By Wendell Brenner
August 18, 2013
You’re currently employed and get a paycheck every other week. It’s a sure and steady income. Why, then, are you searching for a new job?
During an interview, a hiring manager is undoubtedly thinking this and almost certainly will ask about it. A “bad” answer can kill your chances at getting the job offer. A “good” answer can position you for success.
So how do you answer that question? You want to be authentic and diplomatic, steering clear of potential pitfalls, while still providing a genuine response that resonates for both you and the hiring manager.
Here are some ideas for how to do it.
1. Always praise your current employer. Before anything else, start by offering a little praise for your current employer just to show you’re not upset or jaded and to frame the answer positively. Try saying something like, “My current employer has given me some great opportunities and I’m sorry to leave. But I’m really excited about the future.” This statement isn’t overly flattering, and it lands right back at the here and now – your enthusiasm for what’s next. Hiring managers like to hear this, because it demonstrates your loyalty and respect for the company, even though they obviously know you’re not happy there. They see that you’re able to “play the game,” keep emotions out of it and protect the image of the company even if and when things don’t work out. Hiring managers view negative talk regarding your current employer as gossip. If you’re badmouthing your company, the hiring manager thinks you could easily turn around and do the same to his company in the future.
2. Avoid mentioning people. There are surveys that say the No.1 reason people leave a job is because of problems with other people at that job. Hiring managers know that, but they don’t want to hear it. Discussions regarding difficulties with people will lead the hiring manager to wonder what your role was in the conflict — and then you’re in the danger zone. The same holds true if a hiring manager asks you a question like, “What is one thing you don’t like about your current or last job?” Good answers revolve around things like outdated policies, inefficient processes, slow technology, etc. Great answers also focus on what you did to try to improve the situation.
3. It is about what you’re moving toward. Remember that the past was yesterday. The future is why you’re in that interview. Keep your discussion centered on the fact that you’re moving toward something new and exciting, not away from where you are. This might require a subtle shift in language, but the impact is enormous. For example, instead of saying, “There is little room for growth where I am,” try saying, “The opportunities for growth here seem unlimited.”
4. Always make it about self-improvement. Hiring managers love to know job candidates are interested in bettering themselves. It’s a trait that indicates you will be a long-term hire and, with the right support, you could be someone who grows with the company. It’s always a good idea to make your career move about your desire for self-improvement, whether you’re seeking career advancement opportunities or the chance to grow a new set of skills. Sure, there are times when you just need a change of pace. That’s human nature. But saying that’s the sole reason for your move suggests you might be easily bored or unable to create the experience that serves you best in the workplace.
The hiring manager wants to know that you’ll be capable of productively working through those kinds of “typical” challenges (like boredom and the feeling of being in a rut). Always let the hiring manager know that you did everything in your power to make it work with your current employer. You sought out new challenges, advanced as far as you can, etc. You don’t want to be perceived as someone who is ready to jump ship when things don’t immediately go your way. But there are certain things outside of your control, and those are the ones that keep you from staying where you are.
It’s almost guaranteed that your reason for leaving will be a topic in any job interview. Plan your response and practice it aloud a few times so you’re prepared. The conversation will move on quickly and you’ll be able to focus on other, more compelling topics.