5 Ways to Answer, ‘What’s Your Reason for Leaving Your Job?’

By Robert Half July 1, 2019 at 8:00am

Along with answering common interview questions about your weaknesses or why you want the job, “What’s your reason for leaving your current job?” is one of those challenging questions that require you to prepare an answer beforehand. 

In fact, giving good reasons for wanting to change roles can actually strengthen your chances of securing a new opportunity. On the other hand, not having a solid answer can negatively impact your odds of getting the job. 

Here are some tips for how to discuss your reasons for leaving a job, an explanation of why employers ask the question and how not to answer it. 

Why do employers ask: ‘What’s your reason for leaving a job?’

This question isn’t designed to trick you into making yourself look bad. By exploring the reasons behind a job move, a potential employer is attempting to uncover whether or not you’re leaving on good terms, whether you’re departing for a good reason, your career goals and how strong your work ethic is.

Giving your reasons for leaving a job helps interviewers determine what satisfaction and happiness at work looks like to you. It shows what your long-term career plan is, what you want to get out of a new role and whether the company culture fit is going to be right.

What is a good reason for leaving a job?

There many acceptable reasons for leaving your current job. Rather than planning an overly contrived response, try viewing the question as an opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic and desire to grow. Here are five examples of strong answers:

1. More responsibility and better career growth — If you aren’t being given the appropriate tools 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 your job.

Wanting to develop your skills is a sign of employee engagement and adds extra value to a company, making it an attractive quality rather than a liability. Remember to give examples of the kinds of skills you wanted to build on and tangible ways you’d like to go about doing it.

2. A career change — Wanting to change careers doesn’t make you fickle. It can serve as an indicator that you’re dedicated to finding interesting and meaningful work that engages you. Robert Half research shows that employees who find their work worthwhile are more likely to be happy, and happy employees are an essential ingredient in business success and positive work culture.

By explaining your career development plan and outlining your ultimate end goal, you’re demonstrating passion and commitment rather than coming across as indecisive.

3. Company reorganization — Company restructuring can often lead to staff 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 working as a team in the face of a challenge.

4. Better work–life balance — On the face of it, this may feel like a negative answer. The misconception is that seeking work-life balance makes you look lazy or unwilling to do your share. However, most employers know that offering staff a good work-life balance leads to better performance and increased workplace happiness.

Indeed, employees can easily become burned out at work if they’re consistently logging 12-hour days or working every weekend. When discussing work-life balance, avoid blaming your previous employer and instead focus on what you’re seeking, whether it’s a four-day workweek, an ability to work from home once a week or flexible hours. 

5. Relocation — 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.

What does a bad answer look like?

It’s all too easy to stray into dangerous territory when answering a question like “What’s your reason for leaving your job?” Here are a few examples of what not to do when answering this question.

  • Complaining — Avoid launching into a barrage of complaints about your former workplace or colleagues. Doing so is more likely to make you look bitter or negative, and these are not qualities hiring managers are seeking. Instead, emphasize the positives, such as what you learned and the opportunities you enjoyed at your previous job. 
  • Criticizing a manager — Even if managerial conflict was your reason for leaving a job, try to approach the subject in a more positive way. Explain why the management style didn’t work for you and the steps you took to amend it before moving on. If your boss had a tendency to micromanage your projects, you can talk about how you created daily or weekly updates on all your projects so your manager was up to date. Ultimately, speaking badly of a previous employer is a reflection of your character and may come across as being unprofessional.

Taking the time to formulate a positive answer to why you’re leaving your job will help you approach an upcoming job interview with confidence.

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