Most job interviews include a question on why you are looking for a job change. You may also need to explain the reason for leaving your job at the time of filling out a job application or resigning from your current job. Preparing beforehand helps you give a clear and concise answer and assists your employer to understand your future aspirations. In this article, we discuss several ways to answer this uncomfortable question on job change and also give some tips and examples to help you understand an interviewer's perspective on job change.
Why interviewers ask about the reason for job change
Interviewers usually ask about the reason for job change to find out the following information:
- Whether you are impulsive or responsible: Employers want to know if you left your job for the right reason. For example, if you left your previous job abruptly to pursue your hobby, employers may hesitate to hire you for a position that requires higher levels of responsibility and maturity. On the other hand, if you quit your job because you outgrew your role and you were underutilised, it indicates your interest in taking up higher responsibilities and challenges. Interviewers may also try to assess whether you were really underutilised.
- Whether you left on your own: An interviewer would like to ascertain whether you left your job out of your own free will or your employer asked you to leave. If it's a case of forced resignation, an interviewer would like to make sure whether it was because of any disciplinary action, underperformance, or due to some other circumstances like cost cutting, merger, organisational restructuring or others.
- Whether you have good relations with your former employer: Another reason for asking the question ‘why are you looking for a job change?' is to find out whether you still have good relations with your former employer. If you maintained a good relationship with your former employer and are on talking terms with them, it may reflect positively on your professionalism, attitude and interpersonal skills. On the contrary, if you have included your employer in your references, it is bound to leave a positive impression on the interviewer.
Read More: How to Change Careers
How to answer the question ‘Why are you looking for a job change?'
Here are some tips and methods to answer the question ‘why are you looking for a job change?':
1. Write down the reasons for leaving
Look at your CV and think about the reasons why you left each of the jobs you have listed therein. Write down the reasons for your exit. If you do not remember the reason for any of your previous positions, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why did you join the job?
- What were your expectations from the job?
- How was the actual work environment different from your expectations?
- What did you dislike most about your job?
- Were you passionate about achieving your assigned goals?
- Did your next job take you nearer to your career goals? Why or why not?
Once you have some idea about the possible reasons, select one or two primary reasons for each job. Make sure that the reasons you choose are professional. For example, if you changed your job due to your marriage, it is better to avoid quoting such reasons in a job interview. Instead, if your job involved night shifts, you can say that you wanted to move to a day-shift job.
2. Get straight to the point
Instead of trying to build long stories, get straight to the point. Explain your reason for exit in a sentence or two. Then, immediately come back to what you like about the new job and why you are the right candidate for it.
3. Be honest with your answer
The interviewing company may contact your former employer to confirm the details you provided. Any discrepancy in the information has a bearing on your reliability and affects your chances of getting hired. Hence, be honest with your response. Explain the situation genuinely without being disrespectful towards your employer.
4. Display a positive attitude
Even if you left your previous job due to a negative experience, you should frame your response in a positive manner. Try to project yourself as a problem solver who can navigate through tough situations. Talk about positive experiences like the new skills you acquired, the rapport you enjoyed with your manager and the good time you spent with your team.
For example, instead of saying, ‘The manager did not value my work. It was a tedious job. I was not getting to learn anything new.' Consider saying something like, ‘The job provided me with an opportunity to learn several new skills. I am looking for a position that can help me build on those skills on a larger scale.'
5. Be ready for follow-up questions
Based on the reasons you provided for your job change, the interviewer may ask you some follow-up questions. For example, if you expressed your desire to work in a different job role, the interviewer may ask you whether you tried for the desired position in your current company. Similarly, if your response gives a hint that you had some outstanding issues created due to miscommunication, the interviewer may ask you about the steps you took to resolve those issues or your plan about preventing such miscommunication in the future.
When you are preparing your response about the reason for job change, think about the follow-up questions that may come up in your interview. Being prepared and planning your response will help you sound confident and convincing.
Reason for job change examples
Here are some examples to help you frame reasons for job change:
Example 1: When you don't like your company
Every company has some aspects that you may like and some others that you may not. If your reason for exit is your dislike for the company, think about both the aspects of the company, good and not so good ones, and frame your response in a positive manner.
‘My present company has given me a good opportunity to develop interpersonal, managerial and several other professional skills. Recently, I realised that my calling is in a different sector. I want to use my skills to create a greater social impact. I love the mission of your company to serve underprivileged children.'
Example 2: When you are moving for a higher pay
Be doubly sure before quoting higher pay as a reason for changing your job. Interviewers may interpret it in different ways. If at all you decide to put forth the issue of higher pay, frame your response in a way that touches upon the broader topics of motivation and rewards to take up challenging assignments.
‘I love taking up challenging assignments. Client satisfaction, appreciation from manager and the accompanying financial reward motivate me to push the limits. I am excited to work as a sales manager in your esteemed organisation. It will give me an opportunity to achieve my financial goals while selling the products I love.'
Example 3: When you do not like the job
You may want to move out of your current company because you are bored at work. Your current position may not be a right match for your skills and abilities. Or it may be that you are not finding it challenging enough. Explain the situation based on your skills and the opportunities you are looking for.
‘I left my last job because I realised that my skills and aspirations were not aligned with the position. The company was great but the position did not offer enough challenges to fully utilise my skills and abilities. I have read about the work culture and value system of your company. The job description blends well with my long-term career goals. Given my excellent resource utilisation skills, I am optimistic about adding immense value to this position.'
Example 4: When the work hours are not suitable
If you are applying for the new position because of flexible or more comfortable work hours compared to your existing job, you may want to share this reason with your interviewer. However, you should frame your reason in such a manner that the interviewer does not perceive you as someone not willing to work hard. Use this opportunity to position yourself as a responsible professional who values time.
‘As a responsible professional, I try to strike a healthy balance between office work and personal life. I have always desired to work for a company that values the time of its employees and allows flexibility in work hours to help them meet their professional commitments efficiently. I love the idea of informal work culture in your organisation as given in the job description.'
Good reasons to change jobs
There can be several reasons to change your job. Here are some good ones:
- You left your job for higher education.
- You want to change your career path.
- You have relocated to a different city.
- You got a better job opportunity.
- You got laid off due to mergers, acquisitions or organisational restructuring.
- You want to make a greater social impact.
- There is no further growth in your current organisation.
- You are underutilised or overqualified for your current role.
- You are a freelancer looking for a full-time job.
- You were a contract worker and your contract has terminated.