Artwork by: Jacopo Riccardi
What is the best way to answer that standard interview question about your reason for a job change? This can be a tough question, but you need to be prepared to answer them confidently. We’ll tell you how to answer the tough question and land that wonderful new job.
Are you tired of your current job? Are you thinking you need a change in career direction? Do you want to make more money or have more opportunities for advancement? Well, you’re not alone. The job market is booming and many people are considering different jobs and career paths.
How many people want to change jobs?
Recently, a poll found that over half (52%) of U.S. employees are considering a career change this year (2023). And around 44% are already planning to do so.
Changing your job or career path is a big deal. When you go searching for that next position, you will inevitably be asked, “Why are you changing jobs?” You know it will happen, so it is important that you think about the question and have a good answer before you get asked. Otherwise, you may look silly and, worse yet, lose your chance at the position.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the reasons why this question is important, the best ways to answer it, and some examples to help you craft your own great response. We’ll also give you some other tips and guidance along the way.
Why do employers ask why you want to leave your current job?
What are some acceptable reasons for leaving a job?
How do I come up with the best answer for changing jobs?
Examples of how to answer why you want to leave your current job
When interviewing people for a job, employers want to find out if you have the right skills, but they are also looking for someone that will stay with them and, most importantly, be a good fit for the position. It’s important that you can communicate good and well-thought-out reasons for changing jobs or careers. If you come across as unsure or unreliable, then they are less likely to hire you.
It is crucial that you do your homework and have a good understanding of the company and the job, new career, or industry you are switching to. Your ability to convince them that you are capable and know what you’re doing is key. If the interviewer perceives you aren’t familiar with the company or the role, then they’re going to move on to the next candidate.
When talking about your prior experience, they want to find out if you are a good worker and performer. Telling them about your past bad performance reviews is obviously not going to help. Don’t lie about your past, but stay focused on the good things you did.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to not be negative about your past jobs. It’s okay to tell them if you were laid off, had challenges with opportunities, or were in a declining industry. While technically negative things, they are objective facts and will not be held against you. Turn your response to the question back around and talk about the good things you hope to gain in your next role.
During a job interview, the way you are perceived by the interviewer is just as important as what you are saying. This is especially true when it comes to answering “Why do you want to change jobs?” The words you choose and how you say them will determine how the interviewer perceives your personality and fit for the job. Have a good answer ready and be well-prepared to present it. Rehearse it, but don’t just spit out memorized words. You must be seen as genuine and professional.
There are a lot of good reasons for changing jobs. You may need improved work-life balance, better develop your career, or a good job opportunity presented itself. Change is important for your professional and personal growth. When talking to a potential employer, give a direct and convincing reason. Be clear, concise, and, most of all, positive.
Below we’ll give you a list of some legitimate, solid reasons for leaving a job and why they are good.
You were offered a better job. A very common reason for leaving a job. Be truthful. Leaving a job and taking a new one that pays more and enables you to grow in your career is a good thing. Just be open and honest about it.
Change in career goals. This is a good reason, especially if you’ve recently completed a degree, new professional certifications, or have taken a break from your career. Focus on explaining your new career goals and how the new job will fulfill them.
You didn’t enjoy your previous job. While not the most positive thing, this is still a good reason for changing jobs. Being in a job you have no passion or interest in leads to all sorts of issues. But you need to be careful with this answer. Don’t say you quit or hated your job. Keep the response positive by pointing out the good things about the job and how you have outgrown the role or your interests have changed.
You were underappreciated. Being appreciated is a basic human need. We all want to be recognized for our work, and if we don’t get this on the job, then we are demotivated. Again, the trick here is to spin this positively. For example, if you worked in the job for a long time without many (or any) promotions, then you could say something about how you need more opportunities and career growth.
Personal issues. Sometimes things in our personal life just make it impossible to continue in our current job or career path. This can be due to health problems or family issues. These are valid reasons for changing jobs or careers. There is no need to lie or hide this. Be truthful about it and talk about how the new role will overcome these challenges and be a good fit for you.
Knowing you’re likely to be asked “why did you leave your previous job?”, how do you come up with the best answer? There is no perfect answer, but you always want to address the question directly with one or two good reasons. You definitely don’t want to be winging it when they ask. Have your answers ready to go and well-rehearsed.
Always have a good attitude when answering this type of question, or any job interview question. The interviewer is not trying to grill you or give you a hard time. It is their job to make sure you are the best person for their important position.
Here are 6 tips to guide you when crafting your response about your reason or reasons for changing your job.
Be well-prepared. Before going for the interview, write out your reasons for changing jobs. Be truthful and respectful of your previous employer. Construct a clear explanation about why you want to leave your old job. This will go a long way in making a great impression on the interviewer.
Be upfront. Having a ready answer will show you have thought this through and are not just job-hopping on a whim. Just remember to keep it short and upbeat.
Never criticize your old job, boss, company, or coworkers. This can make you come across as vindictive and bitter. No one wants to hire someone like that. Talk only about the positive things you have gained from your past work experiences. This sets a better tone and will make the interviewer more confident they are hiring a good person.
Don’t badmouth your old career or industry. This goes right along with the previous points about staying positive. Turn your response into an opportunity to talk about what you hope to gain in your new career path or industry choice. Tell them how passionate you are about it, or how you feel it’s a better industry for growth and career development. And how it’s the right time to change your career.
Focus on your skills. Try and weave some of the key traits and skills they are looking for into your answer. Talk about the positive things you learned and did in your previous job or jobs that will be a benefit to them in your new job. This will reassure the interviewer you are a good fit for the job and know your stuff.
Mention your long-term career goals. It doesn’t matter why you are changing jobs, it is always a good approach to explain to your potential new employer how their company and job fit into your long-term career development. Use your research on the company and the job to include things that make the new job better than your old job, in terms of your career goals.
There are no right or wrong answers, but there are definitely good (and bad) ways to phrase your answer. Positivity is your number one objective. Absolutely avoid saying anything negative about your reasons for leaving or your previous employer. If you left due to bad circumstances, then state it directly and be very brief. Move on to the positive aspects of the new job.
“I’m looking to change my career path to tackle new challenges and provide for future growth. My skills and experience will transfer well into this new career. For example, when I saw your job description includes client communications and leading projects, I knew I was a good fit because those were key parts of my last job. I’ve also spent a lot of time discussing my career with trusted colleagues who have successfully made this same career change. They recommended it as a way to grow, earn more, and find new challenges.”
This answer is an excellent response to “Why make a career change?” You’re talking about your relevant skills and experience. It also mentions colleagues that made the same change, which will assure the interviewer you have thought this new career through. You’re explaining some personal reasons for changing career paths (career growth, increased earnings, and new challenges).
“I’m currently in a struggling industry, and I feel this new industry requires a lot of the same hard and soft skills. My skills and experience will enable me to jump right in and have an impact. For example, I manage large projects for five major clients at a time. My requirements to lead teams, oversee meetings, and report to clients fit very well within my current skill set. I look at this change as a way to move into a growing industry while leveraging my relevant skills and being able to hit the ground running in my next position.”
This response is direct and positive. It demonstrates that you’ll be able to perform well for this employer based on your previous experience. Skills from the job description are included, as well as a reference to a career goal of being in a growing industry. All of these things make for a good answer that will impress any interviewer.
“My current company is wonderful, but I am looking to change careers to join an organization that’s better aligned with my personal interests, primarily a passion for community service. I have read articles and news releases about your latest initiatives and organizational mission and was very impressed. I want to make a positive impact, and I really respect that your company is focused on social responsibility and positive impacts on the community.”
Staying positive is your number one goal. This answer has that. It also shows that you’ve researched the company and linked your personal interests to the reason for a career change. This is a short, but solid answer.
“A couple of colleagues at my previous company moved from the tech industry to the financial industry and have found success. They’ve told me that they are much more challenged and fulfilled in their work now. I share similar interests and motivations with those colleagues, and I’m confident I’ll enjoy working for a financial company. The tech industry has been good to me, but I feel the financial industry will be more exciting and in line with my passions. The primary focus of my job search now is to find a good company in the financial industry that is looking for a person with my skills. That is what led me to your opportunity.”
Another positive answer that avoids negativity towards your previous industry. It talks about being prepared for the change and how it better suits your interests.
“I am looking for a better position within the company that matches my skills and future career goals. That is why I responded to this opening. I am also looking for new challenges. Taking on new challenges and achieving goals inspires me to work hard and continue to learn new things. I feel this new role will provide these things while remaining in my current field.”
Good answer for someone who is changing jobs in the same company or department. It stays positive, does not say anything bad about your current job, and points out the benefits of the new job and how it matches your career development objectives.
“After examining my career goals, I realized my current job does not enable me to reach my goals. I am looking for employment opportunities within my field that will allow me to fully utilize and grow my skills. I saw your job listing for a senior data analyst and feel that my mathematical and programming skills, along with my years of experience as a data analyst, are a perfect fit. Your organization has an excellent data analytics department, and your focus on the latest technology also fits with my passion for cutting-edge technology. I am excited about this opportunity for greater challenges and long-term growth.”
This answer expresses the need for growth without saying anything negative about your current job. It also does a good job of highlighting current skills and experience that align with the new job.
“My current position has provided me with many great opportunities to improve my skills and gain experience utilizing my abilities to benefit the organization. However, I feel that I have outgrown my role and the company is not growing or providing upward mobility for me. I need new challenges to develop further. After researching your company and the new role, I believe my skill set is a good fit and the position will allow me to grow professionally, as well as personally.”
Another solid response that minimizes the negative situation in your current role while mentioning how your skills are a good match for the new job. It also talks about long-term goals and shows that you have done your homework.
Prepare a concise and direct answer in advance. And practice it.
Be unprepared or unsure how you’ll answer this question. That is guaranteed to not go well.
Always address the question openly and honestly. You want the interviewer to feel you aren’t avoiding the question.
Complain about your previous job, boss, or colleagues.
Give an answer that talks about your long-term career goals.
Criticize your former company or its management.
Always speak positively about your previous job and be respectful towards your old boss and coworkers.
Give an overly negative answer.
Discuss salary as a reason to leave your previous job.
Be too confident, but you also don’t want to seem unconfident. Be honest and authentic (be yourself).
Don’t get stressed out about answering questions about why you’re changing careers. Be prepared, stay positive, and directly address the question.
Be honest and confident. Give a positive answer to show them you have good reasons for making a change.
Changing jobs is not a bad thing. Don’t apologize for it. Leverage the question as another opportunity to tell them how you have excellent skills and are a great employee.
Garland is a writer and technology consultant that lives in far west Texas, USA. He is semi-retired from a successful 25-year career in the Information Technology industry, and now spends his time writing for various websites (mostly career development related). Garland holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance, and a master’s degree in Economics and Computer Information Systems.