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If you’re looking to move from one job to another, most potential employers will ask you the question “Why are you leaving your current job?”. Sometimes phrased as “Why are you looking for a new job?” or “Why do you want to change jobs?”, this open-ended interview question can be a minefield to answer if you’re not prepared.
But although you might think that this question is intended to catch you out, the reality is that employers are just looking to understand the reasons behind your job search, and your decision to leave your current role.
To decide upon the best approach to answering this question, let’s look first of all at the reasons why employers ask this graduate job interview question.
Of course, employers will want to know your reasons for leaving your current job – especially if you’ve been at the company for less than a year.
They’ll want to make sure that you left for good reasons, and that you aren’t a ‘job hopper’ who’s likely to leave their company in a matter of months. Don’t let this scare you – there are several great reasons to leave a job; whether it’s the nature of the work you didn’t enjoy, the environment you weren't suited to, or simply that you feel you’ve learnt all you can in the role.
You should never lie about your reasons – so make sure you’ve got your answer to why you want to leave your current job prepared beforehand.
Given that you are interviewing for a job at their company, a potential employer will also be looking to find out the things you are looking for in your next venture. This will help them to better understand who you are as an employee, and whether the particular values you are looking align with their company and what the role offers.
If your reason for wanting to move is that you don’t enjoy the role or you’re not interested in the industry, the employer will want to know what it is in particular you weren’t suited to. This will help them decipher whether you’re the right fit for their company.
Interview questions about your career move are also intended to suss out whether you are really looking to change jobs, or are just casually seeing what’s out there.
If you can’t give any solid reasons as to why you’re looking to leave, it might indicate to an employer that you aren’t really serious about looking for a new job. This solidifies the fact that if you haven’t already left the job, you need to have a clear idea of why you want to leave.
Finally, a potential employer will be interested to know whether you left of your own accord or were asked to leave.
It’s important to always be honest about this; so if you were let go from your previous job make sure you’ve prepared a strong answer to the question “Why were you fired?” This answer needs to tell the employer that you understand the reasons behind why you were fired, have resolved any issues and worked on yourself.
When discussing the reasons why you left a job or want to leave a current job, the most important thing to remember is to be positive about the role.
No employer wants to hear you badmouthing another employer (it’s quite telling of your personality!); so try to be as tactful in your response as possible.
“I’ve had a fantastic time working at x over the last two years, but I think I’ve learnt all I can in this particular company. Having joined as a graduate in 2017, I’ve worked my way up from Business Development Executive, to leading my own team of 3 as a Sales Manager. I’m now looking to take on a new challenge and join a bigger team; that’s why this particular role appeals to me so much."
"I’ve been working at x as an Office Manager for 18 months. Throughout this time, I’ve learnt a lot about my skill set and the things I enjoy most. I’ve always been naturally organised, and am definitely a people person; that’s why I’m now looking to utilise the skills I’ve learnt and take on a new challenge. I believe that this Project Manager role is the perfect next step in my career."
"I live in West London with my fiancé, and the commute to my current work in North London has become tiresome. I love my company and really enjoy my role as an Accountant for x, but the daily commute of 1hr 45 minutes means that I barely make it home before 9pm some evenings. I’m looking to take the next step in my career at a job that is based nearer to my home."
"I’ve loved my time at x, a business consultancy firm, where I’ve progressed from Marketing Assistant to Digital Marketing Executive in just under 2 years. However, I think the time has come for me to take on a new challenge and utilise the skills I have learnt in an industry that I’m more passionate about."
Whatever you do; don’t badmouth your current or previous employer. You never know who-knows-who – plus, it reflects badly on your personality. Even if an employer was in the wrong about a situation, or you really didn’t get on with the team, being negative about your current company will suggest to an employer that you might be a problematic employee.
True, this is the basis of the question; but why speak for a long time about your previous or current company when you could be showing the employer why you want to move to their company? Touch upon the one or two reasons you want to move to a new job, then focus primarily on the reasons why this opportunity is a great next step in your career.
Employers will usually be able to tell if you’re lying. Whether you try to cover up the fact that you were fired, or give what you think is the “right” answer when salary is the real reason, it’s always better to be honest in a job interview. This question isn't designed to trip you up; it's intended to find out where you see your career going and the reasons why you're now looking for graduate jobs.
It is a good idea to consider the different question variations you might be asked, to ensure you're not caught off guard on the day! Here are a few different ways an employer might ask the common interview question "why do you want to leave your current job?"
Read our complete guide to Interview Questions!