The thought of a hiring manager inquiring about your reason for leaving a job might cause you to cringe. Even if the idea of moving on from your current role makes you feel elated, you may not be comfortable outlining your reasons for leaving a job to a potential employer. And that’s exactly why you should make sure you’re well-prepared to respond to this question.
It’s one of those common but dicey interview questions — like “Why do you want to work here?” — that you shouldn't risk winging. Being able to clearly and succinctly explain why you're looking to start a new chapter in your career could help strengthen your chances of securing a new opportunity. And being unable to offer a solid answer could plant a question mark in a hiring manager’s mind, making them wonder if you’re trying to be evasive, when you’re not.
Here are some tips for how to discuss your reasons for leaving a job, an explanation of why employers ask about this and how not to answer this interview question:
Why do employers ask, ‘What’s your reason for leaving a job?’
This interview question isn’t designed to trick you into making yourself look bad. By exploring the reasons behind a job move, a hiring manager is attempting to learn about your career goals and whether you’re parting from your current employer on good terms.
Giving your reasons for leaving a job helps interviewers determine what satisfaction and engagement at work looks like to you. It can also shed light on what your long-term career plan is and what you want to get out of a new role.
What are some good reasons for leaving a job?
There are obviously many acceptable reasons for wanting to make a change. Talking about them is an opportunity to describe your work ethic and underscore your desire to grow. Here are five examples of reasons for leaving a job that a hiring manager would view positively:
1. More responsibility and better career growth
Wanting to develop your skills is a sign of employee engagement and adds extra value to a company, making it an admirable quality rather than a liability. If you aren’t being given the appropriate resources to grow and learn in your current role, it’s important to bring this to the attention of a possible new employer when sharing your reasons for leaving a job. Give examples of the kinds of skills you want to build on and tangible ways you’d like to go about doing it.
2. A career change
Wanting to move in a new direction professionally doesn’t make you fickle. It can serve as an indicator that you’re dedicated to finding interesting and meaningful work. By explaining your career development plan and outlining your ultimate end goal, you can demonstrate your drive and commitment.
3. Company reorganization
Company restructuring can often lead to cutbacks or new team dynamics, which can cause employee dissatisfaction. If this is your reason for leaving a job, it’s helpful to give some examples as to why the new structure isn’t working for you, what you’ve done to try and improve things and what you’d change. This shows your level of investment, your problem-solving skills and how you gave a serious effort to being a team player in the face of a challenge.
4. Better work–life balance
Most employers know — especially after all the recent pandemic-related stress and disruption — that supporting employees’ work-life balance is a must if they want a productive and satisfied workforce. When discussing work-life balance, focus on what you’re seeking for the long term, whether it’s remote work, a 4/10 workweek or flexible hours.
Sometimes a good answer to why you’re leaving your current job is as simple as the desire or need to relocate. If this is the case, explain why you’re making the move, what skills you can offer the company and what you feel are the benefits of a new job and location.
Considering making a move to remote work? See this post for tips on finding remote jobs.
What should you avoid when answering this interview question?
It’s easy to stray into treacherous territory when giving your reason for leaving your job. So, be sure not to do the following when you respond, no matter how well you think the interview is going or how much the hiring manager puts you at ease:
- Complaining — Avoid launching into a barrage of complaints about your former workplace or colleagues. Doing so can make you look bitter or negative — qualities no employer wants to see in a potential hire. Instead, emphasize the positives, such as the opportunities you enjoyed at your previous job and what you learned from the experience.
- Criticizing a manager — Even if unhappiness with your manager was your reason for leaving a job, approach the subject in a tactful, positive way. If your boss tended to micromanage your projects, for example, you can say you always appreciate the interest in your work and the input of a seasoned executive but that you were ready to take on a role that would give you greater responsibility and more autonomy.
Thinking ahead about your reasons for leaving a job — and how you can discuss them in a positive, professional manner — will help you feel more confident going into the job interview. And, while you’re at it, you may want to consider how you might address other commonly asked interview questions, too — just in case they come up. These Robert Half blog posts can help: