How to Answer “Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?”

This question doesn't need to make you feel awkward.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Interviewee answering why they're leaving their current job

We all know that interviews can be daunting and require some prep work, as well as mastering some interview techniques. Some interview questions are tricky, others don’t feel tricky, and actually might feel like pointless questions, but actually the interviewer is looking for a very specific type of answer and how you respond can have a big impact on how you are viewed. The question “why are you leaving your current job” comes into the latter category. Whilst this isn’t a difficult question, there are some essential dos and don’ts when it comes to answering.

So, without further ado, here’s why recruiters as this question and how to answer!

Why hiring managers ask this question

There are several reasons why employers ask this question. Aside from curiosity, this very simple question can give the interviewer lots of details about you as a person, your goals and how professional you are.

The ultimate aim of this question is to find out whether you are a good fit for the organization you’re interviewing for. Employers are looking for someone who fits with their company culture, who is positive and professional and whose goals align with the organization. How you answer this question speaks volumes about you as a person and your professional conduct.

Steps for crafting a response

There is a good chance you will be asked this question, so have your answer prepared before you go to interview. This will ensure that you have a response that covers everything in the right way. Do some research on the company you’re interviewing for, so you know what they are looking for in an employee and what they value, then use the following actionable points to craft your answer.

Step 1: Be positive about what your previous experience has given you

There could be many different reasons why you are leaving your current job, but it’s important that you come across as someone who is positive and motivated, so make sure you don’t focus on what you don’t like about your previous experience. Employers are looking for people who solve problems, are self motivated and who can be adaptable. Mention what you liked about your current role as well as explaining what you hope to achieve with the move. Even if you really don’t enjoy your current role and that is why you are leaving, you can find at least some positives to mention.

Step 2: Reframe any negative points if they are essential to mention

If you feel that the reason you are leaving is because of something negative and you feel it’s important to mention, reframe the negative to a positive. For example, if there wasn’t any opportunity for career development and you weren’t paid enough, you can reframe this by saying that you are ready to move onto a more challenging position where continued professional development is encouraged.

Step 3: Look at what you are hoping to gain from the new position

Rather than focusing on what you’re leaving behind, look forward and give an answer that shows that you are looking to step up, and mention what you hope to learn or contribute to the new position. You can focus on elements such as how the new role offers development opportunities, a new area of interest that you want to focus on, or that you are looking for a company that is aligned with your values.

Step 4: Make sure you don’t say anything negative about your previous company

In line with the point above about reframing, be extremely careful not to say anything negative about your current employer. This is a big one. You will create a red flag if you start bad-mouthing your current employer and come across as unprofessional. Employers want to hire people who are positive, professional and flexible. They will be on the lookout for someone who will fit with their team and will be weary about something who is openly complaining about a previous employer.

Step 5: Try not to make the answer about something outside work

You may be leaving your current job because the commute is too long, or it isn’t close enough to your children’s nursery, or something personal along those lines, but it’s best not to mention these types of things. An employer wants to know that you have picked them for a good reason, which aligns you with their company. While these things might be important to you, they’re not necessarily important to your potential new employer. So, keep it work-related.

Step 6: Keep it brief

A single answer to this question is sufficient, even if there are numerous reasons why you left your last job. Keep it brief and to the point, focusing on what you hope to gain, whilst highlighting what you’ve learned from your previous employment that you can bring with you.

Example answers

There are multiple reasons why you might be moving on in your career to a new position. Let’s take some popular reasons and reframe them in a way that gives an answer that your potential new employer will appreciate:

Example 1: You aren’t being paid enough or there is no opportunity to step up

“I have really enjoyed my time at [company name] and gained a lot of valuable experience over the past three years, including managing a team of three and developing my digital marketing skillset. However, I am looking to progress in my career into a position that allows me more responsibility to contribute my leadership skills and to put into practice the marketing skills that I have learned across the board, in all areas of marketing.” 

Example 2: You don’t get on with your boss or someone in your team

“My time at [company name] has been invaluable in developing my skillset and giving me the opportunity to work in all aspects of marketing. However, working in a collaborative environment in a workplace culture that is forward thinking and values contribution is essential to me, and I think that my values and principles align perfectly with those of this company.”

Example 3: You just really don’t like what you’re doing currently

“I have gained management skills, been given the opportunity to advance my marketing skills through courses, and have had the pleasure of working with some excellent mentors. However, my interests lie in digital marketing and my current employer is focused on more traditional means. I am passionate about working for an innovative company that utilizes market trends and digital technology.”

Final thoughts

Whilst the question “why are you leaving your current job” seems simple enough, don’t underestimate the importance of the question and what it tells an employer about you. Finding out about your skills, qualifications, experience and accomplishments are of course extremely important in an interview, but understanding how you might fit in with a company and a specific team is high on an interviewer’s list of priorities too.

Take some time to think about your answer prior to the interview, because it is highly likely that you will be asked this question, or a variation of it. Plan your response to make sure you come across as professional, motivated, collaborative and positive.

Have you ever been asked this question? How did you answer? Let us know in the comments below!


This is an updated version of an article originally published on 3 July 2018.