Answering Interview Questions About Moving Out of Management

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Responding to interview questions about your desire to downshift from a management job to a specialist position can be very tricky. Maybe you are a sales manager who now wants to go back to sales, an editor who wants to be a writer again, or a principal who wants to get back into the classroom. Your challenge in accounting for your desire to downshift is to answer the question without seeming like you lack motivation or are looking for an easier job. 

Be Positive About Your Former Management Role

One approach is to frame your answer as a personal preference for the new position while emphasizing your success and satisfaction in the higher-level role. It will help to provide specific examples of how you were effective as a manager and how you impacted the bottom line.

Begin by mentioning aspects of your manager role which you enjoyed, and paint an overall picture of at least a modest level satisfaction. Avoid complaining about the challenges and difficulties of managing others, since your interviewer might begin to view you as someone who has problems interacting with co-workers or who avoids taking responsibility. 

Explain Why Your Want This New Role

Next, it's important to explain what attracts you to the non-management position you're seeking. Make sure to be specific. If possible, discuss the success you might have had in the non-management jobs you had in the past. Tell stories about your accomplishments in the position, and describe your level of satisfaction with enthusiasm. In most cases, you will be reflecting back on prior roles; for example, you might be discussing your experience an engineer prior to becoming an engineering director.

Share Examples

Make sure that you also incorporate any examples of how you performed a specialist role as part of your management duties and how that felt for you. For example, a sales manager may intervene to close a big sale with a major customer from time to time. That type of experience can be the perfect story point for explaining your inspiration to return to the prior role.

In the end, you will want your interviewer to understand that you are highly motivated to pursue the new job on its own merits and not as a way to escape an unsatisfying or difficult role as a manager.