“Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?”
Candidates – How should you answer?
This is a tough one. It’s the interview question that stumps so many candidates. Thoughts that fly through your mind might include, ‘How truthful should I be? Should I mention that I can’t stand the boss? If I tell them I’m ambitious, will they think I’ll be a problem employee?’ plus many more. Clearly, you have two main tasks – one, recognise the question will be asked and two, as ever, prepare.
Here are few things to think about when preparing your answer to this most testing of questions –
Your interviewer isn’t stupid
Let’s look at why your interviewer has asked the question in the first place. Understand this from the start – the interviewer isn’t stupid. They know there are a number of probable reasons that you want to leave, or have left, your current employer. They appreciate that some employees can’t stand their boss, that others are ambitious for better pay or prospects. What they want to know is – how good are you at expressing yourself positively?
Answer four basic questions
No-one’s saying you should tell lies or even twist the truth in your favour. Instead, you need to think about highlighting the positive aspects of your motives for looking for fresh employment.
Employers want the answers to four questions –
- Is your reason for leaving a good one? Are you looking to change companies for no reason other than you just ‘fancied’ a change? Expressing yourself in this way could easily make you sound untrustworthy and irresponsible.
- Are you leaving on your own terms? If you’re being made redundant or even sacked, how does this reflect on you? Employers want to know whether there’s a problem with the company or whether it’s you.
- Are you leaving on good terms? Are you the kind of employee who ‘falls out’ easily with colleagues or managers?
- What about your work ethic? How you answer the crucial questions says a lot about your values as a professional.
We’ve already established that the key point to remember is – focus on the positives!
But how? It’s really hard if you’ve been unfortunate enough to have worked for an unpleasant or difficult employer or in an industry that didn’t suit you.
What not to say
Using your interview to let off steam about your current, or past boss won’t make you look good.
- bad-mouthing your previous/current employer
- giving too short an answer, suggesting that you’re hiding something
- spending time focusing on the limitations of your current/past job
- highlighting the fact that you weren’t valued at your last job – this can make you sound ‘high maintenance’.
As ever, with such matters, it’s all down to language – the words you use to express yourself. Avoid words such as ‘can’t’, ‘couldn’t’ and ‘wasn’t’. They’ll spoil the positive impression you’re trying to create.
So – what should you say?
If at the time of the interview, you’re still employed, you should focus on your desire for a better opportunity, rather than stress that you’re fleeing from a bad situation. This is a good time to talk up the company who’s interviewing you and explain why it appeals to you so much.
You could even say that you weren’t even actively looking, but the opportunity caught your eye; you couldn’t resist the chance of an interview, as it’s a dream job for you. Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to go on too much about the new company. You don’t want to come across as a creep!
By all means, use the occasional negative example, but only to contrast it with the positive.
Some example answers to consider –
- “Having worked for [Company] for X number of years, I’ve gained a huge variety of experience in [examples]. However, now’s the time to seek out a new opportunity. I believe your company will offer me a host of exciting new challenges. This position appeals because it will allow me to manage a large team of people and acquire new skills too.”
Do you see how you’re making the current position sound positive but still manages to introduce examples of how exciting the new opportunity is?
- “I’ve loved my time with [Company], but with a number of managerial changes on the way, it’s time to look for my next opportunity. I’ve always admired your company and have always harboured ambitions to work for you. This role seems like a natural fit to me – combining my experience in [examples] and the opportunity to nurture employees. I’m sure that together, we can achieve great results.”
This sample answer turns the negative of potential redundancy into a number of positives about the new employer.
Stay focused on the positive
Like so many other interview questions, the most important point is to come across as an upbeat, positive person and to focus on how both you and your prospective employer will benefit from appointing you. Follow these tips and you’ll be giving yourself a big chance to overcome one of the toughest interview hurdles.
As specialist recruiters for accountancy, we’re really well-placed to advise candidates through the selection process. Find out more.
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