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Impress HR: How to answer why are you looking for a new job

Impress HR: How to answer why are you looking for a new job

Artwork by: Katya Vakulenko

  • Why is this question asked?
  • How do you answer, "Why are you looking for a new job?"
  • Sample answers to “Why are you looking for a new job” 
  • Key takeaways

How do you answer the tough question about why you are looking for a new job? Very carefully. You need to be prepared for this question, and we can help you do that. We’ll give you some tips and examples of how to answer the question.

The interview question that inevitably comes up in every job interview is - why are you looking for a new job? You can be asked this same thing in different ways, like what’s motivating you to look for a new opportunity? Why do you want to change jobs? Or even, why don't you want to stay where you are? But they are all essentially asking the same thing.

The question can be challenging to answer because it can lead you to say bad things about your current job or employer. Don’t fall into that trap. You never want to come across as a bitter or resentful person. That definitely won’t help you get the job.

So, what is the best way to answer the question "Why are you looking for a new position?" First off, be honest, but not too honest. Keep any negative opinions about your current boss or job to yourself by focusing on the good things about your job. Use the positive aspects of your job to spin the question back around to why you would be a good fit for the job you are applying for.

Let’s get into some more detail about why this type of question comes up and the best ways to answer it. This article will cover the following points:

  • Why do employers ask this question?

  • Tips on answering the question 

  • Some do’s and don’ts 

  • A few sample answers 

Why is this question asked?

Why you are looking for a new job may be an uncomfortable topic, but it is a logical question for a potential employer to ask you. It will tell them a lot about you and your motivations for applying. It is an open-ended question, which interviewers always love to throw at interviewees, and it requires a longer, more thought-out response.

For example, if you're currently employed, then they’ll obviously want to know what’s wrong with your job and why you want to leave. Or, if you have been out of work for any length of time, then they’ll be wondering why you haven't gotten a new job yet. Your story and reasons for looking for a new job will greatly influence how the interviewer will think and feel about your fit for the position.

Being prepared for this type of question is crucial because you don’t want to sound like you’re just winging it or are looking for a job impulsively. Job hopping is not generally looked upon favorably, so having a good story can make or break you in an interview.



Be honest. Have a pre-planned,  authentic answer. 

Be derogatory towards your past employer, coworkers, or workplace. Even if you totally despised your manager or coworkers, don’t say it! 

Keep it about the future and not the past. Use the questions to springboard into what you are looking for going forward.

Give long-winded or off-topic answers. Stay on point. No big stories or anecdotes.

Weave in relevant skills and things about the new job that you are excited about. What did you do in your previous job that makes you a good candidate for this job?

Get emotional about it. It’s a business interview, not a therapy or gripe session.

Be conversational. Show your personality while keeping it professional.

Be stiff and monotone. Avoid a boring or scripted response that will put the interviewer to sleep.

Actively listen to the interviewer’s questions and read their reactions. They may hint at something in their past or why they are asking the way they are. Use this to adjust your answers to better connect with them.

How do you answer, "Why are you looking for a new job?"

You know the question will come up, so how do you construct the best answer? Think it through, but don’t create a long or elaborate response. Keep it simple and brief. You do need to go into enough detail to make it interesting. Most importantly, use it as an opportunity to promote yourself and show why you are a great candidate for the job. Here are a few tips on how to develop an outstanding answer.

  • Bring up something good about your current or past job? Again, don’t be negative about your current or former job. Instead, find some good things to bring up. What did you learn? How did you grow? For example, "I've had some wonderful experiences at XYZ and I learned so much about the ABC industry.” Or “I really enjoyed working with a lot of great people there.” You don’t need to go into a lot of details.

  • Bring it back to why you want the new job. Why are you a perfect fit for this job? If you really want the job, study the job description and do your homework on it and about the company. Use that information to point out your skills that match up. They’re looking for the right person for the job. Your reasons for leaving your old job aren’t really as important as what you can bring to the new job. Use that to refocus the response on your skills. For example, "In the last two years with XYZ, I’ve learned a lot about the ABC industry partnering with our design and marketing teams. My problem-solving and team-management skills have greatly improved. These were especially critical when the pandemic hit, which was followed by navigating a major merger our company undertook the following year. I’m looking for new opportunities and bigger challenges to apply these skills to."

  • Hit them with some industry knowledge and link it to your motivations. Show them that you know your stuff. Bring up a recent project or initiative the company has. Tie it to your skills or experiences to emphasize how you are a great candidate for the role. Building off of our previous example, "My experiences working with our design team really sparked my interest in moving into a product management role. Your company caught my attention since you're an industry leader in developing cutting-edge products. That’s really a passion of mine. When I saw you were looking for a new Product Manager, I knew my project management background was a good fit for this growing company and a place where I could add a lot of value."

  • How does this fit your long-term career goals? Companies don’t hire people expecting them to quit right away. They want to know you are in it for the long haul. It’s always a good strategy to talk about how the new job plays into your long-term plans. Here's an add-on that will get that point across. "Additionally, I'm wanting to develop my career as part of an innovative team and help build new and exciting product lines. The idea of creating something new is very exciting to me." Another response along these lines might be, “I’m definitely looking for a position that gives me the opportunity for professional development. It’s something that’s very important to me since I hope to take on managerial responsibilities in the future.”

  • Finish strong with a nod to the company. Try to end with a reference to the company by summing up how excited you are about their opportunity. “And, I’d really love to join an outstanding and growing company like XYZ where I can be part of something creative and innovative. XYZ’s mission inspires me, and I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

Sample answers to “Why are you looking for a new job” 

Interviewer: “Tell me why you're wanting to leave your current position.”

Answer: “I’m actually very happy in my role at XYZ company, and I’ve really enjoyed the last four years I’ve been there. The work, team members, and culture have been great. However, I’ve been quite impressed with your company’s innovative ABC product’s impact on the satellite communications industry [or whatever specific area the company is in]. I am passionate about creating superior quality products that deliver a better user experience. My current role does give me some intriguing projects, but when I saw this job opening, I thought it was too great an opportunity to pass up. I’d love to join your team and contribute to even more cutting-edge things.”

Interviewer: What made you want to look for a new job in financial analytics [or whatever specific area you are targeting]?

Answer: “I’ve recently completed some online certifications in financial analysis as well as data analytics, which has really expanded my skill set beyond what I am currently doing. I’m really interested in developing my career in the financial analytics field, and my current company is not offering anything like that. I looked at your organization and saw that financial analytics is a big area of focus. When I saw your current opening for a financial analyst - senior analyst role, I knew it was something that fit my financial management, data analysis, and accounting background very well. I’ve also been impressed with your executive management team, especially the company values and mission. It is well aligned with my career goals, which is why I am very excited about this job opportunity.”

Interviewer: Why are you looking for a new job?

Answer: “I was recently laid off from my last job of ten years due to a corporate merger. Right after my layoff, our family decided to relocate to the West Coast. In my research of the local job markets and career opportunities, I came across this job opening. I studied the company's background and read an article on how your HR team dealt with the COVID pandemic. In my role as a Human Resources Specialist, one of my proudest accomplishments was creating the company's formal work-from-home program during the COVID pandemic. I also really appreciate companies that embrace ecologically sound practices and leverage technology. My ideal company to work for would have those types of values, and I'd love to bring my innovative techniques, enthusiasm, skills, and experience to help make an impact in this HR role.”

The above answers are good because they…

  • Avoid saying anything negative about your current company or role

  • Highlight your long-term goals or interests and how they relate to the role

  • Show that you've researched the new role and their company

  • Keep the response short and concise

The question is asked in just about every interview. HR and staffing people have heard all the answers. But it’s not a slam-dunk question, your answer does matter to them. They’re using it to get an idea of what type of employee you would be. If you follow the above guidance, then you’ll be able to give a solid response that tells them you are a good match for the position. However, don’t forget about being honest and personable. A dull or memorized response, no matter how good the words are, won’t impress them. Keep it real and be yourself.

Key takeaways

  1. Be positive, don’t run down your old job

  2. Make it interesting

  3. Keep it brief

  4. Use the question to highlight your skills that fit the new job 

  5. Show that you know the job and the company

  6. Be authentic

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