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Do's and Don'ts: Answering 'Why Do You Want to Leave Your Job?'


Employers are looking for positive and forward-looking answers to this common interview question.


You may be fed up with your current role, but don't let that negativity come through in your answers.


One of the most dreaded interview questions is "why do you want to leave your job?" It makes sense that a prospective employer asks that question. First, they want to understand why you are looking to get out of your current job. Second, they want to determine if you pose a hiring risk for their organization. This could indicate that problems may arise after they bring you on board.


When you think about an honest answer to this question, you most likely come up with a negative response. In an interview, you want to be positive and transparent but not divulge all details, just as you would not reveal all of your personal problems in an interview. Here are some typical (honest) responses, and ideas for how to rephrase the answers in your favor.


Don't say: "I don't get along with my boss."


Do: Realize that a work environment's tone is often set by your direct manager. Even if the overallcorporate culture is pleasant, there is probably a totally different feel on your immediate team if you do not get along well with your boss. It's unreasonable to think that everyone will get along, and employers know that. You can admit to not getting along if you've tried to change the situation. For example, have you approached your boss at any time to say, "I know we have different approaches and don't always agree on how things should be done. What can I do to change that?" This is not an easy thing to do, but if you have, you can answer this question honestly because you've tried to make a change for the better, even if it failed. If you haven't gone that route, it's better to stick with an answer about what else motivates you to find a new role. Are you looking for a new challenge or to learn something different within your field?


Don't say: "I don't make enough money."


Do: Avoid salary discussions at this stage unless the interviewer brings it up. You should be prepared with a well-researched answer if they ask you for what you're looking to make. To rephrase this answer, you should concentrate on the fact that your skills are above your pay grade, without saying as much. For example, maybe you feel that it's the right time to build on your management skills, or you want a more client-facing role for your next position to help you grow professionally. Be specific. But don't mention money right now.


Don't say: "My colleague and I don't see eye to eye."


Do: Think about other motivations for leaving your job. And if this is truly the sole reason, you'll need to be creative. Are there other things you'd like to change about your job? There may be ways to fix a problem like this internally. The prospective employer may wonder, not only why you cannot get along with your colleagues, but why you couldn't change teams or fix the issue. This is similar to the situation above about your boss. If you've attempted to repair the problem, you can also use that answer.


Don't say: "I'm burned out."


Do: Talk about how you're looking for a new opportunity to learn X, Y and Z. You're ready to try something new and feel it's the right time because you're eager to grow and feel you've learned a great deal in your current position. Do your own due diligence by asking the interviewer strategic questions about what your day would look like in this position and what the office culture is like. If the hours are going to be long, like at your current job, or the job is too demanding overall, you want to find out now before you accept and find yourself in the same situation.


Don't say: "I can't move any higher in my company."


Do: Suggest this, but in a slightly different way. If you've gone as high as you can go in your current organization, tell the interviewer that you've reached a plateau. You want to grow professionally and increase your responsibilities but know there is not a chance of that in your current organization. Be ready to explain why that's the case. You certainly don't want to make it look like you're trying to take others' jobs because that will translate poorly. But you do want to be clear that there is an obstacle in your way. Tell them that the position you're looking for does not exist at your current firm. Or say that you've reached the highest position on your career track there. Or mention that there are a limited number of roles, and people have held them for a long time with nowhere for you to fit in.


The key to answering this question and all interview questions is to be positive and forward-looking. Don't let an employer sense that you are going to cause issues on their watch. Tell them how you see the job you're interviewing for will help you develop, and at the same time, how your behaviors affect them in a constructive way. If you've tried to solve issues at your current employer to no avail, share that. A proactive employee is a good thing and not very easy to find.


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