In your quest to land that great job, there are many things you need to do.

From searching job boards, writing the perfect resume, practicing for the interview etc. There’s  a lot to be done.

The interview is the last step. It’s what stands between you and the job. Failing to perform well in the interview means you’re not moving forward. Either from your current job which you want to leave or from your state of joblessness.

Interviewers know that you want the job and are willing to prove it. They will ask you many questions in an effort to find out whether you’re really the right candidate for the position.

And some of those questions can be tricky to answer. Whereas you think the answer you give is what they’re looking for, they might actually be looking beyond your answer.

One such question is the one about your reason for leaving your current job. If you’re currently not working, you might be asked why you left your last job.

Either way, there’s something the interviewer is seeking to know.

THE REAL REASON YOU’RE ASKED WHY YOU WANT TO CHANGE JOBS

This question is a big one. And when asked, try to see beyond the question.

In this article, we give you the thinking behind the question so you know what possible answers mean.

We’ll tell you what to avoid saying and afterwards advice you on what should guide your response.

Interviewers can’t read your mind and obviously can’t fully trust the answers you give.

As such, they have to dig for information so as to be able to make the best decision for the company.

With this question, let’s look at two conclusions the interviewers may make based on your answers.

You are a Complainer

If someone asked you whether you are a whiner, what would you say? No?

Of course you’re well prepared and even know how to paint the right image. You have the right body language and your answers are impressive.

But what are some of your negative traits?

One rule of thumb when asked this question is that you should never be negative.

When you give the impression that your job is a bad one, that means you complain about it. Being that in an interview you’re definitely controlling yourself, what happens when you’re more free?

The company with a vacancy must ask itself what you’ll be saying about it when with friends. That’s important because there is nothing as powerful as the word of mouth. If people tell one another how bad a company is, then that can only result in bad business.

Repairing a damaged business reputation is not easy. So if you’re the kind of employee who would be quick to complain, you’re easily seen as a liability.

Will the interviewer pick a liability for the open position?

You are a Problematic Employee

It is widely known and has been proven through research that employees don’t quit jobs. They quit managers. If you have previously quit a job, you probably did so due to issues with your boss.

However, from the manager’s perspective, you might be the problem.

Yes, this may not be the case and the research cited above proves it.

But if you have never gotten to understand the workplace from a manager’s perspective, you may not get the whole picture.

It’s true that many managers need training and even a change of strategy in how they handle employees.

Some organizations are smart enough to put in the effort and cultivate the right culture.

Still, understand that your interviewer is most likely a manager in the company you’re interviewing in.

The lenses through which she looks at you are not necessarily those of your peers.

She is likely looking for someone who will work hard and give the goals of the company a place in his heart.

Moreover, even in an organization where people are treated well, you’ll still not be taken simply because you seek a better work environment.

Your interviewer must ensure that you’re not going to be the one spoiling the party at their organization.

So, if your answer gives even the slightest hint that you could be a problem, you’re likely to get no response. Or if you do, it might be a regret letter.

WHAT TO AVOID SAYING

There are certain words or phrases you should never allow yourself to make. No matter how bad your boss or job is, you should steer clear of being open about it.

Your interviewer is not your friend who will empathize with you and encourage you that all will be well. She is on a business mission. She seeks to fill a position with the employee who will bring maximum benefit to the company.

So what should you not say?

Anything that is exactly like the below or related in a way is to be avoided.

“I don’t like my job”

You’ve heard that you should be honest during an interview.

That’s true—you should never lie during an interview as it can lead to termination even if you get hired.

Dishonesty is a big concern for many companies.

Besides, it’s not a good trait to have. And if it’s strong enough, it can spread from you to others.

But honesty, especially in an interview should be practiced with wisdom. You should not just be open about everything in your effort to show honesty. As mentioned, the interviewer is out on a mission.

If you say you’re leaving your current job since you don’t like it, several questions come to mind.

You’ll need to explain that. And since those interviewing you are very keen to hear the reason, you’ll just have stirred their interest in finding out more.

Leaving your current job because you don’t like it implies that you’re not a loyal employee.

You’re just looking for a place where you’ll be comfortable. In the event that comfort reduces, you’ll not hesitate from moving again.

The interview process is costly for companies. And if they see the possibility of a hiring cycle because you can leave at the slightest discomfort, then they would rather not consider you.

No interviewer will spend too much time trying to figure out the real truth. They don’t have the luxury of time. So what they’ll do is take your answer, and maybe your explanation, then make conclusions from it.

Remember that this is not your friend who is all positive about you. In an interview, you have the responsibility of convincing strangers that you’re the best.

“My colleagues are difficult to work with”

Granted, there are people who are simply difficult to work with. Those might be the kind of people you’ve had to deal with for the period you’ve been in your current job.

But the interviewer doesn’t know that and doesn’t have the time to hear the details so as to prove it. And even if you tell her all the details, she has only heard your side of the story. How sure is she that you’re being honest?

Today, there is a lot of emphasis on teamwork and that is for a good reason. Projects are completed on time and general productivity increases with teamwork.

Your interviewer will seek to find out how much of a team player you are. If you’re like many job seekers, you have said in your resume that you are a team player. Does your answer to this question prove otherwise?

If you are truly a team player, challenges in working with people aren’t the biggest problem for you.

You have likely developed a way of managing the differences between you and them and are able to get the job done.

This is more critical if the position you’re interviewing for is in management or any form of leadership like supervisor.

If therefore working with your current colleagues is difficult, could it be that you’re the difficult employee? Could it be that you’re too rigid and would only like things to be done your way?

“I just don’t like my boss”

This is one of the worst things you can say about your current or former boss. You may not even be asked to explain much and your explanation may even make things worse.

First of all, a negative comment about your current boss is not wise.

Bosses are often the same in many ways. One of those ways is in their desire for your loyalty. If you don’t like your boss but you’re working under him, are you sure you’re not working against him?

In the ears of the interviewer, this answer could as well shout the words “saboteur.” You are not at all devoted to your work and that means you are a burden to your employer.

How sure can the interviewer be that you’ll not soon dislike your prospective boss? And if you do, what will that mean for the team you’ll be working with and the entire company?

Also, have you thought of the possibility that your interviewer could be a friend of your current boss? What is she to think of you making such a comment about her friend?

Interviewers are humans too and they will seek to protect their friends even as they protect the company. If your interviewer knows your boss and you say something negative about him, you may not be proceeding beyond this particular interview.

“My boss didn’t keep his promise of promoting me”

This might be a genuine reason for wanting to change jobs. If you were promised a promotion but never got it, you definitely won’t be very happy.

The question however is, why didn’t he honor his promise?

Obviously, since you’re “hurting” from the broken promise, you are not considering your boss’ perspective.

At the same time, the answer itself shows that you feel you are owed the promotion simply because it was a promise. That’s okay, but remember that promotions are given on merit.

Is it possible that there was a condition tied to the promotion and you never fulfilled it to your boss’ satisfaction?

That’s a very big possibility because any interviewer will assume that you never qualified for the promotion.

This answer implies that you might be the kind of employee who’s only focused on the benefits. You are not focused as much on the work which needs to be done to get the benefits.

“I have been given unrealistic and unachievable targets”

Remember the rule of thumb that you should never be negative?

Well, this possibly-true answer is full of negativity. It’s possibly true because there are industries where the competition is very high and a lot is demanded from the employees.

All the same, the negativity is not excusable.

If you view your targets as unrealistic, it means you don’t like them. You will therefore have no internal motivation to work towards them.

But that’s not all. You also find the targets unachievable?

If the targets were only unrealistic, you could decide to do whatever you could and give the results you got. But if you’ve decided that they are unachievable, your mind is not going to want to do anything about them.

Candidates with a negative attitude towards work are rarely attractive to hiring managers. Their negativity results in them not being hired.

“My job is no longer interesting”

What is the definition of “interesting” according to you? Does the interviewer hold the same opinion? In case she doesn’t, and that’s the likelihood, then you’re on your own.

It can be an unfortunate conclusion but this answer can be taken to mean that you’re not mature enough. Maturity comes with responsibility and the responsible person ensures that what he wants, he works towards.

Translating that to the workplace, if your job is no longer interesting, then it’s your responsibility to make it interesting again. Either bring in what existed before or something new to make it interesting again.

The bottom line is that you can’t abandon a responsibility simply because the process is not interesting. If you dedicate the time and effort, you can make your work interesting.

This answer paints the picture of a potential complainer. You might be the kind of employee who expects the difficult work to be done for you. If your work is not simple and fun, then you’re not interested.

Do you then have the right understanding of what work is all about? Are you aware that there is an effort to be put in before you enjoy good results?

“I’m not being paid what I deserve”

Pay and benefits are often the reason why many seek to change jobs. You work somewhere for a certain period and expect that you’ll rise up the ranks. With the rise, you’ll get a better pay as well as more benefits.

What if that doesn’t happen?

This is quite like the answer about being promoted. And with the word “deserve” in the sentence, you show that you’re actually being mistreated. Maybe even abused. Your rights are being infringed on.

Anything which you deserve is something you should be getting, right?

The big question is, from whose perspective are you talking?

In any organization, the person who determines what you deserve to be paid is either HR or your immediate manager. The HR might set a standard based on the market while your immediate manager might propose a figure based on your skills or contribution to the team.

This answer however doesn’t provide the input of your HR or immediate manager. It then becomes difficult to be sure whether you truly deserve the pay you’re talking about.

HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION RIGHT

In reading the above responses to the question about changing jobs, what do you conclude?

Among your conclusions, you might have realized that your choice of words matters.

And for your choice of words to have an element of truth and flow well with your body language, you need to have some answers as a guide on how to respond to the question.

Remember that interviews are supposed to be conversational. Do not choose one answer and memorize it. Rather, use these as guides and see how to apply them to your own situation.

“I’m looking for new challenges”

One of the ways growth and progress comes is through being stretched.

The most common way for you to be stretched is by handling challenges.

When your current job is no longer challenging, you might become apathetic.

This is especially if you’re the kind of person who loves solving problems.

So instead of telling your interviewer how your job has become boring, try telling her that you’re looking for more challenges.

“I want career growth”

Just as challenges get you to grow, you can also desire career growth through available openings. Maybe your current employer doesn’t have any available higher positions.

For example, you might be working as a branch manager in a retail chain. You joined the company as a cashier and have risen up the ranks to head an outlet.

Being the branch manager, there are only two people above you. They are the regional manager and the managing director, who is the business owner.

In such a situation, there may be no room for a promotion. The only thing you’re getting is more benefits and an annual bonus for hitting targets.

You can then tell your interviewer that you’re looking for opportunities for career growth.

“I want to learn new skills”

You may feel that you want to do something a bit different. Maybe you just rediscovered an interest you forgot you had.

Deciding to pursue it, you realize that you’ll need an enabling environment. You’ll need to learn the skills required so as to be good in your new interest. You’ll also need a place to apply the skills.

The answer you give here will have to show the connection between your new interest and the position you’re interviewing for. This way, you can show that your desire for new skills is what drives your decision to move.

“I want to apply my new skills in this position”

In other cases, you may have acquired new skills which are not applicable to your current position. Maybe it’s a situation like the one mentioned above where you recently discovered an interest.

You went ahead and did some courses and graduated. Since you want to make use of these new skills, you looked for a job that gives you such an opportunity.

During the interview, you can give this reason.

While doing so, you’ll also have to explain why you decided to pursue an interest which isn’t aligned to your current job.

You could say that you love your current job and pursuing this new interest did not interfere in any way with your job.

And maybe to prove it, despite the new interest existing for some years before giving it considerable attention, you had done courses related to your current job.

You also paid for the courses yourself, graduated and implemented the new skills to the company.

“I want more responsibilities”

Still on growth, you can say that you want to grow through having more responsibilities. In giving this answer, you’ll have to show that you have previously handled responsibilities well.

If you’ve already been asked about a time in your life when you showed leadership, you can reference that answer if it’s work related. But to increase your chances, use another example but connect it with the one already mentioned.

That will serve to remind the interviewer about your leadership skills.

Moreover, with this answer, you’ll be showing that you’re capable of more. You are thus a potential asset to the company if they pick you.

“I like this company”

You can also decide to focus on the company you’re interviewing for and not your current job. This can be a great answer, especially if the interview is going well.

Take this opportunity to speak some good things about the company you’re hoping to join. Use the information you gathered during your research to show that you know the company and are basing your decision on facts.

Some of the things you can base your answer on is the direction the company is taking. You can also mention some of the achievements they have and connect that to your interest.

Just make sure you don’t sound like you’re only looking for greener pasture. Remember to show that you will be adding value to the company upon being hired.

“There are pending layoffs”

Due to high competition, many mergers and acquisitions happen. In worse cases, companies get shut and employees become jobless.

If this happens and you’re about to become jobless, you can be honest about it. If the information about your company is in the public domain, it becomes easier and more reasonable to say this.

Still, do not fail to say something good about your current job. Let it be known that you are a positive employee who can contribute to a great workplace culture.

“The company is restructuring”

At times, mergers and acquisitions won’t cause joblessness but some restructuring. Restructuring can also be as a result of other measures the company is taking to remain competitive.

The management at your current job could have decided to change people’s roles or move them to different offices.

Whatever the case, this is also an acceptable reason to give.

While remaining positive, show how the restructuring is going to affect you. Help your interviewer understand that in changing jobs, you’re just seeking to remain true to your career interests.

“I’m seeking a better work-life balance”

This is a big answer that despite being acceptable, needs to be framed well.

If you are being interviewed by Gen Xers, then the term work-life balance will strike a chord with them. Gen Xers, or Generation X, are the people born between 1965 and 1980.

The idea of having a balance between work and other aspects of life is important to this generation. And if you can show how you believe in it, especially if you are not a Gen Xer yourself, you can gain some points.

CONCLUSION

Being asked why you’re changing jobs is normal. Since the question will surely come up, it’s best to be prepared for it. From among your reservations with your current employer, pick one and adapt any of these answers to it.

Remember the rule of thumb: do not be negative. Always say something positive about your employer, whether current or past.

How to Answer the Question 'Why do you want to change jobs?'

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