Interview Question: "Why Are You Looking For a New Job?"

Tips for Answering Interview Questions About Leaving Your Job

Woman gesturing during job interview
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When you interview for a job, the interviewer is going to ask you why you're looking for a new job. This job interview question can be a mine field unless you're prepared for it. You must balance your answer between not bashing your former or current job with relaying to the interviewer the information concerning your desire to find another position.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

When you're interviewing for a new position, you should come prepared to answer questions about why you’re leaving your job or why you left your previous one. Rather than focus on the past, and any negative experiences, your answer should open the door to a discussion about why this new position is the perfect job for you. The interviewer is looking for an answer that will help in the hiring decision.

How to Answer “Why Are You Looking for a New Job?”

While the specifics of your answer will depend on whether you left voluntarily or were asked to leave, it's important to answer in a way that casts you in a positive light. You should also be sure to avoid badmouthing your previous employer.

For example, you'd never want to say, "My boss is a tyrant and creates an insanely competitive environment, pitting all of the employees against each other."

Even if your boss is not ideal, it’s not helpful to point that out in a job interview.

Imagine the consequences if your interviewer happens to be a friend or colleague of your boss, which is possible if the new job is in the same field and in a nearby locality.

Besides that, giving a negative answer may not reflect well on you. At least be neutral or leave your boss out of your answer. Take the high road instead. The best way to do this is to highlight the reasons why you're seeking the new position.

Examples of the Best Answers

Here are some examples of good answers to the interview question, “Why are you looking for a new job?” Ultimately, you should aim to frame your answer in a way that makes your interviewer feel confident that the position you're interviewing for is in line with your personal and professional goals.

Don't forget that the delivery of your answer is just as important as its content. Be sure to practice aloud so you sound positive and clear in your responses.

Review examples of how best to answer, tailoring your response to meet your situation. Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future rather than the past, especially if you're leaving wasn't under the best of circumstances.

I found myself bored with the work and looking for more challenges. I'm an excellent employee and I didn't want my unhappiness to have an impact on the job I was doing for my employer.

Why It Works: This potential employee didn’t say anything bad about his former employer. The employee cast himself in a positive light by saying that the dissatisfaction felt with the previous job shouldn’t impact the former employer.

I'm looking for a bigger challenge and to grow my career, and I didn’t feel like I could give equal attention both to my job search and to my full-time work responsibilities. It didn’t seem ethical to slack off from my former job in order to conduct my job search, and so I left the company.

Why It Works: This potential employee illustrates how she acted ethically by not searching for a job on company time. The point was also made that the potential employee is looking to grow her career and take on a bigger challenge, which could be a compliment to the interviewer.

I was laid off from my last position when our department was eliminated due to corporate restructuring.

Why It Works: The reason for leaving the last position is stated clearly and concisely. In this case, there is reason to simply be brief.

I'm relocating to this area due to family circumstances and I left my previous position in order to make the move.

Why It Works: Interviewers, of course, understand that you must find a job when you relocate. When you say you relocated due to family circumstances, interviewers may wonder what those family circumstances are. When you answer this question regarding why you left your job, be brief and honest, but don’t go into detail. It’s not necessary to go into your personal life.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Be honest. You don't have to tell the whole truth. Just be sure to focus on the real reason you're leaving. For example, you can say you were frustrated by the lack of opportunities. Lead off by describing some of the things you accomplished and then pivot to explain how you were roadblocked as far as being able to accomplish more. You'll score bonus points if you can tie your answer back to why the job you're applying for is a better fit because you'll be afforded more opportunities.

Prepare answers in advance. It’s important that you prepare an answer to this question in advance. You don’t want to stumble when answering. Prepare a brief, but honest answer, leaving out personal details.

Avoid negativity. Do not speak poorly about managers, colleagues, or the company. However, you can speak broadly about corporate goals or mention that you disagree with the direction the business is taking. Be sure not to get personal in your response. Industries can often be small, and you don't who knows who. You may speak negatively about a co-worker only to learn he or she has a close relationship with the interviewer. 

Practice. Practice your responses so you come across as positive and clear. Practicing (especially in front of a mirror) will help you feel more comfortable answering this difficult question. This is particularly true if you were laid off or fired. In a situation like that, give a short, clear, and unemotional response. 

What Not to Say

Don’t get personal. No matter what, don’t badmouth your former boss, colleagues, or company. How you answer this question offers a window into your on-the-job character and values.

Salary. Don’t mention salary during the first interview unless the interviewer does.

Try not to expand on your prepared answer. When you answer this interview question, you want to be as brief as possible. You could easily get caught up in something you would rather not say, so don’t expand on your prepared answer.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  •  Since you were terminated from your former position, would you expound on your answer concerning why that happened? Best Answers
  • What will you miss most about your last job? Best Answers
  • Would you be open to telecommuting two days per week? Best Answers

Key Takeaways

  • Balance your answer between not bashing your former employer but relaying the necessary information to the interviewer.
  • Review sample answers for this question since they will provide you with ideas to frame your own answer.
  • The interviewer wants to know one primary thing, why you are leaving your job.
  • Try to tie the job you're interviewing for to your qualifications and the fact it's a better fit for your skill set.