By Ash Athawale, Senior Group Managing Director, Robert Half

It continues to be a busy time on both sides of the recruiting desk. My colleagues and I in the talent solutions business see more people looking to make a change this year, and our Robert Half research indicates this is a broad trend: Nearly half of U.S. workers we surveyed plan to look for a job in 2023. In a separate study, 58% of company executives said they plan to hire new permanent staff in the first half of this year.

Job seekers can find plenty of advice about how to prepare for the interview. If you’ve made it to the interview stage, the organization knows you’re qualified from a skills perspective — that’s evident from your resume and initial phone screen.

So, during the interview meeting, hiring managers want to dig deeper into your skills as well as the intangibles like your motivation, proactive approach, interest in the new opportunity and why you are seeking a change.

Make sure you are prepared for the last question especially. Why do you want to leave your current situation for a new one — and this one specifically?

How you answer could make the difference between an offer and an elimination. So, here’s what not to say.

1. ‘Everyone is making a change right now, and I figured I should as well’

For me as a search professional, this does not express a good enough reason to look for a new role. It tells me that, for this candidate, any change would be fine, and the specific role/organization/industry I’m presenting is unimportant.

It also indicates the candidate may be susceptible to a counteroffer. If my client extends an offer and you take it to your current employer to negotiate better pay or perks and decide to stay, we’ve all wasted a lot of time, and you’ve burned bridges.

Know that your current boss(es) may keep you onboard only until they have found a way to proceed without you: They know you’re already looking and may take the next offer.

Note that the change you seek doesn’t need to happen externally. If you’re happy with your current employer aside from one or two issues, address those with your current boss or see if you can make a move within the organization.

2. ‘My partner/best friend/parents said I need a new job’

This is a reason to end the interview. If you’re not motivated yourself to make a jump, I doubt you’ll be motivated and engaged to hit the ground running in a new role.

Those close to you may have lots of opinions about your career, but they won’t be working in the new position day after day. One clarification, however: If you are seeking a change because you have relocated to a new city because your partner accepted a job or you want to be closer to family, that’s perfectly understandable. But I need to hear from you what you’re looking for and why the role I have is a good fit.

3. ‘Well, I’m not sure I want to make a change, but I’m thinking about it’

Like No. 2 above, this will cause me to shorten and shift the discussion. If you reach out to a recruiter, be ready to compete for and accept an offer. This means having an updated resume and LinkedIn profile, references ready to go and solid points on why you’re a strong fit for the position.

Opportunities arise quickly, and the faster you can respond and get to the interview stage, the better. We’re seeing more of an accelerated hiring process today than we did even a year ago; clients don’t have time to waste or wait for indecisive candidates to make up their minds.

Bottom line: Recruiters need to know that you’re running toward a new opportunity, not running away from a bad one. Think carefully about your reasons to jump ship and be able to articulate them so you make a positive first impression early in the interview.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to address the same question positively and effectively, so you shine the best light on your motivation and other attributes that signal your ability to succeed in the new role.

Ash Athawale is a senior group managing director at Robert Half in the executive search practice.

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