‘Why are you leaving your current job?’ or, in some cases, ‘Why did you leave your last job?’ will be relevant in most job interviews. Your interviewer will be interested in the motivations behind your application. If you were only in your previous role for a short time or there are large gaps in your employment history, they will want to find out why.
This question will clearly be easier to answer in some cases than others. If you had a fixed term contract which has come to an end, it’ll be a straightforward answer. However, if you’re looking for a new job because you don’t get along with your boss, for example, the situation immediately becomes more complicated.
Don’t worry – there are two key rules for answering this question that will work in most, if not all, situations. The first is to always present the move as a positive and show how it will help your career progress. The other is that you should avoid speaking negatively about your former employer. Read on for more detail and some examples to get you on the right track.
What are they looking for?
This is one of the most straightforward of the classic interview questions that are most commonly asked. Your answer is highly relevant and important to any future employer.
They will want to know if you are moving on voluntarily or because you’ve been asked to leave. Are you just looking to make the next step in your career or was your performance not up to scratch in your last role?
They will also want to get a sense as to whether or not you’re still on good terms with your last employer to see how you handle professional relationships. Do you sound like a good employee or might you stir up trouble?
How to answer ‘Why are you leaving your current job?’
In an ideal world, you will honestly be able to tell your interviewer that you have learned everything you can from your previous role and that the opportunity they are offering is the ideal way for you to progress. Your long-term career goals align with those of the role and the company and it was too exciting an opportunity to miss. If so, this will form a great basis for your answer.
If your answer is a little more complicated than this, you may need to think more carefully about how you phrase your answer.
You should never lie to your interviewer, instead think about what positives you might have taken from a negative situation. If you don’t get along with your boss, for example, perhaps focus on what you learned from working in a challenging environment and why you think this role would be better suited to you. This helps highlight your focus on progression.
There are some situations in which you will have to mention some negative circumstances. The company may have closed your department or might have had to let you go for financial reasons. There is no need to go into too much detail on this or to appear resentful about the situation. Instead, focus on what you did get out of your experience there and why this attracted you to the role on offer.
If you were let go for a reason such as poor performance, make it clear that it was an isolated incident that won’t happen again. Explain what you’ve learned from the situation and how you’re moving forwards.
‘I’ve been working for X for four years now in two different roles. I was promoted about two years ago and have really enjoyed managing a team for the first time. However, I feel it’s time for me to move on and think about the next step in my career. This role will allow me to develop my leadership skills further with a bigger and more advanced team.
Why we like this answer: The candidate has framed this as a proactive move for their career. They are clearly focussed on progression and are enthusiastic about their role.
‘Even though I’ve only been at my current company for 9 months, I have learned a great deal about X and this has helped me realise what I want my career to focus on. As your company has such a focus on X, I was very excited when I saw the job advertised. This role will let me pursue my long-term goals.
Why we like this answer: The candidate has answered any questions the interviewer might have had about the short amount of time spent in their current role. They appear proactive and genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity.
What not to say
- Don’t say that you hate your current job. This will put a very negative spin on the conversation. Instead, focus on what you’ve gained from the experience and how this job will help you progress.
- Don’t say that you hate your boss. This may raise concerns about your suitability as an employee. It appears unprofessional and the interviewer could question your loyalty.
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