Hiring managers are just people, and people are naturally curious. That means at some point during the interview process, you’re going to get the question, “So, why are you leaving your current job?”
Obviously, you want to be honest in an interview. You’re leaving your job for a reason. But you should really try your best to refrain from being negative. Focus on what you have to look forward to, not what you’re leaving behind. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are four fairly blunt reasons why you might be job searching, and how to translate them into tactful responses.
1. You Want to Make More Money
Who doesn’t wish they were paid more? It’s a completely normal thing, but perhaps not the best to bring up during an interview —at least not until the hiring manager is more invested in you.
Here’s what to say instead:
During my three years at LBD, I had the opportunity to really develop a strong skill set in data analysis, quantitative reasoning, and programming. And, while it was a great learning experience and I enjoyed contributing to the team, I’m ready to join a company that values my skills and allows me to use them more fully.
2. Your Boss Is a Jerk
There’s no other way to put it: You have a bad boss. Mention briefly and neutrally that you two are on separate tracks and move on. Wrap it up with something positive about the company.
Here’s how to phrase it:
I realized the leadership of my team was going in a different direction, and I’m interested in working in a more collaborative environment. It was a hard decision to make because I love the mission of the company, but I ultimately think this is the right choice.
3. You Want to Get Promoted
This is probably the tamest reason to be job searching. In fact, even the blunt version is more or less fine. But, if you want to go into a bit more detail, you can definitely put a positive spin on the answer.
Here’s how to say it:
I’m ready for the next challenge in my career. I loved the people I worked with and the projects I worked on, but at some point I realized I wasn’t being challenged the way I used to be. Rather than let myself get too comfortable, I decided to pursue a position where I can continue to grow.
4. Your Job Is Just Generally Crappy
Sugarcoat a turd, and it’s still a turd. Rather than try to make your job sound less awful than it is, focus instead on the one or two things that drew you to that position, how it was ultimately a bad fit, and what you look forward to in a new role.
Here’s how to put it politely:
I was really excited to start in a role that worked so closely with local wildlife and contributed to such a meaningful cause. I think, because of that, I neglected to learn more about the actual ins and outs of the company. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t a good cultural fit. Since then I’ve been seeking a role in a company that values transparency, one where I can continue to make an impact.
Notice how all of these responses have at least one thing that’s positive about the interviewee’s previous role? You don’t get any points for recounting each and every flaw of your last supervisor. Your best bet is to take the high road and look to the future.
Photo of interview courtesy of Marcy Milks/The Muse.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author