Career Quote of the Day
Hiring managers, staffing professionals and recruiters often ask in job interviews: “Why did you leave your previous position?” or “Why are you leaving your current job?”. While this question is seemingly obvious, there is much more behind this question that meets the eye.
What are they looking for?
It may be obvious that with these questions the hiring manager is looking to see what is motivating your career move. If you respond that you are looking for a job to grow your career that is quite different than citing a reason of more responsibility and commensurate compensation or that your need is relocation.
One of the reasons an interviewer wants to know what is motivating your career move is because it will give the interviewer a clue as to what you are looking for in your new job. This information will help the interviewer determine right fit and how to sell the opportunity. So for example, if you are looking for developmental opportunities to grow your career the hiring manager can tell you more about their mentoring program, educational funding, in-house training programs and so on. Likewise, if you cite the desire for flexibility and autonomy, an experienced recruiter might provide information on the flexible work options, schedules, and reporting structure.
Inside the Interview
But it gets deeper than the what I have explained above. For example, if the reason for departure is compensation, an experienced hiring manager or recruiter should be prepared for a counter offer from your current boss and assess your openness to accepting one. A counter-offer is especially likely if you are a well thought of employee. Why? Not only because you are fantastic but quite simply it is more inconvenient for an employer to hire and train someone new than to pay you more and retain you. So in this case, an experienced recruiter should be probing to find out if there are other reasons beyond compensation that is contributing to your desire to move on. So here is where you can expect to be probed with questions to determine factors such as a lack of recognition, work-life balance, development, job satisfaction and so forth that play a role in you wanting a new job.
How to Answer
Be honest and sincere when responding and simply describe why you are leaving and what you are looking for in your new job. This will help prevent much wasted time for everyone involved. If you are not sure, it is worthwhile to take some time to reflect on why it is you are leaving and what you want from your next employer. While I advised you to be honest, there is a caveat to this rule and that is when the reason is negative. So even if your former boss is a tyrant and you colleagues are too political it is not to your advantage to cite these reasons. It is much more advantageous for you to re-frame your answer and cite positive reasons. For example, citing the need for a new challenge and more responsibility is a good answer. Another possible answer is the opportunity to grow your career and better utilize your skills and experience. Lastly, even citing job elimination/laid off is better than speaking negatively about your former employer.
For more information, see our online job interview and resume writing courses. So until our next post, we wish you much luck and success in your career search.
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