There are countless reasons why you might decide to start looking for a new job. Some are admirable, positive reasons; others…not so much.
On the positive side, maybe you’ve had a great experience in your current role but the time has come for you to spread your ambitious wings and seek out a more senior, higher-paying position. Or, perhaps after 3+ successful years at your present company, you’re simply ready to take on a new challenge.
But, what about negative reasons? What if you’re seeking a new job because you can’t stand your current boss and the company culture is toxic? Or because the job is stressful and the commute is killing you? These are certainly valid reasons to leave a company in search of greener pastures. But here’s something to consider: how are you going to explain that in an interview if your interviewer asks, “Why are you looking for a new job?”
Being well-prepared for a job interview is crucial — and “why are you looking for a new job?” is one of those classic interview questions that you definitely need to plan for in advance. So, in this article, we’ll be exploring:
- Why interviewers ask this question
- How to answer “why are you looking for a new job?”
- Example answers to “why are you looking for a new job?”
To kick things off…
Why Would The Interviewer Ask This Question?
On the surface, “why are you looking for a new job?” might seem like a fairly casual, straightforward question. But, in reality, it can be a very pivotal moment in an interview. After all, your motivation for seeking a new job can reveal some key points about you — for better or worse.
So, while there’s a good chance the interviewer is genuinely curious about why you’re looking for a new job, they’re probably also ‘mining’ for red flags. For example, if you’re unsatisfied with some aspect of your current role, how will you frame that? Will you be tactful and professional? Or will you convey the situation with a negative tone?
Similarly, if there was a conflict/firing/layoff, they’ll want to know more about that — as well as how you handled it. These types of details can say a lot about the type of employee you’d be if they hired you.
That being said, let’s now discuss how to formulate the best response to “why are you looking for a new job?”
Best Way To Answer The Question “Why Are You Looking For A New Job?”
During the interview preparation phase, when you’re crafting your responses to the potential question you might be asked, it’s best to have a systematic framework to construct each answer. So, below I’ll be outlining 3 tips to help guide you toward a stellar reply.
#1: Be honest, but make sure to keep it diplomatic and upbeat.
You should always be honest in job interviews — so be prepared to share the truth of the matter, even if it’s a less-than-ideal scenario. However, if you’re in an unfavorable circumstance (e.g. job dissatisfaction, a layoff, etc.), you can still put a positive spin on things by taking a ‘glass is half-full’ approach.
Don’t ever speak ill of your current/former employer or convey disappointment regarding your previous role. Instead, provide a brief, objective explanation of the situation, then immediately follow it with a few positive notes. For example, perhaps despite getting laid off, you still learned a lot or had the opportunity to work alongside some very bright people.
On the other hand, if your current position has been very rewarding and you’re leaving purely out of ambition, begin by highlighting why you’re grateful for the experience. Then, segue into your primary motivation for leaving that job in search of a new position (e.g. seeking a new challenge, leveling-up to a manager role, etc.).
#2: Call attention to your skills.
A great response to “why are you looking for a new job?” doesn’t just describe your motivations. You should also use the question as a chance to showcase why you’d be a great fit for the position.
Returning to the notion above, once you express gratitude for your previous role, you can use that as a kick-off point to bring up skills you either learned or honed during that time. For example, you could say something like, “I’m really grateful for my time at ‘X Company’ — among other things, it provided me with the opportunity to hone my ‘Y skills.’ This will lay the foundation for the third and final step, which is the piece that will elevate your response from good to outstanding.
#3: Tie your skills back to the company’s current needs.
Throughout a job interview, you should be constantly striving to weave in explanations of why your skills and background are aligned with the company’s current needs, goals, and challenges (i.e. the reasons they’re looking to fill that position). And that’s exactly how you should aim to wrap up your response in this context.
This will require a clear understanding of the role, as well as how that fits into the bigger picture. So, you’ll need to carefully review the job description and research the company beforehand. The more information you have, the better-equipped you’ll be to make relevant, compelling points that will stand out in the interviewer’s eyes.
“Why Are You Looking For A New Job?” Examples
With the above guidelines in mind, let’s now see them in action with a couple of hypothetical example answers…
Example #1: Unfavorable Circumstance
“My previous company, Jupiter Systems, went through a large-scale restructuring and, unfortunately, my position wound up being eliminated. But I'm very grateful for the experience I had there. As a program manager, I had the opportunity to really hone my project management skills, overseeing 3 rapid, high-visibility product roll-outs. I understand that the projects I'd be working on here at [X Company] will be moving fast and within tight deadlines — and I feel my time at Jupiter Systems has prepared me well for that challenge.”
Example #2: Favorable Circumstance
“Over the past 4 years, I've been fortunate to work with an amazing team at Saturn Technologies. As an engineer there, I worked alongside some extremely bright people, which helped me elevate my coding skills to a new level. But, while I'm very grateful for my experience with Saturn, I've decided that taking on a new role at this time is the right path for me to continue my professional development. And that's why I was so excited when I came across this opportunity…lately, I've been focusing heavily on Python, so I feel I can bring a lot to the table here at [X Company] since Python is one of the primary languages you've been utilizing to build out your product suite.”
More Classic Interview Questions
By following the guidelines above, you’ll be on your way to delivering a rock-solid answer to “why are you looking for a new job?” And every question you ace brings you one step closer to landing the offer! On that note, there are many other classic interview questions you’ll need to anticipate. So, if you’re preparing for a job interview, be sure to check out the following resources:
- How To Ace Your Answer To “Why Do You Want To Work Here?”
- How To Ace Your Answer To “Why Are You The Best Person For This Job?”
- How To Ace Your Answer To “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”
- How To Ace Your Answer To “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”