Your potential employers will always want to know why you’re thinking about leaving your current gig or why you decided to leave previous jobs. This question could be asked for a variety of reasons: checking to see if you are a good fit for a particular environment or team, if you have a good sense about when it’s time to pursue new opportunities in the face of lack of growth, if you leave on good terms with your boss and colleagues, or to find out what you value at work.
Here are some tips as well as scenarios so that you can prepare yourself to answer this tough interview question:
A short answer is best
You do not need a lengthy explanation. In fact, a clear, simple answer works best. Here’s an example: “I had been with the organization for some time and wanted to experience a new environment and new challenges in order to continue growing and advance my career.” The general rule here is that you should always be leaving to move toward a better opportunity.
If you left to gain a pay increase
We all go to work to earn money, and companies know that. But instead of saying this was your sole motivation for seeking out a new opportunity – and to avoid projecting an image that you will switch jobs instantly because of money – it's best to give more reasons why you chose to join the company as well. So you could reply something like, “I was offered a significant pay increase, and was also excited about the direction and plans this new company was going, so it seemed like a great opportunity to take.”
Focus on your strengths and achievements
One thing to always keep in mind is that although the hiring manager may want to know the reasons why you left a company or are leaving your current employment, they will always refer to your strengths and achievements and how you can contribute to the company. Hence it is important to ensure that your résumé is up-to-date and clearly list out your skills and results you have accomplished. Then you can divert the attention back to discussing the present and future rather than focusing on the past.
Change of circumstances
Every job change should be a step forward and towards improvement and betterment for both you and the company you’re looking to work for. Perhaps, your previous company was going through a restructure and your role and scope of work changed or no longer fit your career goals. You can be honest with the hiring manager and let them know the circumstances which led to you looking to switch careers. Be sure to outline your previous achievements and how you think you can best contribute and fit into the new company culture.
What if you were fired?
If you were let go, it’s always advisable to tell the truth. It’s not worth lying and getting caught later when they do a reference check. Even if you get hired, and if they ever find out you lied, that is usually grounds for termination. Speak about what happened as diplomatically as possible, and add what you have learnt from the experience and the steps you’ve taken to ensure it never happens again. Also, be sure you do not badmouth your former employer as it will reflect poorly on you and they’ll want the other side of the story.