How to Answer ‘Why Are You Looking for a New Job?’

In the course of an interview for a new job, it is very likely that your potential new employers will want to know why you are leaving your current job. How you answer this question will tell them a lot about who you are as a person and an employee, so it is important to carefully answer. No matter what the circumstances for leaving – you wanted more money, you got fired, you hated your boss – there is a way to frame your answer that will leave you looking good. We’ve got some pro tips for how to tackle this tricky question.

 

Be Honest

Lying to a future employer is likely to backfire, so be upfront about your reasons for leaving. If you have been laid off, or are anticipating being laid off, tell them. Most companies will understand that workforce changes are just part of the business environment. Likewise, honestly answering that you are considering leaving your current firm because of changes in workplace culture or financial difficulties could let the interviewer know that you are ambitious and motivated to advance your career.

Bad – “The company is tanking so I quit before they had a chance to fire me”

Good – “I was let go because a merger with another company changed the business landscape, and as the newest employee, I was let go first. I am now hoping to implement the skills I learned there at your promising company.

 

But, Be Tactful

While honesty is important, so is tact. If the honest reason you are leaving your job is that you hate your boss, you want more money or a better commute, phrase your answer in a way that demonstrates your better qualities, rather than leaving you looking like a greedy opportunist. The interviewer is looking for ways you can add value to the team, so keep that in mind when you formulate your answer. When answering, Mollie Delp, HR specialist at Workshop Digital, suggests asking yourself, “Does this make me sound like a bad employee?” Address your motivation for changing jobs, but frame it in a way that shows how you can now bring your skills and value to the new company.

Bad – “I haven’t gotten a promotion or raise in 5 years, even though I’m really good at what I do.”

Good – “I really like what I do, but I wasn’t finding opportunities to grow my career at the other company. I am looking for a job that offers greater responsibilities and challenges.”

 

Stay Positive

No matter the circumstances for leaving your last job, keep your answers positive. Negative, accusatory answers come off as petty and make you look like a difficult person to work with. If a sour personal relationship with your boss was the problem, say that your values did not align with the leaderships’. If you are jumping ship from a failing company, focus on the lack of new opportunities for you, not the negative business climate. If the issue is you have reached a limit salary-wise, that’s usually also directly tied to promotions and responsibility. Nicole Rogers, CEO and Co-founder of Ama La Vida suggests focusing on limited growth opportunities being limited and your desire to take on new responsibilities

Bad – “I had a terrible boss who micromanaged everything I did and made work unbearable.”

Good – “Leadership at my current company has a very rigid structure that did not allow for much cross-training. Having done research on your company culture, it seems like a place where everyone is open to learning new things. I would love the opportunity to work at a place where I can make an impact on a wider part of the organization.”

 

Keep it Short

Avoid going into too much detail – it’s like walking into a field of landmines. Instead, keep your answer succinct by briefly answering the question and transitioning the conversation to why you want this job and what you can bring to the company. “Focusing on the pull factors, not push factors, makes you seem like a dedicated candidate,” shares Valerie Streif, a Senior Advisor with thementat.com. “It also will help prevent any inadvertent bad-mouthing of your old job, which is something you never want to do in an interview.” The best answers are ones that say nothing negative at all, and just genuinely reflect your interest in the job or company for which you are interviewing.

Bad – “My current job isn’t bad, but it’s not exciting and I want to try something new. Plus, I have a really long commute and the pay isn’t great.”

Good – “While I’m happy with my current role, when I heard about this this opportunity I thought it sounded interesting and seemed to be a good match for my skills. I’ve always been interested in the work of your company, and wanted to learn more.”

Before going into any interview, it’s best to be prepared to answer a question about your motivations for leaving a previous job, especially if you are leaving under negative circumstances. When asked “Why are you looking for a new opportunity?” remember to be honest, but not to a fault, and to use your answer as an opportunity to demonstrate why you will make a good and motivated employee.

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