INTERVIEWS / JUN. 09, 2014
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How to Answer, "Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Position?"

You finally landed an interview for your dream job, and, as excited as you are, you know there are going to be some tough questions. One of them is bound to be, “Why do you want to leave your current position?”

It may seem like there is no good answer to that question. Just about any response is likely to have a hidden downside. But you can avoid those traps with a little forethought.

The first rule is: Never, ever bash a company, boss, co-worker, etc. That’s an extremely risky move. For one thing, everyone is so connected these days that it’s highly likely your interviewer has some link to your current job. For another, the interviewer will almost certainly conclude that you’ll speak ill of him some day. That’s not likely to get you hired.

So what should you say? Here are some good answers to “Why do you want to leave your current position?” A good answer will have one or more of these qualities:

  • It’s positive or neutral.
  • It references the skills or experiences needed for the job you want.
  • It complements the company where you’re interviewing.
  • It explains why you don’t think you’ll have the same issue at the new company.
  • It’s honest without being too honest. Your interviewer will be able to tell if you’re trying to avoid the question, but your goal is to present yourself in the best light possible. Finding that balance is one of the most important reasons to plan your answer in advance.

How about some specifics? Here are some good answers to, “Why do you want to leave your current position?”:

  • “I actually wasn’t planning on leaving. But when I saw the posting for this job, I just had to pursue it. It seems to be a perfect match for both my career goals and my skill set.”
  • “The economic downturn caused the company to dial back plans for expansion, which, consequently, limited opportunities for promotion. I want to work in a growth sector with exciting goals to reach for.”
  • “I feel like I’ve learned everything I can in my current position, and the people above me have been with the company for years and are unlikely to leave for anything other than retirement. While such long tenure says great things about the company, I realized that, if I want to grow professionally, I’m going to have explore other options.”
  • “My current employer has provided me with some great opportunities, and I’ve learned a lot. But they’re not quite ready to adopt XYZ technology, and I think the possibilities are so exciting, I’m looking for a company that is using it now.”
  • “My employer is downsizing, and I’ve been notified that my position is being phased out.”
  • “My employer moved to a new location, and my commute is now 90 minutes each way. I’m looking for something closer to home so I can have more time to actively contribute at work.”

There is no perfect way to answer, “Why do you want to leave your current position?” But you gain nothing by being negative. On the other hand, you can make a great impression by being positive and tying your reasons for leaving into characteristics that make you a perfect fit for the new job.

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