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How to answer the “Why are you leaving your current job?” Interview question

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 26 Jan 2022

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If you are new to interviewing, one of the main causes for nerves is not knowing what they will ask you in an interview. The best way to be prepared for this, is to go through some popular questions and come up with some mock answers. Something that is easy to remember and an important thing to know is, you don’t have to memorise answers word for word, just have a good idea of what you may say. You want the conversation to feel natural.

One popular question is “Why are you looking to leave your current job?”. If you are put on the spot, you may not know what to say straight away. You need to know why you are looking from a new job and let the interviewer know what your current employer is not giving you, without being negative. There must be a reason for you leaving, so you can keep it simple if you want. Just never talk badly about your employer or line manager in an interview.

Why are you leaving your job?

Your reasons are your own but lead the answer with a positive beginning. Think of what you want to get out of your new role and all of the opportunities it may bring to your career. Some potential reasons can include:

  • A desire to learn something new
  • Working in a new industry or sector and wanting to use your transferable skills
  • You may want to take on more or less responsibility
  • You might have outgrown your job. Is there no room for you to progress throughout the company?
  • You want to learn more and the opportunities in your current role are slim
  • You want to improve work-life balance
  • You are relocating or want a more hybrid working environment

There can be many reasons you want to move on from your job, but if you pick one, be ready to back it up with more context.

The next step

If you know the why part of your answer, it’s always a good idea to back up your claims with a reason. This turns your answers into more of a conversation, rather than just a one word or one sentence answer.

If you are wanting to learn new skills or develop the ones you already have, what do you want to learn and how can this job give that to you? The reason you are leaving your current job may be skill related but link this back to what you know about the job description. What daily activities does this role include, are there learning opportunities and does this company nurture and help grow their employees? This is where your research can start to come in.

Where do you want to take your career, and can this company give it to you? This question is usually asked to find out more about what you want out of your career and your development. It may feel like a trick question at first, but really, they want to know if you have thought this through and if you really feel like this is the job for you. They already know what you can give them, but what can they give you? Never forget that a job is important for both you and the employer.

Be honest and professional

It’s important to remain honest for multiple reasons. You don’t want to start your employer – employee relationship in a negative way, being honest works out better for both parties. You want to really understand what you can gain from this, so be sure to provide honest information.

Also, when it comes to your new employer contacting past employers for references, they may ask. Another reason to be honest with your previous company for leaving, you don’t want everyone having different sides of the story. Positivity is key. Leaving a job isn’t always positive, but showing you have a constructive personality can shine through an application.

Example answers

If you are looking for the opportunity for progression

“Throughout my time in my current role, I have had the opportunity to learn new skills and gain valuable knowledge about the industry, which I am very grateful for. It has been a great start to my career, but I believe I am ready to use this knowledge to my advantage and take on some more responsibilities. I am looking for a new role that will support my development and help me progress through an organisation.”

If you are looking for opportunities in a different field of work

“Whilst working in my current role, I learned how much I enjoyed tasks where I could create and develop ideas. I started helping my other colleagues, when I had some spare time, and found that this might be a good direction for me to develop my career. I still enjoy and continue to learn skills in this field but would love the opportunity to be more creative in my next role. Unfortunately, my current employer has no vacancies in this department, so I am looking for a company that can help me achieve my goals.”

If you are looking to work for a company in a different sector

“I love my current role and the responsibilities that come with it; however, I am looking to work for a company in a different sector. I would like to learn and develop my skills for a company in the charity sector. I have been working at my current company for what feels like a long time and I am ready for a change of pace and subject. My skills gained from working in the defence sector are transferable and think I could bring some good knowledge to this role.”

All examples can be tailored to you and your job search. Think about what you want to gain from the job you are interviewing for rather than just focusing on the negative reasons you want to leave your current job. Practice and preparation can really help answering interview questions like this.