It’s hard to think of a more loaded interview question than “why do you want to change jobs?” Should you tell your interviewer that you hate your boss, your coworkers drive you crazy, you want to make more money, or you actually have no idea what you want to do for a living?
Well, probably not.
That much is a given, but what should you say when asked about the reasons for your job search? Read on, interviewee, to learn how to nail your answer to this tough question and make an interviewer excited to hire you.
Why do interviewers ask why you want to change jobs?
First and foremost, an interviewer wants to understand your motivations for applying. Is it the job duties that enticed you? The company culture? Some external factor driving your search? Their number one priority is to get the right person in the position, and that starts with making sure your reasons for wanting the job align with the realities of the role.
They also want to see if you have a strategic plan for your career (which you should) and how this job fits into it. Employees who have motivation beyond just collecting a paycheck are easier to retain and more likely to be engaged. So, an interviewer is probing to find out exactly what these motivations might be.
What interviewers are looking for when they ask about the reasons for your job search?
In addition to learning more about your motivations, employers are on the lookout for red flags. It’s important for them to discover if you’re job searching because you were fired, for example, or pushed out of your last job because you were challenging to work with. These things could influence their decision to move you forward in the hiring process, and your answer will give them good intel.
How to answer the question, “Why do you want to change jobs?”
Focus on the positives
While there are all sorts of negative things you might be looking to get away from at your current job, these don’t make for very compelling answers. Instead of talking about what you hope to leave behind, focus instead on the positive attributes you’re hoping to move toward in a new position.
Cite your desire for career growth
Being unfulfilled in your current job is a perfectly valid reason for seeking out a new one, but there’s a certain way to phrase it if you want to convey this to an interviewer. Saying you’re “ready to take on more responsibility” or “looking for a new challenge” are good ways to communicate that you’re motivated to advance your career by switching jobs.
Convey excitement for this particular position
Your answer should make it clear why you’re interested in not just ANY new job, but this particular one. Whether it’s the company culture, your admiration of the products, the job description, or what you’ve heard from friends who are employees, cite a genuine reason that this specific position appealed to you.
Emphasize your potential
To help an interviewer see why having you in this role makes sense, work in keywords from the job description, like the primary skills required. If your answer conveys that you’re passionate about the job and have all the right skills, hiring you should be a no-brainer.
How not to answer
Bad-mouthing your current boss or employer
No matter how many crazy horror stories you could tell about your current job, boss, or company, save those for happy hour with your non-work buddies. Speaking negatively about your current employer is always a no-no during a job interview.
Citing external factors as your primary motivation
Sometimes, your job search is influenced by things other than your career ambitions, like needing to move for a spouse’s job or a family obligation. While it’s okay to touch on these things in your answer, don’t focus on them as the primary factors driving your decision to apply.
Sample answers to “Why do you want to change jobs?”
Be prepared for follow-up questions where you’re asked to talk more about your specific skills or experience in the areas you’ve described.