One of the most commonly asked and difficult questions to answer in a job interview is why you want to leave your current job. It is difficult to answer, because if you give the wrong reason, it will put you in a negative light.

Answering this question well is not just about giving a good reason, but also how you justify the reason you give. And it's this justification which makes answering this question particularly difficult.

So how do you learn what type of reasons to say and how to justify them?

Think like an interviewer

The easiest way to learn how to answer this question is to put yourself in the position of an interviewer asking this question. Think about what the purpose is of them asking the question. Is it to find out about your work experience? or to find out what type of person you are?

Once you've decided what the purpose is, ask yourself what type of things you would want to hear (and not hear) from a potential employee if you were interviewing them for a job?

By doing this, you'll not only understand what you should (and shouldn't) say, but it'll also make it easier for you to come up with a good answer and to remember it when doing the interview.

Unless you have already interviewed people for jobs yourself, this may seem like a difficult thing to do. So to help you understand how to answer this question, I have created the below online exercise. Through reading 3 good example answers and then doing a short quiz at the end, the exercise will not only show you both what reasons and types of things to say, but make sure that you understand why they are being said.

When doing this exercise, try to focus on understanding what makes each answer good (the purpose of what is being said and why) and not on learning the vocabulary being used in them. If you want to learn professional sounding words and phrases to use in your own answer, after you've done this exercise, you should do our exercise on 'Job interview questions: Why do you want to leave your current job?'.


Examples & Exercise:

Below are answers given by three different candidates in a job interview to the question 'Why do you want to leave your current job?'. When reading each answer think why an interviewer would think it's a good answer. Also, think about what the purpose is of what the candidate has said in their answer.

Once you done this for each candidate's answer, do the quiz at the end to make sure you are right.

Candidate One:

'First of all, I would like to say that I don't have any problems with my current employer. I have worked there for over 7 years and have enjoyed my time there. They have provided me with an opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. And from starting as an analyst, I am now a manager of my own team. I am very grateful for the confidence they have shown in me and also the experience that I have gained.

But during these 7 years, I know what I excel in and what I want to specialise in. And due to the nature and size of the company, my opportunities to pursue this area there are limited. So, in order to move my career to the next stage, I have to move on. It's a shame, because I have a very good working with my manager and my team. So, it's not a decision that I have taken lightly. But, I feel that the position that is available here will provide me with the opportunity to focus on an area in which I both excel and love.'


Candidate Two:

'To be honest, I wasn't job hunting. One of my ex-colleagues forwarded me the advert for the position. I am very happy in my current job. I have achieved all of my goals and I am now in a position where I make a difference for the company.

The only reason I would leave my current position is for something significantly better. And having read the roles and responsibilities for the job, this position offers it. This role has more responsibility, plus working in a different environment provides a new challenge, which I am sure I can meet. In addition, it would be foolish to turn down the possibility of doing this role in a company with such a strong reputation as yours. I think this role provides an excellent opportunity for the progression of my career.'


Candidate Three:

'I've spent 4 happy years with my current employer. But due to the current financial crisis, they are currently downsizing their operations. As a result, it's made a lot of people redundant and although I have been informed that my job is safe, there's a lot of uncertainty. So, I feel now is the time to move on and look for a more secure position.'



Quiz:

Below are 6 questions about the above candidates' answers. Choose the correct answer from each question's selection box. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, an Additional Information Icon "" will appear next to the answer. Click on this for both extra information and a detailed explanation why this answer is correct.

1. What is the main purpose why interviewers would ask you this question in a job interview?
     

To assess your commitment/loyalty:
Just being the candidate with the best skills or experience won't guarantee that you will automatically get the job in an interview. In addition to these, employers look for other qualities when deciding who to give a job to.

One of these qualities is 'loyalty' or 'commitment'. Companies don't like to lose staff. It not only takes time and money to replace them, but there is a risk that any new staff member they do hire won't work out.

This is the main reason why interviewers will ask you this question in a job interview, to assess your loyalty. So unless the company you are working for has financial problems or is shutting down some of its operations, you need to reassure them that you are not a 'gun for hire' who has no commitment for any company you work for.

To show that you are a loyal type of person, you can say in your answer how long you have worked for your current company (but only if it is a long time). You can also tell them that you weren't looking to move companies (tell them you heard about the position you are applying for by chance or somebody told you it).

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2. Do any of the people criticise their current employer?
     

No:
You should never criticise any current (or past) employer in any job interview answer you give. Even if you hate your job there and/or the company has treated you badly, interviewers will see any criticism that you make as a sign of disloyalty (which is not an attractive quality in a potential employee). So say that the company you are at is good to work for and explain how you have benefited from working there (e.g. 'I have learnt a lot', 'gained valuable experience' etc...).

But after you have praised the company you currently work for, you need to justify why you want to leave it. Because if you don't, they are sure to ask you why you want to leave if it's such a good company to work for.

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3. What reason does candidate one give for wanting to leave their current employer?
     

There are limited opportunities at their current company:
Unless the company you are working for has financial problems or is shutting down some of its operations, you should always praise the company that you currently work for in your answer. But after you have done this, you need to justify why you want to leave. When you do this, you need to give a reason which sounds reasonable.

One such reason you can give is that there are limited opportunities for either advancement or specializing in a particular area in the company you are currently working at. This is something which most interviewers will appreciate and understand. This is a particularly good reason to give if the company you are currently working at is smaller than the one you are applying for the job in.

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4. What reason does candidate two give for wanting to leave their current employer?
     

The position they are applying for is very good:
Unless the company you are working for has financial problems or is shutting down some of its operations, you should always praise the company that you currently work for in your answer. But after you have done this, you need to justify why you want to leave. When you do this, you need to give a reason which sounds reasonable.

One such reason you can give is that the position you are applying for is a very good one. It's like a dream job for you. If you choose to use this reason, it's very important to explain that you were not actively looking to change jobs before you heard about the vacancy (if you use this reason and they think you were looking to change jobs, it will sound fake). Tell them that somebody told you about the vacancy.

In addition to this, explain that the only reason why you would be willing to leave your current company is to work for a company like theirs and for a position like they are offering.

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5. What reason does candidate three give for wanting to leave their current employer?
     

They are worried about losing their current job in the future:
If the company you are currently working at has financial difficulties or is in the process of major restructuring (i.e. closing down operations or moving operations to different cities), it is perfectly valid to say this in the answer you give to this question. It is normal to be looking for a new job in these situations (and something any potential employer will see as a perfectly valid reason). It won't make you seem as disloyal to be doing this.

Although you can also say how good the job is you are applying for, when you give this type of reason for looking for work, I don't think it's necessary.

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6. What is the main reason why each of the candidates has given the reason they have for wanting to leave their current employer?
     

Because it is a valid reason for wanting to leave:
Although the reason which each of the candidates in this exercise has given for wanting to leave their current company could be true, this is not why they have used them. They are used because they sound reasonable for wanting to move to a new company. They are reasons which the people interviewing you will be able to appreciate (some of the people interviewers will have probably moved companies for the same reason or reasons themselves).

The secret of doing good job interviews, is knowing what the interviewers are looking for in a potential employee and convincing them that you are this in what you say. This may mean that you are liberal with the truth (lie a little), but if you want to do a good job interview, this is what you have to do.

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Practice

Now that you understand what you need to do to answer 'why do you want to leave your job' vocabulary, come up with your own answer for this interview question. Or you can do an exercise to learn vocabulary to use in your own answer.

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