“Why Do You Want to Leave Your Job?” How to Answer

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One of the most common interview questions that I’ve received throughout my career is “why do you want to leave your current job?” And even though it’s a common question, it can be a tricky one to answer.

The true reason that many people look to are looking to quit their job is frustration with their current employer. But expressing that frustration is something that you’ll want to avoid in the way that you answer the “why do you want to leave your job?” question. 

Throughout this article I’ll dive into why companies ask about why you want to leave your current job so frequently, some best practices for how to respond, good reasons to provide, and sample responses.

Why You’re Being Asked That Question

In general, when an interviewer asks why you’re looking to leave your current job, they’re looking to understand one of a few possible things:

  • That you’re being thoughtful and intentional about your next steps in your career
  • That you’re not leaving due to underperformance at your current employer
  • That you can respond to a question about your current employer professionally

Best Practices for How to Respond

Having set the above context for why you’re being asked about leaving your current job, there are a few best practices that you’ll want to follow in the way that you respond:

1. Focus on Positive Aspects of the New Role

The best thing that you can do to answer the question in a favorable way is to focus on the positive aspects of the new role. 

So if there are things about the job that really stood out to you as attractive, be sure to highlight those in response to why you’re leaving. 

For example, if the new role enables you to focus on doing a type of work that you really enjoy, highlight that you’re looking to focus on that type of work in your answer.

2. Avoid Speaking Negatively About Your Current Employer

Even if the true reason for why you want to leave your job is frustration with your current employer, avoid disparaging your current company. Yes, it may be true that your employer has given you many reasons to want to leave, but a potential employer doesn’t understand the full context of a) your situation or b) you.

So if you speak negatively about your current employer, you run the risk of coming across as a potentially negative person, which is a perception that you want to avoid.

3. Speak Confidently on Where You Want To Go Next

Let’s be honest, it can be tough to know what you want to do with your life. And many of us are still figuring it out.

That said, in general, employers want to hire people that they feel like know what they want and know that they want to be there.

So when answering why you’re leaving to leave, communicate clearly and confidently what you think you want and avoid wishy-washy responses like you’re trying to figure out what type of job you want, exploring next steps, etc.

Possible Reasons

Here is a list of possible reasons that you can provide for why you’re looking to leave your job:

  • Desire to focus on specific skills
  • Desire to move into a different industry
  • Desire to move into a new field
  • Desire to take on more responsibility
  • Desire to take on less responsibility
  • Desire to work at that specific company

Sample Responses

Included below are a couple of example responses that demonstrate how you can effectively answer the question of why you want to leave your current employer.

Sample Response #1 (Desire to Focus on Specific Skills):

I’ve gotten to wear a few different hats over the course of my career and have come to realize that my favorite thing to do is [specific skill of interest]. I’d like to focus on [specific skill of interest] moving forward and this role looks to be the perfect opportunity to do that.

Sample Response #2 (Desire to Work At That Specific Company):

It’s not so much about looking to leave my current company, but more so about wanting to join this organization. I’ve always admired company name] and had a desire to join the team. I’ve been waiting for the right role to open up and this position looks to be the perfect fit.

Conclusion

If you haven’t received the question of “why do you want to leave your current job?” in the past, it’s likely a matter of time until you do. It’s one of the most common interview questions and it’s one that’s important to be ready for. By following the recommendations above, you can deliver a strong answer to help you in the interview process.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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