So you’ve gone ahead and decided to leave your current job. Maybe you’re exhausted with your current company and need to get out, or maybe you just want to take the next step towards career advancement. Whatever the reason, it’s not uncommon for the interviewer at your potential new job to question why you’re leaving your current company.
As a general rule, you’ll want to focus your interview response on the reasons you’re interested in this new position, rather than mentioning anything negative about the company you’re leaving.
Why Do They Ask This Question?
So why are you leaving your current job? This question is kind of a setup, and the interviewer knows it. it’s not exactly a trick question, but they know very well that there’s a good chance you’re leaving a job you don’t particularly like. Knowing that, one of the reasons they ask this question is to see if you’re the kind of person who is going to badmouth or criticize their current employer.
It’s not really about loyalty, it’s more along the lines that if you’re the kind of person who will criticize their current company or manager behind their back, how can you be trusted not to turn around and do the same thing with this new company? There’s a sort of professional courtesy that is expected in interviews, and the primary reason they ask this in the first place is as a quick character test, one that can pretty quickly disqualify you from getting the job.
Beyond testing your professionalism, the interviewer can gather some valuable information from this question. Primarily, this question is going to give the interviewer insight into what you value, or at least what you say you value. It’s unlikely you’ll walk into an interview and say “I’m leaving my current company because I don’t get paid enough”, even if this is absolutely the reason you’re leaving your job (and if you’re thinking about saying this… don’t).
Unless you’re going out of your way to hide your motivations, you’ll likely give some insight into your professional goals and career aspirations. Getting a glimpse into your goals and professional priorities is extremely helpful for the hiring manager to understand if your goals align with the company’s goals. It’s for that reason that the interview question “what are your career goals” is a common follow-up to this interview question.
How To Approach This Interview Response
Now that we have an idea of what they’re hoping to get out of this interview question, we can start tailoring our interview response accordingly. Firstly, we’re going to resist the urge to make your response all about how much you hate your current job.
There are certainly ways to soften the criticism of your current company. Examples of this might look like:
“I’m just not a good fit for my current company culture.”
“I just didn’t see any room for advancement in my current area.”
Honestly, though, my best advice would be to avoid your current job altogether.
That old phrase “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” applies well here. If you absolutely despise your company, keep it to yourself. If your current manager steals all of your glory and buries you in busy work, keep it to yourself. If it’s a toxic work environment that drains your energy the second you walk in the door, keep it to yourself. I think you get the point here, regardless of how legitimate your issues are with your current work environment, now is not the time to air those grievances.
Use this interview response as an opportunity to really answer the question “How will joining this new company in this new role, allow you to grow and provide even more value than you could where you currently are”.
The interviewer needs to know that we’re running towards a new job opportunity, and not away from a job we’d rather not have. This may seem counterintuitive when the question asks why you’re leaving your current company, but as we mentioned before, the big red flag the interviewer is looking out for is you badmouthing, criticizing, or even complaining about your current company. Use this opportunity to show them how excited and passionate you are about moving into a role where you can provide value, and skip the petty complaints.
Let’s say you’re a software developer applying to a cutting-edge tech company like Myspace. Remember this guy?
An example answer to the question “why do you want to leave your current job?” could be:
“Honestly? I enjoy my current job. The people I work with are great and the job has really given me the opportunity to expand my development skills. At this point in my journey though I feel that I could be adding even more value if I were given the right responsibilities and opportunities.
At Myspace, I think you’re looking for somebody who will not only excel in scripting but will be able to modernize your code base and improve the overall software development lifecycle, and I know that those are things that I would be able to accomplish. so in order for me to grow professionally, and to be able to add more value to a company, I felt that applying to this senior developer role at Myspace would be the best next step for me.”
Ignoring the fact that we’d be applying to Myspace (what’s that?) we can see in this example that we were able to answer “why are you leaving your current job”, without even really getting into what that current job is. Focus on the future, and use this opportunity to highlight what you’re moving towards professionally, and how you think this role that you’re applying to meet’s those qualifications.
At its surface, the interview question “why are you leaving your current job” is a simple one, but secretly it’s a question that has disqualified several competent interviewers simply because they didn’t follow the four key rules to answering this question effectively:
- Avoid criticizing your current company (even if you hate it).
- Focus on moving toward something positive, rather than away from negative.
- Share your excitement, optimism, and passion about this new job position, company, and industry.
- Focus on the value that you can bring to this new job role.
This question isn’t always asked, but if it is, now you’ll be able to dodge that disqualification landmine, sidestepping any criticism of your current company, and using this opportunity to highlight why you applied to this new role in the first place.