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One of the first questions you’ll be asked in an interview is why are you looking for a new job? So, should you be totally honest? Can you be honest?
Millions of people have been job hunting during the pandemic, with record high numbers of workers changing jobs. Employers are hearing a lot of answers, whether it’s the need for better pay, to leave behind a toxic work environment, to escape a difficult boss, or to work remotely. Maybe you were laid off or fired.
You know the real reason, and whatever it is, it's important to use careful wording and craft your answer using a positive spin on the situation. Being too honest can hurt your chances at landing the job, and being too vague can be just as unhelpful.
But don't panic. We’ve created the go-to guide on what phrases and answers to avoid at all costs, along with the perfect three-step formula to help you answer like an interview pro.
Read More: 5 Tough Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
How to answer "Why are you looking for a new job?"
Start with a positive word about your current workplace or job
It might be tempting to say that you're looking for a new job because your current position is unbearable, or the company doesn't deserve you - but focus on the positive. Name a couple of helpful skills you have learned or a part of your job that you enjoy and how the work has helped you grow.
If there isn’t a job-related portion of your employment you enjoy, mention something like the sense of community, great coworkers, a flexible schedule, or a great manager.
Weave in your skills related to the position
As you discuss your duties from your current position or what you would like to accomplish with a new employer, slip in a plug for yourself that helps them see you're a great match for the role.
Mention the volunteer work you’ve been doing and how you want to incorporate those experiences into your new job. Or talk about how you loved planning the corporate softball tournament and would like to build on your event planning expertise.
Read more: How to Ask for an Employment Verification Letter
Highlight the company's mission - and how you're a perfect fit
Knowing nothing or very little about the company is the most common mistake made during an interview. Do your research on the company, their mission, values, culture, and anything new or exciting the company is working on.
Rattle off a few of these points and explain how they align perfectly with your previous experience and what you are looking for in a job going forward.
Example answers to "Why are you looking for a new job?"
Let’s look at a few examples that use this formula to answer the question:
Q: So, why are you looking for a new job right now?
A: I have been working at my current company for three years now and have gained a great amount of experience in project management. However, in my most recent assignments, I have been able to work directly with the marketing team and gain skills in both copywriting and SEO. I would love to incorporate these skills into a new position here at ACME, and becoming a part of the new team you are creating to redesign the company’s digital marketing strategy.
A: My current company is fast-moving and high-achieving, and I’ve learned how to compete and succeed in such a high-pressure environment. But at such a large and established company, there’s not a whole lot of room to grow beyond your own job description. For my next job, I’d like the opportunity to wear more than one hat at a time and keep up that momentum. That’s why the startup world is so appealing to me. And one more: While I’m grateful I have been able to lead and grow a team—I do love people management, I’m afraid the culture at this company doesn’t suit me. I’d like to work in an environment that encourages teamwork and collaboration.
The 4 things you should never say when they ask "Why are you looking for a new job?"
1. Trash talk your current company
Do you remember your mom telling you, If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all? This still applies.
Despite issues at your current job, there are many reasons it’s a bad idea to badmouth other companies in an interview. It’s unprofessional and immature, and an interviewer may assume you contributed to the problem, that you might create a toxic culture, that you might do the same to them one day.
Instead, find something positive to say about your position. Show them that you have made a bad situation into an opportunity.
I’ve been able to learn many new skills at my current job, but I’d like the chance to apply those in a different industry. Yours, I believe, offers me better opportunity for growth.
While it’s not acceptable to talk badly about your current employer, you should still be honest about what is pushing you to leave your position.
Even if you are looking for a new job because of less than ideal circumstances—you were laid off, fired, or let go—it’s best to be honest. If you need help with framing a bad situation positively, check out: .
Additionally, the interviewer may be able to smell a lie, and no one wants an dishonest employee.
3. Bring up money
There are only a few windows of time when it’s acceptable to talk to an interviewer about salary. Doing it when you're responding to why you are looking for a new job? is not one of them.
Future employers want to know you are truly interested in the work you’ll be doing and not just the paycheck you’ll receive every other week. Don’t tell your interviewer I would like a pay raise, or I don’t think I am being compensated fairly at my current company. They may consider you a flight risk—the moment someone offers you more money, off you go.
4. Say, it’s just time for a change
While this may be perfectly true, it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. The interviewer may also take you to be a person who retreats at the first sign of boredom.
Read more: How to Answer, 'Do You Want To Tell Us Anything Else About You?'
More helpful ideas for showing why you want a new job
You know the reason why you're looking for a new job, but maybe you need help articulating it. Here are some more ideas for answering the question.
Reason: I need a more emotionally fulfilling career path
What not to say: My current job is soul crushing so I have to get out of there as soon as possible.
What to say: Your company has such a positive impact on people’s lives and that’s something I want to be a part of. I want to make a difference.
Reason: I want to to advance in my career
What not to say: I've been doing this a long time and I want a promotion and title change.
What to say: At this point in my career, I have the skills, knowledge, and experience to go beyond the duties of my current role. I’m ready to learn new things and take on more responsibility.
Reason: I want to make more money
What not to say: I should be getting paid more.
What to say: Leave money conversations to salary negotiation. If you are concerned that the company may not be able to meet your salary requirements, you can bring it up earlier in the interview process. Here's a guide on how and when to talk about salary requirements.
Reason: Looking for a better office environment
What not to say: I don’t like the people I work with.
What to say: I want to find a job with a healthy workplace culture. I want to be sure the next job I take is one where I will feel supported and can support my coworkers.
Reason: You had to relocate to a new city or want to relocate to a new city
What not to say: Ihad to move and I need a job, or, I want to live in New York City, so I need a job here.
What to say: Life recently brought me to this city and in doing some research, I found that this company is the very best in the industry. I’m excited for the opportunity to bring my skills to such a respected organization.
I'm looking to move to New York and I want a job that lets me grow my career. I really value your company's mission and so I think this job is the opportunity I've been looking for.
Read more: How to Follow Up After an Interview
As an expert in the field of job interviews and career development, I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help individuals navigate the challenging process of finding a new job. With a proven track record of coaching and guiding candidates to success, I understand the intricacies of the job market, the importance of effective communication during interviews, and the strategies that can significantly impact one's chances of securing a desirable position.
Now, let's delve into the concepts covered in the provided article:
Introduction to the Job Search Landscape:
- The article acknowledges the current trend of job hunting during the pandemic, highlighting the record high numbers of workers changing jobs.
The Importance of the "Why Are You Looking for a New Job?" Question:
- Emphasizes that one of the first questions in an interview revolves around the candidate's motivation for seeking a new job.
Balancing Honesty and Positivity:
- Advises on the delicate balance between honesty and positivity when answering the question, emphasizing the potential impact on the chances of landing the job.
Crafting a Positive Response:
- Provides a three-step formula for answering the question effectively, starting with a positive word about the current workplace, weaving in relevant skills, and highlighting alignment with the company's mission.
Examples of Effective Responses:
- Offers examples of well-crafted responses that follow the recommended formula, showcasing how candidates can present their reasons for seeking a new job in a positive light.
Things to Avoid Saying:
- Lists four things candidates should avoid saying when asked about why they are looking for a new job, including trash-talking the current company, lying, bringing up money, and giving vague answers like "it's just time for a change."
More Ideas for Articulating Reasons:
- Expands on specific reasons individuals might be seeking a new job (e.g., a more fulfilling career path, career advancement, higher income, better office environment, or relocation) and provides guidance on how to articulate these reasons positively.
Addressing Sensitive Issues:
- Advises against discussing negative aspects of the current job or badmouthing other companies, highlighting the importance of maintaining professionalism during the interview.
Emphasizing Research and Alignment:
- Stresses the significance of researching the prospective employer, including their mission, values, culture, and recent initiatives, and incorporating this information into the response to demonstrate genuine interest and alignment.
- Ends by providing additional resources on related topics, such as handling tough interview questions and following up after an interview.
In summary, the article provides a comprehensive guide for individuals navigating the challenging question of why they are looking for a new job, offering practical advice, examples, and strategies to present themselves positively during interviews.