Job Interview Question: Why Do You Want to Change Jobs?

WorkCoachCafe“Why are you looking for a new job?” and “Why do you want to leave your current job?” are some of the other variations of this question.  It is a common interview question, so it’s best to have thought about it and have a good answer ready.  

Prospective employers are naturally curious about you and why you want to leave your current job.  Are you a “problem” employee, or are you simply managing your career?  Be sure your answer reassures them of your maturity, competence, and quality. 

Remember to stay positive, confident, truthful, and forward-looking in your response.  And don’t go into a lot of detail or an extended explanation. Keep your answer short and sweet. Usually a few sentences are enough.

Simple 3-Part Answers to Why You Are Looking for a New Job

The most effective responses usually have these 3 parts.  Adjust these sample responses to your own specific situation - 

1.  Say something nice about your current job.

It is best to be positive and reassure the employer that you are not leaving to escape being fired or because you are hard to work with.  Here are some possible answers.  Adjust them for your specific situation, or use them to give you an idea that is more appropriate for you:

  • I’ve enjoyed working with a great group of people, but…
  • I’ve learned a great deal in my current job, but…
  • It’s been a great experience, but…

2. Then, say something nice about this opportunity and/or employer.

As appropriate for you and your situation, the second part of your response could include one of these statements:

  • This opportunity is very interesting to me.
  • This opportunity fits very well with the direction I want to take my career. 
  • This opportunity is very interesting to me, and fits very well with the direction I want to take my career.
  • I’m interested in working at [name of employer] based on the great things I have learned about this organization.
  • This opportunity is a logical next step for me in my career.
  • I want to build my experience in ["this" or "a new"] industry.
  • Growth is limited in my current employer’s organization because it is relatively small, so I need to look elsewhere, outside of the current organizaiton, and this opportunity looks very interesting to me because…
  • Working for [this kind of employer] has always been a goal of mine because…
  • My current commute is too long [or too uncertain] with bad traffic [or some other logistical problem like unreliable public transportation], and this location is much easier [or better] for me.  Note: be careful NOT to leave the impression that you often arrive late or must leave early in your current job.
  • My spouse received a wonderful offer for a new job ["here," or in the city or region], so we decided to move, and this move gave me an opportunity to find a great new job, too – like this one.

3.  Add a closing statement that answers the question in a way that reflects well on you.

Again, depending on your situation, add your closing:

  • If the opportunity is “very interesting” or “a logical next step” or “always been a goal” explain why:
    • “This is a [or "an exciting"] new direction for me that builds on my background and experience in…”
    • “I’ve always been interested in [whatever] that you do so well here, and…”
  • If you referenced your career direction, say something about your longer term career plans.  
  • If you state that you selected this employer as a good “next place” to work or “next step” in your career, be sure you can articulate why:
    • [This employer] is known as a great place to work.
    • [This employer] is a [or "the"] leader in this industry, so working here would mean that I would be at the top of my field. [Use only if you believe it is true, or this statement could be considered as sarcasm.]
    • I’ve always been a fan of your products (or services), so working here would be great.
  • If you say that “growth is limited” with your current employer, make a statement about what growth you want with a new employer.  Be very careful not to bad-mouth your current employer in answering this follow-up question.

Don’t say this!

Avoid  these kind of answers.  They may very well be true, but they also raise questions in a potential employer’s mind about how the “other side” might describe the same situation (to your detriment).

  • My current boss is very difficult to work for.
  • My current boss is an idiot.
  • The company is not a good place to work.
  • I’m not paid enough in my current job and this job pays so much more.
  • One of my co-workers takes credit for all my good ideas.
  • People who work here get big employee discounts, right?

Interviews are not a time for “true confessions” or your life history in great detail.  Your goal is to answer the questions, and also to ask questions to find out if this is the right job and employer for you.

More on Answering Job Interview Questions

Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?

How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions

Job Interview Tips

Watch Where You Are Going (Job-Hunt.org)

© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .

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