How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Current Job

Job interview
••• Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

You’re about to leave a job you don’t really like, and you’re getting ready to interview for a job at a company you think is head and shoulders above your current employer. It’s fine to be excited about the new opportunity, but it’s crucial to take care when the interviewer asks questions that require you to compare your current job to the job you’re hoping to get.

Take a moment to think before you answer questions such as, “How is our company better than your present employer?” When asked this question, a disgruntled job applicant might tell the interviewer that the company he or she works for is horrible. Maybe they talk about how the company treats employees terribly, or how they hate working there.

There are serious pitfalls to answering this question negatively and throwing your current employer “under the bus.”

What happens, for example, if their current employer happens to be a big customer of the company where he or she is hoping to land a job?

It’s unlikely that a candidate in this situation would be hired – and it doesn’t matter whether they are telling the truth or not. With this kind of negative attitude, there just isn’t any way they could have a positive relationship with the client if they hated working for them. Their negativity would be an immediate “red flag” for the interviewer.

This is one of those interview questions where you really need to tread lightly when you respond, for many reasons.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

An invitation to differentiate your current employer from your prospective company presents a potential trap, albeit a very tempting one. It is one of the trick questions that interviewers ask as a way of testing you to determine if you have a negative attitude or difficulty with authority.

In addition, he or she will also be assessing whether you have done your homework and have realistic expectations for the interviewer’s organization. So, while you don’t want to say bad things about your current employer, you shouldn’t go overboard and glorify the next one either.

How to Answer Questions About Your Present Employer

One key to answering this question is to make sure you have an accurate view of the hiring company. You need to know that whatever you see as potentially beneficial about working for them actually fits the bill.

Do some research on the company and don’t over-hype the new opportunity with hopes that the interviewer will fall for your gushing enthusiasm. He or she will know if you’re being unrealistic.

Another key is to be careful not to mention any negative information about your current company.

Keeping it positive makes the most sense in this situation, even if your work experience isn’t, or wasn’t, the best. The safest approach is to frame your current employer in a positive way, and then note how the prospective employer is even more attractive to you.

Examples of the Best Answers

Here are some sample answers that demonstrate how to make a measured comparison between your current employer and the company that’s interviewing you.

As a salesperson, I’m very concerned about how consumers perceive the quality of the products that I sell. My current employer has a solid reputation for quality, but your firm is universally recognized as the industry leader in quality and service. So, I would love to be part of your team.

Why It Works: This answer works well because the candidate has kept his response upbeat. He does this by mentioning admirable features of the hiring employer that build upon, but also exceed, the positive aspects of his current company. 

I am excited that your company has introduced three new products this past year which have gained traction and garnered increased market share. My current company is in a more stable phase. It produces well-known and respected brands, but has not opened up new markets.

Why It Works: Conciseness and discretion are key here. The candidate sticks to the facts and avoids references to subjective considerations like the quality of management and leadership. It’s also clear that she has done her research in learning about her potential employer’s business model and sales operations.

It’s my understanding that you invest considerable resources into training employees to utilize the latest technology.

Why It Works: The tone of this response is spot-on, because it is professional rather than personal. The respondent focuses on the aspects of the company that would enable him to be productive on a professional level. His statement is not emotional, and it doesn’t say anything bad about his current company. While it puts the potential employer in a positive light, it’s not ridiculous or overbearing.

If you really can’t say anything positive about your current employer, don’t say anything at all. Focus on what the potential employer offers, instead.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Walk the Middle Line: There’s no need to denigrate your current employer or put the potential employer up on a pedestal. Be realistic and objective in describing what attracts you about the new job and company.

Redefine the Question: It’s fine, if you can do this without gushing, to redefine the question as “Why do you want to work here?” and to focus upon what excites you about working for the employer. This is one subtle way to try to avoid making direct comparisons that would cast your current organization in a poor light.

Focus on Growth Potential: One approach to this question is to describe, with appreciation, the opportunities your current employer provided with you, and then to suggest how you look forward to taking these skills to the next level with the hiring employer. This strategic response allows you to “pitch” the value you would bring to the company without making invidious comparisons between it and your current organization.

What Not to Say

Don't mention enticing “perks.” It’s best to avoid references to features of the new corporate culture that are personally beneficial. For example, "I find the ability to work from home and your generous vacation policy to be very appealing,” is not a good answer, because it focuses on your needs and not the company itself.

You don't want the hiring manager to think that the only reason you want the job is because of how it benefits you. While the potential personal benefits that a new job might offer are important, it’s just not something to bring up during a job interview.

Instead, you’re much better off on focusing on how the new position will benefit you professionally rather than any personal benefits you’ll experience if hired. Then, your best next step is to explain how hiring you will benefit the company.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  • Tell me about something that is not on your resume. - Best Answers
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? - Best Answers
  • Why are you the best person for the job? - Best Answers

Key Takeaways

SPIN THE QUESTION: Try to rephrase the question, turning it from a comparison between two companies into a focused, reasoned summary of what attracts you professionally about the employer you are interviewing with.

REMAIN POSITIVE: Demonstrate your professionalism and maturity by refusing to make negative comments about your current company. Instead, acknowledge the benefits they provided before turning your focus to the opportunities you feel the new job would offer.

BE REALISTIC: Research the company so that you can provide a reasoned description of why you are enthusiastic about leaving your current job to work for them. Focus on features that will allow you to grow professionally even as you contribute to their corporate success.