"Why are you leaving your current job?"

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28fe6
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"Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by 28fe6 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:08 pm

A difficult interview question. Insight is appreciated.

True answer 1:
--upper management are clueless, and will eventually cause the company to fail through thier incompetence. Major business-critical project failures are in progress. Might as well leave before the stock crashes.

Interview answer: I after 5 strong years at midcorp, I am looking to move into a slighlty different role or segment (vendor vs. buyer) that my current company can't offer me.

True answer 2:
--middle management turnover: 6 bosses in 5 years. Half fired and half quit; all thrown under the bus

Interview answer: should I mention this at all? Maybe "continued restructuring has been challenging to navigate"? Does that make me seem like I have poor team skills?

True answer3: lack of growth opportunities. See: turnover

Interview answer: I think lack of advancement is a legitimate reason to leave, but how do express my inability to advance without making it seem like I am untalented or unable to overcome? Should I mention that nobody gets promoted regardless? Should i mention that 6 other engineers have already left? Even experienced engineers of all tenure lengths have quit without ever being promoted. Does it help to mention I'm not the first to leave? Does that count against me since "the best people leave first"? I'm thinking about mentioning that my company doesn't have a good technical advancement track, so I am just somewhat "topped out".

Real answer 4: stress of watching execution failure every day and being part of it, like losing a championship game every day for years. It takes a toll.

interview answer: "I think it's just time for a change and try something new." I don't see how to invoke this one without either seeming like I hate my company (true) and without being able to explain why I'm not just part of the incompetence at this point.

true answer 5: I am way underpaid. I would take just about anything that would correct my salary.

interview answer: I should probably just not mention this. I don't know how to spin it in a way that doesn't make me look shallow or make them question why exactly I'm paid so little (in fact my current company thinks I am paid extravagantly).

true answer 6: working conditions. I work in a temporary modular building that leaks water, smells, and has bad internet. I have to use my own phone and car for business use, poor vacation and leave policy, walk uphill in the snow both ways to work, etc.

interview answer: just don't bring it up except "looking for change".

Other: I really do want to move to the city where I'm interviewing. The challenge is not making it seem like I will up and run off to a different city every couple years. I'm thinking of mentioning how much better the destination city is for family/children/school. Although my wife thinks I shouldn't mention having children because she thinks companies are biased against people with children for not working as hard due to family commitments.

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bligh
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by bligh » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:19 pm

Never be negative in an interview. Always be positive in your answer.

If you have been with the company 5+ years, no one is going to see you as a job hopper or a trouble maker.. If you get asked that question, I would just say something to the effect of : "I am looking for new challenges, and new fresh projects to tackle. I want to learn and grow".

ResearchMed
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:35 pm

bligh wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:19 pm
Never be negative in an interview. Always be positive in your answer.

If you have been with the company 5+ years, no one is going to see you as a job hopper or a trouble maker.. If you get asked that question, I would just say something to the effect of : "I am looking for new challenges, and new fresh projects to tackle. I want to learn and grow".
I would think it would be even better if you could be somewhat specific about something definite at the new company/job that particularly appeals to you, something like, "In addition to what I already mentioned, I'm really eager to have more time working with Play-Doh, and I this job seems to provide a special opportunity to do that, and to even learn more about Advanced Play-Doh."

If possible, something specific, not just generalities about "new opportunities to grow". Grow *how*? Do *what*?

And some enthusiasm about it, if it's true. Don't try to fake something like that.

RM
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KNomad
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by KNomad » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:07 pm

Keep everything positive and your story easily digestible. You are interested in advancing your career in the direction of the open position and you know you will be able to add a ton of value at new company. Also, it just so happens that new company is based in a location that you really like.


No need for details beyond that.

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by JBTX » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:29 pm

I tend to think a little bit of reality is OK. Yes you should be positive but just spitting out non substantial fluffy answers may not be great either. I would say something like "it's been a great experience and I've learned a lot, but we've hit a bit of a rough patch that has lead to some fairly high turnover and instability. I'm really excited about the prospect of moving forward and working for a company with a bright future such as spacley sprockets. "

But I'm not an expert at this so take what I say with a grain of salt.

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bligh
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by bligh » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:20 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:35 pm
bligh wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:19 pm
Never be negative in an interview. Always be positive in your answer.

If you have been with the company 5+ years, no one is going to see you as a job hopper or a trouble maker.. If you get asked that question, I would just say something to the effect of : "I am looking for new challenges, and new fresh projects to tackle. I want to learn and grow".
I would think it would be even better if you could be somewhat specific about something definite at the new company/job that particularly appeals to you, something like, "In addition to what I already mentioned, I'm really eager to have more time working with Play-Doh, and I this job seems to provide a special opportunity to do that, and to even learn more about Advanced Play-Doh."

If possible, something specific, not just generalities about "new opportunities to grow". Grow *how*? Do *what*?

And some enthusiasm about it, if it's true. Don't try to fake something like that.

RM
+1 Agreed. The more specific to the company and job position the better.

I left out specifics simply because I didn't know the specifics in your case..

123
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by 123 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:37 pm

If you project any type of negativity about your current employer in a job interview it will tend to result in a lower salary offer because the new employer figures you're anxious to get away from a job situation you don't like. The more you complain about your current employer the lower the prospective salary offer will be.

If the new employer thinks you're satisfied with your current position but open to new challenges or a better fit the better the salary offer will be.
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mega317
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by mega317 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:48 pm

Maybe someone who does the interviewing can weigh in--what is the purpose of asking the question? OP seems to worry, and some of these replies seem to agree, that it's bait to see if they can trick you into saying something negative. Seems like a waste of time to me. Do they ask everyone and then only hire people that give vague rehearsed answers?

I tend to be a straight shooter and would be inclined to say, in a gentle way, at least some of what you've told us. I mean, you currently have a job and are interviewing for a different one--they know there is some reason you want to leave. I bet everything you said--salary, disagreements with management, turnover, poor advancement prospects, poor working conditions--is the list of the most common reasons people leave jobs. If they are offended by someone who wants a chance to advance or wants to be aligned with the direction of the company, then maybe you don't want to work there anyway.

And I agree that the fluff is just awful. I wouldn't want to spend the duration of an interview listening to someone talk like that, much less hire them and work with them forever.

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by KyleAAA » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:49 pm

“I heard you give good TC.”

NoGambleNoFuture
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by NoGambleNoFuture » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:56 pm

mega317 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:48 pm
Maybe someone who does the interviewing can weigh in--what is the purpose of asking the question? OP seems to worry, and some of these replies seem to agree, that it's bait to see if they can trick you into saying something negative. Seems like a waste of time to me. Do they ask everyone and then only hire people that give vague rehearsed answers?

I tend to be a straight shooter and would be inclined to say, in a gentle way, at least some of what you've told us. I mean, you currently have a job and are interviewing for a different one--they know there is some reason you want to leave. I bet everything you said--salary, disagreements with management, turnover, poor advancement prospects, poor working conditions--is the list of the most common reasons people leave jobs. If they are offended by someone who wants a chance to advance or wants to be aligned with the direction of the company, then maybe you don't want to work there anyway.

And I agree that the fluff is just awful. I wouldn't want to spend the duration of an interview listening to someone talk like that, much less hire them and work with them forever.
I always like to look at previous transitions and see if they were pushed or pulled - typically top talent / a-players are being pulled.

I do always ask why they're looking to leave their current role but more so just to get a sense of why they're on the market - seems like y'all feel you're being asked with negative intentions. From my POV it never really impacts things much.

We do look at transitions between multiple roles, not just their current role. If they have something negative to say about just their most recent employer that's no issue at all. However, say in each of their past five jobs they always had disagreements with their manager (for example), this would be somewhat of a red flag.

One similar thing I always ask is what they love (what are their favorite things) about their current role and what they hate (what do they not like doing, what are they not interested in doing) at their current role. This gives a better idea of what they are interested in and what they aren't interested in - and how that aligns with what we're looking for this hire to do. Would they be a good fit for the role. Something like this is infinitely more important to me than RFL (unless RFL was "I was fired" or there was a super common repetitive negative theme)

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by daveydoo » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:22 am

Having been on the receiving end of this, I agree that too much negativity is bad because you look negative and it's clear your current job sucks. But too little and you risk sounding insincere or even like a liar. If your boss is well-known for being an [not-nice person], you don't need to play that up but being a polyanna won't get you points for transparency. I agree about emphasizing the positives of the new opportunity and de-emphasizing what you're leaving behind. I'm in a "lifestyle" city and folks often struggle to find positives about the potential new workplace and not about the great hiking and skiing and mountain-biking...which I really don't need to hear. "Please tell me again why you'll call in sick every Friday and Monday from May through October."

Some folks are too forthcoming that they are being forced out or the place is imploding, etc., and I lose some enthusiasm -- you don't want us, you just don't want nothing.
"I mean, it's one banana, Michael...what could it cost? Ten dollars?"

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by telemark » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:46 am

Imagine you are on a first date with someone, and that person insists on complaining at great length about his or her previous partner. Is this something you want to hear? What if you find yourself sympathizing with the previous partner? This is not a question you can win; whatever you say, I would try to keep it brief and move on to something else.

Perhaps they have a turnover problem and are wondering how long you will stay with them. Then you might say something like "after five years in one position I felt it was time to move on." But I'm speculating.

bling
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by bling » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:57 am

You can say negative things without being negative. Keep it professional.

"The company culture changed after acquisition and I don't agree with the new direction of the company."

Anyone who has lived through that experience probably won't ask followup questions.

Also, what do you think people do after work with some drinks? They complain about all the crap at work, even if all things considered they love their job.

The answer to this question only matters if you've passed the technical parts of the interview. It's an opportunity to get a gauge of whether you fit with the company culture, which is just another phrase for whether I want to hang out with this person or not.

Lucien786
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by Lucien786 » Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:13 am

telemark wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:46 am
Imagine you are on a first date with someone, and that person insists on complaining at great length about his or her previous partner. Is this something you want to hear? What if you find yourself sympathizing with the previous partner? This is not a question you can win; whatever you say, I would try to keep it brief and move on to something else.

Perhaps they have a turnover problem and are wondering how long you will stay with them. Then you might say something like "after five years in one position I felt it was time to move on." But I'm speculating.
By the same token, imagine an answer you would like to hear. Why are you leaving your previous girl? "Because you're amazing." I'd say the headline is, to the extent you can, demonstrate that you are being pulled (to the new job), not pushed (away from the old job).

This is psychologically non-obvious because the question mentions the old job specifically, inspiring the untrained mind to start opining about their old job.

dcabler
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by dcabler » Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:31 am

bligh wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:19 pm
Never be negative in an interview. Always be positive in your answer.

If you have been with the company 5+ years, no one is going to see you as a job hopper or a trouble maker.. If you get asked that question, I would just say something to the effect of : "I am looking for new challenges, and new fresh projects to tackle. I want to learn and grow".
+1 Unvarnished truth is almost never called far in this situation. I've usually gone with something vague about looking for new opportunities and room for professional growth. It's a boiler plate answer to a boiler plate interview question. Just like the "where do you see yourself in 5 years" question. :D

And don't forget the flipside of this: The exit interview from your existing company. I've never seen any upside to pulling out the flamethrower and letting them know what I really think. You can't assume that the exit interview is just between you and the HR rep. The world is small and you'll see people again in your career.

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by MJW » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:13 pm

daveydoo wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:22 am
Some folks are too forthcoming that they are being forced out or the place is imploding, etc., and I lose some enthusiasm -- you don't want us, you just don't want nothing.
Yep. Most prospective employers are going to assume that if you are leaving a job willingly you are doing it to escape something, even if it's just complacency or stagnation. Discussing it is part of the game, and we know the code words and what they mean. What I don't want as the employer is to get the impression that you have a history of wearing out your welcome or bringing drama wherever you go. Asking them what has prompted them to make a change is a way of starting that conversation, and it can continue as we talk about the candidate's work history -- what went well, what didn't, what they took away from it, etc. If a person has such a lack of awareness that it is glaringly obvious that they blamed someone else every time something didn't work out, or that they think every boss they worked for was a moron, I'm probably going to assume that they will eventually come around to acting the same way for me. That is their pathology. There are always exceptions (sometimes the "right" mix of circumstances can bring out the worst in a person), but for the most part people are pretty consistent about who they are.

OP - I would be honest about your reasons for leaving while being professional and diplomatic about it, and avoid piling on with a laundry list. Pick one or two reasons and then keep the focus on what you bring to the table and what excites you about taking the next step in your career at the new company.

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by adamthesmythe » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:24 pm

I'm not going to the looking for any jobs anymore...but...

SOME of the questions you get asked are asked because...the interviewer doesn't really know what to ask...and these are the kinds of generic questions that fill the time.

Maybe only a very few questions...from maybe one of the people you see...will actually be relevant to the job.

Beyond that they want to know whether you are socialized. Saying negative things about a previous job will suggest that you are not.

So in the spirit of the questions asked...give mostly generic and inoffensive responses about your present job. Try to give specific and positive responses about the job (and location) that you interview for.

mega317
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by mega317 » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:02 pm

Lucien786 wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:13 am
Why are you leaving your previous girl? "Because you're amazing."
No problems, but I'll leave in a heartbeat if I think I found someone better! Not what I'd want to hear.

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Elsebet
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by Elsebet » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:44 pm

My last company had a culture of valuing seniority over merit. When I was interviewing for my current job I asked if the same was true at this company because I did not want to make the same mistake twice.

I think I said something like "My current company values seniority over merit making it a challenge for new employees to make an impact. How are seniority and merit valued at this company?"

When I'm in the enviable position of interviewing for jobs while I already have one I am a little more inclined to be honest but professional in trying to ascertain whether or not the target company will be a good fit for both of us.

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by GT99 » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:49 pm

I've interviewed and hired many, many people (including a few hours ago). I do ask this question, because the answer is telling, and if the answer is a total fluff, non-answer, it reflects negatively on the candidate (not total deal-breaker, but negatively) for a couple reasons. One reason is I prefer people who are honest and straightforward, so I ask questions that many people may be inclined to answer dishonestly - it's usually easy to see they're being dishonest or dodging the question. The second reason is that a non-honest answer is indicative of someone running away from something (a push) rather than someone moving towards something (a pull).

That said, honesty doesn't mean super negative. You obviously don't want to say "My boss is an *******!"
So OP's "True Answer number 1" is similar to the primary reason I left my last company. But the key is to give specific examples to support the answer. For example, I say "the company has made a lot of bad decisions. For example, we spent months of development time on a product feature set that we couldn't sell - literally, 6 months after release there were zero paying customers. We also were mandated by our CEO to do over 1000 hours of unpaid custom development for a single customer, at the expense of strategically improving the product." Both are completely true.

Lack of growth opportunities is also completely reasonable. I left one job because there was only 1 position really wanted to move into, and the person in the position wasn't going anywhere anytime soon (2 jobs later for me, he's still in that same position I wanted then), and I've said exactly that in interviews.

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by dubsem » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:58 pm

In one unsuccessful job interview, I made the mistake of answering this question with 'limited career opportunities.' Some interviewers may see this as lack of initiative or possibly not being liked in the company to be a priority at the company. Or, as I learned later from the interviewer, he doesn't care when people 'complain' about their companies. YMMV.

I've turned this question into why I want to be at the new company. 'There's opportunities in this industry/company that motivate me... yada yada'
G.O.O.D.

megabad
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by megabad » Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:22 pm

Just be honest and specific but kill the question very fast. I asked a similar question recently and the guy leaned back and said "Look, I am here because I think I am underpaid at Company X and I know I deserve more because I am a top salesman every year." I appreciated his honesty, asked him no more questions about his last position and immediately asked him his salary requirements.

Don't give a diatribe on every manager and his or her mistakes or talk about failures in others. I don't care about your managers/coworkers, I care about you. Just give the main reason you are looking for a job elsewhere and leave it at that. If the reason is that the job you are applying to is a career advancement, make sure you stress how it is so (ie. more responsibility, greater variety of experiences, more direct reports, etc). If you don't give me the impression that you will be happy in the new position, I will be worried.

I would not mention kids, wives, husbands, politics, orientation, etc. In my formal interviews, this just invites an HR nightmare for me and it is not relevant to the decision making process (legally). If present, I would suggest that small talk should be of the super safe variety in interviews (ie. how bout that weather?).

MathWizard
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by MathWizard » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:09 pm

Lucien786 wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:13 am
telemark wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:46 am
Imagine you are on a first date with someone, and that person insists on complaining at great length about his or her previous partner. Is this something you want to hear? What if you find yourself sympathizing with the previous partner? This is not a question you can win; whatever you say, I would try to keep it brief and move on to something else.

Perhaps they have a turnover problem and are wondering how long you will stay with them. Then you might say something like "after five years in one position I felt it was time to move on." But I'm speculating.
By the same token, imagine an answer you would like to hear. Why are you leaving your previous girl? "Because you're amazing." I'd say the headline is, to the extent you can, demonstrate that you are being pulled (to the new job), not pushed (away from the old job).

This is psychologically non-obvious because the question mentions the old job specifically, inspiring the untrained mind to start opining about their old job.

This exactly.

I've hired several people over the last 5 years. For some interviewees nothing was ever their fault. The people who managed them were all idiots. I could just see them saying the same thing about me after I got rid of them.

Winners were people who had heard of the job through an acquaintance and wanted to get into a growing area, and of course work for a great boss. 😀

MathWizard
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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by MathWizard » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:10 pm

Lucien786 wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:13 am
telemark wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:46 am
Imagine you are on a first date with someone, and that person insists on complaining at great length about his or her previous partner. Is this something you want to hear? What if you find yourself sympathizing with the previous partner? This is not a question you can win; whatever you say, I would try to keep it brief and move on to something else.

Perhaps they have a turnover problem and are wondering how long you will stay with them. Then you might say something like "after five years in one position I felt it was time to move on." But I'm speculating.
By the same token, imagine an answer you would like to hear. Why are you leaving your previous girl? "Because you're amazing." I'd say the headline is, to the extent you can, demonstrate that you are being pulled (to the new job), not pushed (away from the old job).

This is psychologically non-obvious because the question mentions the old job specifically, inspiring the untrained mind to start opining about their old job.

This exactly.

I've hired several people over the last 5 years. For some interviewees nothing was ever their fault. The people who managed them were all idiots. I could just see them saying the same thing about me after I got rid of them.

Winners were people who had heard of the job through an acquaintance and wanted to get into a growing area, and of course work for a great boss. :D

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Re: "Why are you leaving your current job?"

Post by dekecarver » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:24 pm

I interview various levels of skill mix personnel on a weekly basis and I meet with students to talk about career paths and of all things, interviewing. I've maintained a few grounding principals: 1) don't tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear, 2) be honest, professional, tactful, 3) give real examples in your responses that demonstrate your KSAs, 4) be punctual, 5) remember, you are representing who you are which becomes an extension of your employer. I personally don't want to hear why a former boss/employer is the reason an applicant is leaving; and I don't want to hear some fluff bs either. When an applicant can put #s 2,3 and 4 together; #5 can be an easy decision.

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