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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

How to Tactfully Answer “Why Are You Leaving Your Job?” in 2023

person smiling at a job interview facing the camera, while the interviewer has their back to camera
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Hiring managers are just people, and people are naturally curious. That means at some point during the hiring process, you’re likely to get the interview question, “So why are you leaving your current job?”

Obviously, you’re leaving your job for a reason, but this question isn’t an invitation to vent about that one coworker who’s always talking over you or the super competitive environment that’s making you dread showing up for work.

The key to talking about the reason you’re leaving your job is the framing. This question may have come from the hiring manager’s curiosity, but it’s still an interview question, so you need to make sure your answer is professional—and as positive as possible.

How to answer “Why are you leaving your job?”

As you think about your answer to this question, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Be honest. Remaining truthful throughout the job hunting process keeps you from ending up in a role that’s not a good match for you. Never make up an answer to an interview question just because you think it’s what the hiring manager wants to hear.
  • But avoid negativity. Honesty doesn’t mean badmouthing your former employer, so keep things positive, neutral, or at least tactful. You don’t get any points for recounting each and every flaw of your last supervisor. If you can, try to include one or two positive points about your current position in your answer.
  • Look to the future instead of lingering on the past. Focus on what you have to look forward to, not what you’re leaving behind. Rather than saying your current job is boring, for example, tell the interviewer what you’re excited to be working on in your next role. Be specific about what you want, rather than dwelling on every little thing that annoys you at your current company.

How to frame your reason for leaving a job (without all the negativity)

To give you an idea of how to frame your answer, here are four fairly blunt—but also fairly common—reasons why you might be ready to move on, and how to translate them into tactful responses during your job search. Notice how all of these responses are honest, but also include at least one positive thing about the interviewee’s previous role.

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.

Example answer #1 for “Why are you leaving your job?”

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.

Example answer #2 for “Why are you leaving your job?”

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.

Example answer #3 for “Why are you leaving your job?”

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.

Example answer #4 for “Why are you leaving your job?”

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 the work environment and values of the company don’t match well with my own. Since then I’ve been seeking a role at a company that values transparency where I can continue to make an impact.

17 reasons for leaving your job

Here are some more common reasons you might be looking for a new position. Though they’re framed in a positive or neutral way, they’re not complete answers. Don’t forget to add specific details about what you’re looking for in a new position.

  • You’re looking for a company that values you, your skills, and your experiences more.
  • You’re looking for a bump in compensation.
  • You want a more senior role.
  • You’re ready for a new challenge.
  • You’d like to find a role with more upward mobility.
  • You want to develop and explore different interests or skills.
  • You’d like different job duties.
  • You want to work in a new field or industry.
  • Your priorities—either professionally or personally—have shifted.
  • You and your boss (or your team) have different work styles, values, or priorities.
  • You’d thrive more in a different kind of work environment (or just want to find a healthier, non-toxic environment).
  • Your company is pursuing a different strategy, restructuring, or being acquired by or merged with another organization.
  • You’re looking for an employer that provides more training, development, or feedback.
  • You’re looking for an improved work-life balance.
  • You’re looking for a hybrid, remote, or in-office setup or hours your current job doesn’t allow.
  • You’re looking for specific perks or benefits your current employer doesn’t offer.
  • You’re relocating for non-work reasons.

Whatever reason you’ve chosen to leave your job is a valid one, but that doesn’t mean the nitty gritty details are going to help you land your next role. For this question, your best bet is to take the high road and look to the future.

Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.