‘Why do you want to leave your current job?’ How to answer this interview question?

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Whether or not you’re currently employed, recruiters will want to know why you are looking for a new role. When preparing your answer, it’s important to have a clear and concise explanation for your need for change. People often worry that giving their reason for leaving a job is like giving a reason not to hire them. However, giving a solid motive for your move will strengthen the chances of landing that new role.

Top reasons why employees leave their jobs

Whether it was a voluntary or involuntary decision, you can guarantee that recruiters and hiring managers will have heard your reason for leaving before. With this in mind, your answer shouldn’t shirk away from the truth but still present you in a good light. Strong answers typically fall into these four areas.

Career Progression

If your current position doesn’t offer you the opportunity to grow, you might be looking for a role with more responsibility. However, even if you aren’t moving into a higher position, it’s equally valid to switch to a company that has better prospects for you to grow professionally. 

Citing career progression is a great way to show your commitment to developing your career and that you will be an active and engaged employee. Career-orientated moves often benefit from a higher salary, which should be worked into your answer but will need to be balanced with personal motivation. 

Change in work environment

Some workplaces have a toxic or unpleasant atmosphere or the workload demands too much of your time to strike a good work-life balance. This is a common reason why employees leave but can come across as negative if not positioned correctly. 

The most important thing is to not bad mouth your former employer. Instead, concentrate on the positive things that you would like to see in your new role. For example, there is no problem with saying that you are looking for a better work-life balance. Employers understand that supporting a healthy balance creates better performance and increases job satisfaction.

Changing career

As careers progress and experiences shape us, objectives can change. It is not uncommon for people to change careers multiple times in their lifetimes. In fact, more and more people are choosing to change career paths over time and it is now a much more recognised reason for leaving a job. Bringing a fresh perspective and a different background can really stand you out from the crowd, if positioned well.

If you are looking to switch career paths, be prepared to explain the change. Tell your story and show why this is the logical next step in your career. Link your past experiences with the requirements of the role and demonstrate how your skills will make you an even stronger candidate for the position. If you have had to retrain or complete any new qualifications, include this as proof of your passion.

Involuntary – made redundant or fired

If you were made redundant, remember that your employer got rid of your role – not you. These are business decisions and company reorganisations happen all the time so it wasn’t personal. Keep this in mind when you answer and show your positive mindset. A problem-solving attitude will go far in the interviewer’s eyes.

If you were fired, you will need to be honest. It won’t come across well if your potential employer only discovers this when reaching out to your previous boss for a reference. Avoid talking down to your former employer. Instead, try to focus on what you have learned from the experience and why the role wasn’t a good fit for you. Show examples of how you are attempting to improve the areas that lead to you being fired. 

Why do employers want to know why you left your current job?

Interviewers will want to know whether or not you left your previous position voluntarily and on good terms with your employer. They will want to ensure that you can commit to a role, that you have a positive attitude to work and that you had a valid reason for leaving that job (in their eyes at least).

Experienced recruiters will also use this question to assess what job satisfaction looks like to you and whether the company can deliver that. If your reason for changing jobs is to take on new challenges and the prospective role has a similar set of responsibilities, the recruiter may be concerned that you will quickly get bored. Generally, they will want to know that the role matches your career aspirations and that it will be a good cultural fit.

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How to answer: ‘Why did you leave your last job?’

As with all interview questions, it’s best to keep your answer authentic and honest, but frame it in a way that puts you in a good light. The main thing to remember is to be generally positive about your former or current employer, even if you need to put aside your true feelings to do so. The best reasons for leaving a job are ones that mainly focus on how your skills, experience and interests are better suited to the new role.

Even if the break-up wasn’t amicable – so to speak – make sure that any negative reasons for leaving are framed in a positive light. Try switching the focus from what you didn’t like about your previous role to what you like about your potential new position. Turn ‘I find my job repetitive and monotonous’ into ‘I thrive in a busy environment and want to move into a project-based working style’.

Reasons for leaving a job: best answers with examples

Your answer to this question will of course depend on your specific circumstances. However, to demonstrate, here are some examples covering the top reasons for leaving a job:

Career Progression

“I’ve learned so many valuable lessons from my current role and developed the key skills needed to excel as a marketing coordinator. I would now like to gain experience in a new team with fresh, exciting challenges that will present more opportunities to grow.”

This answer gives a clear indication of the applicant’s expectations and reminds the interviewer that they have solid experience in the role. They also show that they have a keen interest in professional development and motivation to be an active member of the team.

Change in work environment

“In my current role, I work mainly on solo projects. However, I feel that I am better suited to working as part of a close-knit team. With your company’s strong focus on collaborative working, I believe I would excel in this team-based environment.”

This answer works because the applicant is demonstrating why they would be a good cultural fit for the team. They share the company’s working values and will be a keen team player. They have also clearly done their homework and researched the company before applying.

Changing Career Path

“Whilst in my previous role, I became the key sales team contact for the marketing department. I really enjoyed this element of my role, helping to increase the collaboration between the two teams. My manager was really impressed with the results. I started looking for more opportunities to increase teamwork in the company and decided to gain a qualification in internal communications. Unfortunately, my employer didn’t have the capacity for a dedicated internal comms role.”

Realising that your passions and interests lie elsewhere is a perfectly acceptable answer for leaving a job. Job satisfaction leads to a positive work atmosphere, which is highly valued by employers. Highlighting that you have completed a qualification shows that this isn’t a passing interest and that you are committed to following this new career path. 

Involuntary

“My previous employer went through a company restructure and as part of this, my department was downsized. I was made redundant and so am looking for new opportunities. On the positive side, this has allowed me the time to reassess my career goals and complete a training course in the subject I am most passionate about – social media marketing.”

It’s hard to talk about being made redundant. Still, this answer shows that the applicant has a positive outlook on the situation and has used their time to develop their professional skills. Being able to develop and grow from the experience shows self-awareness.

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Question variations: best answers with examples

Other questions you may hear that fall under the ‘reasons for leaving a job’ banner include:

Why are you looking for a new job?

The best answers for this question will stay positive, focus on your career path and show how you see the new role as a part of that. The interviewer will also be wanting to know that you are voluntarily leaving your previous position and dig into why this role is the right fit for you.

“Whilst I have gained valuable skills in my current role, I am ready to move on to new challenges. I would also like to broaden my knowledge and experience and move to a company that has better opportunities to progress and grow.”

Why do you want to leave your current employer?

The main thing to remember with this question is to stay positive. Turn the things you are looking to leave from your current role into the things that you are looking for in your new position. Take a look at the generally accepted reasons for leaving a job earlier in this article if you are unsure what to say.

“I work in a small team in my current position and so often find that I’m working on projects and tasks on my own. The job description and reputation of your company has a strong emphasis on team working and this is the type of work environment I am looking to join. I would like to build my skills and grow professionally, learning from other skilled graphic designers within your company.”

What are your salary requirements?

The interviewer will be making sure you are looking for a salary that is within their budget. They may also be judging your experience level based on your salary so it’s important to know your value. It goes without saying that if the salary range is within the job description, go for a number within this bracket.

“I’m looking for a salary between £20,000 and £23,000. I believe this is fair for my skill set and experience level. There’s a lot to take on but I’m really excited about the opportunity and new challenges.”

Why do you want this job?

With this question, the interviewer wants to hear which role responsibilities are most appealing to you. What was it that attracted you to this position or company specifically?  They will be wanting to know that your interests match the role and that you aren’t just applying for anything going.

“I have worked hard to build my key skills and valuable experience in my current role. I am now looking to develop these skills further within an industry that I am passionate about. I am a keen film fan with a lot of knowledge on this subject so I’m very excited to apply for this role with a creative agency that specialises in film and TV clients.”

What did you dislike about your previous job?

Again, stay as positive as possible. Focus on an element of the work, rather than the company politics, that is a genuine reason why you are leaving your current job. Make sure this isn’t an area that is essential for the role you’re applying for. Finally, end on one of your strengths. 

“In my current role, I have gained a lot of valuable experience and skills and I’m keen to take on more responsibilities and develop these further. Unfortunately, due to the size of the company, there are very few opportunities to do this. I have a lot of ambition to grow professionally and look forward to new professional challenges with greater responsibility.”

‘Why do you want to leave your current job?’ is a common question that you will hear in any job interview. Understanding why employers ask this question and knowing that it is more than just a way to make you look bad will help you formulate a strong response. The key things to remember are to be authentic and stay positive. Prepare an answer that quickly focuses attention on the reasons that you are a great fit for the new role.

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