Let me start by saying that this question is one of those often used but irrelevant questions. Irrelevant? Absolutely, and for a few reasons. First, everyone knows why people look for opportunities outside of their current roles.
They generally fall into one of the following:
- Horrible boss/mismanagement
- Financial trouble at current employer
So, if everyone knows that most people leave their roles for the same general reasons, why is this a standard interview question? It’s because it’s another example of #LazyRecruiting with which candidates must contend. Yes, lazy. Why a candidate wants to leave her current role is entirely irrelevant to the business problem the hiring team has. But because most people are not trained in how to conduct interviews, they default to the “What’s your sign?” method of vetting candidates. Job Posting
As this is the reality of the hiring process, job seekers need to be aware and to be armed with a response that satisfies the interviewer and allows the conversation to move on to more important and relevant discussion points. Generally speaking, you should always frame your answer around moving forward to a better opportunity. It’s not a good idea to tell the interviewer that you’re looking to escape a horrible workplace, even if that is the case. Remember, this is a job interview, not a deposition, and your goal is to spin your answers in the most favorable, compelling way you can. You’re there to market yourself, not to report on just the facts.
You can craft your narrative in a few ways. The first puts it all on the interviewing company. You’re not actively looking, but this opportunity and company are so amazingly awesome that there was no way you could NOT have a conversation with them. Another way to answer the question is to relate it to your current experience: “I’ve been in my role as digital marketing manager for 18 months now, and I’ve learned some great things. I just ran a campaign that resulted in a 30% increase in qualified leads and a 134% increase in traffic to our content hub. The position with your company would enable me to do even bigger things.”
Yes, sometimes a clueless interviewer will demand an answer as to why you left Lehman Brothers in 2008. If you do encounter a question to which the answer seems obvious, breathe deeply, and offer the matter-of-fact response: “Lehman endured a high-profile, public collapse. Everyone found themselves out of work.” Then move on. Don’t let uninformed interviewers throw you off your game. Practice your go-to response to this question and have it at the ready. And whatever you do, don’t trash talk your employer. No one wants to hear negativity from job candidates. One of the good things about #LazyRecruiting is that it opens the door to allow the candidate to steer the interview. So always frame your responses within the context of your strengths and what you can do for the hiring company.