job circumstances and the position(s) in which you are applying. Regardless of your situation, you may have noticed two important themes here: the strongest answers never dwell on the negative and usually include specific reasons why you want to work for your next potential employer. Focus on what you can bring to the table, not what you expect to take away from it. Show hiring managers you can make thoughtful connections between your past and your future, and with any luck, you’ll be on to the next topic of discussion in no time.