“Why do you want to leave your current job?”
This is an opinion-based question that comes up fairly often in job interviews, and one that can sometimes be difficult to answer without showing anyone in a bad light.
Not to worry, we’ll show you how to create an effective response to this question, so read on!
Variations of This Question
You might encounter this question phrased in different ways. Here are some examples:
- Why are you looking to change jobs?
- Why are you changing your career?
- What do you dislike about your current job?
- What’s making you leave your current job?
- What’s the reason you’re looking for a new job?
- Why did you leave your last job?
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
They want to know what you’re looking for in your new role so they can be sure your expectations are aligned with the job.
If you’re leaving your current job due to something that’s going to also be present in the new job, the employer knows you likely won’t be happy in the new role — at least not in the long term.
They also want to know your reasons so they can determine if they’re appropriate or if you’re a serial job-hopper.
Employers spend time and money training new employees, so they don’t want someone who doesn’t have a good track record of staying at a job over small disappointments or minor obstacles.
How to Answer: “Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?”
Coming up with the “perfect” answer to any interview question is a difficult task, but we developed a 3-part formula for this one to help you get as close as possible.
Let’s get into it:
1. Talk About What You’ve Gained From Your Current Job
Start by discussing some of the benefits you’ve enjoyed in your current position.
Beginning this way paints you as a person who can still see the good aspect of a bad situation, and that’s important because employers want positive people working for them.
Think about the opportunities you’ve had to grow, change, or learn new things in your present role. This can also be something you’re likely to experience in this new role, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Learned industry skills
- Learned to overcome challenges
- Worked with inspirational people
- Achieved a leadership position
- Worked to improve something in the community
- Discovered a new interest or passion
Finally, if you can, talk about how that development impacted you or your career, and what it meant on a personal level.
Here’s an example:
“In my position at the daycare center, I learned a lot about caring for children and addressing their parents’ concerns. I feel the experience has made me a more caring person and more aware of some of the issues facing today’s young working families.”
2. Explain Why You Feel It’s Time to Move On
Next, give a valid reason for leaving your current job.
This is important because it shows you’ve really reflected on what’s not working for you in your present position, rather than just deciding to leave on a whim.
Choose a reason that isn’t applicable to the job you’re interviewing for. For instance, if the new job is working at a front desk, don’t say you’re leaving your previous job because you don’t enjoy answering the telephone.
The way you frame your answer matters. Focus on reasons that are less about what your current job is not offering you, and more about what your new job can offer you.
Good reasons for leaving your job might include:
- Seeking new opportunities for career development
- Looking to relocate to a new city or state
- Wanting to develop new skills
- Hoping to work with a company that shares your values
- Wanting to fulfill your desire to help others
Here’s an example:
“Unfortunately, there’s no further career advancement available with my current employer. I’d like to move up into a role with more responsibilities and room for advancement while continuing to serve families in the community.”
3. Describe How This Opportunity Bridges The Gap
Finally, explain how the new position will help you achieve what you couldn’t at your old job.
This is important because employers give priority to people who are excited about the opportunity in front of them, so this is where you need to communicate that.
You’ll need to study the job description and learn what the job entails before you go into your interview.
If you said you’re moving on to:
- Seek new opportunities for career development, reference the part of the job description that discusses promotion from within or room for advancement.
- Develop new skills, reference the part of the job description that mentions continuing education, workshops, and seminars.
- Work for a company that shares your values, reference the part of the job description that explains the company mission statement.
Here’s an example:
“I’m excited about the opportunity to be a case supervisor here because I’ll be able to work with young parents. The job description also says there’s continuing education available and the possibility of moving up to case manager, which is appealing to me.”
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
If the above structure seems complicated, rest assured that it really only amounts to 3 short paragraphs.
In fact, we wrote up some complete sample answers to demonstrate how this template can be used across various industries and roles:
Example #1: Pursuing a Passion
“At my current job, I work with an amazing team. We are a diverse group of people full of different experiences and viewpoints, and I’m inspired every day by some of these individuals.
My passion, however, is working with animals. Since my current job is in the marketing department of a vitamin company, I don’t get to use my skills in an area that really interests me.
When I saw this job for the zoo advertised, I knew it was right for me. The job description says I’d have the chance to set up campaigns featuring the animals and the different programs available, and nothing excites me more!”
Example #2: Relocating to a New City
“My current job is a great fit for me. The company has a valuable mission and my boss and coworkers are amazing. I’ve appreciated the opportunities I’ve had over the past four years.
The time has come for me to relocate, however, and there’s no option for working remotely in my position. My boss is aware of my upcoming move and is supportive of my job search.
This position seems like it would be perfect for my skills and qualifications. I’ve also looked into the company mission and agree with that as well. I’m excited about finding a great opportunity like this so close to where I’ll be moving next month.”
Example #3: Learning New Skills
“I’m grateful for the time I’ve had at my current job. I began working there fresh out of college, so I learned excellent business practices there. I’ve also been able to improve my time-management and public-speaking skills.
I feel I’ve achieved all I can at this job, though. I always get excellent reviews, but I’ve noticed I’m not really learning anything new. There’s no additional training or continuing education available, and I’m ready to expand my horizons and learn more.
I see that this role comes with the expectation that I’d be participating in workshops and seminars, and I like the idea of learning new skills while working for a company with such a great reputation.”
How NOT to Answer
Last, but certainly not least, are some common mistakes to avoid in regards to this specific interview question.
Don’t Make It All About Money
Even if you want to leave because you’re not paid enough, don’t use this as your reason for leaving.
Although almost everyone works for pay and benefits, employers don’t want to take a chance on someone who is likely to leave at the first opportunity to make more money somewhere else.
Instead, focus on other aspects of the job as described above.
Don’t Talk Down About Your Employer
Never speak poorly of your boss or the company you work for (or worked for).
This paints you as a petty person who might turn around and talk poorly of the new employer. It’s also unprofessional and unnecessary.
Talk about the opportunities you don’t have rather than the annoying quirks of your employer.
Don’t Provide a List of Reasons
Resist the temptation to spill your guts about everything that bothers you about your current job.
You don’t want to look like a complainer or a pessimist. Employers want to hire people who are positive and who don’t create problems at work.
Instead, focus on the positive experiences you hope to have in the new role.
- Learn the different ways the question might be asked
- Recount something positive about your current job
- Explain an opportunity or experience you aren’t able to have
- Show how the new job would provide that experience
- Don’t talk about the pay
- Don’t badmouth your boss or the company
- Don’t go on and on about the negative aspects of your job