Among stressful interview questions, ‘why are you looking for a new job?’ ranks near the top. This can really throw you off, but if you’re prepared to answer it, you’ll do well.
The bottom line: be honest but discrete, and keep it positive. Don’t slam your current boss or colleagues, or tell your prospective employer that you don’t make enough money. These are all huge turn offs and will get you quickly into the “no [and we never want to see you again!]” pile.
Here is a list of reasons why you very well might be looking for a new job, but stating them outright isn’t going to help you in an interview:
“My boss and I don’t get along.”
“I don’t get any credit for my work.”
“I want to make more money.”
“I haven’t been promoted or promised the things I expected when I started my job.”
Try the following approaches instead.
Relay any serious issues.
If there are any issues that are likely to surface, you need to be honest. For example, if you were laid off, tell your prospective employer. And you should be up front and tell them why. If it’s something that you were at fault for such as aggressive behavior toward a colleague, they may find out. While it’s not easy, you need to determine how to frame that in an appropriate way.
Focus on the job you’re interviewing for.
While you have to talk about your past experiences – after all that’s why you’re interviewing there – focus your examples on the job you’re interviewing for. That is, use your answers to demonstrate why this is a good fit for you based on your achievements. Your main focus should be on how you fulfill what they’re looking for, and why you think you can add value to the position.
Present positive reasons for the change you seek.
Maybe you are in a toxic work environment, but try to avoid the negative commentary. What do you want out of your career in the short- and long-term? Is there a skill you’ve begun to develop at your current job that you feel could be enhanced in this role? If you’ve always wanted to break into their industry, explain why. It could be your admiration of their customer service practices or a childhood love of cars that you got from your father. If you’re making a bigger transition, such as from nonprofit to private or government to private, prepare specific reasons for wanting to do so that aren’t focused on salary.
Be transparent, but cautious.
If you’ve advanced as far as you can in your current role, that’s okay to say in an interview, but you need to explain why in a professional way. Don’t tell them your coworker is holding you back. Maybe you feel like you want to be an expert in a certain field and you don’t have the opportunity to do that where you are now. That’s fine, but you need to be ready to say why.
Stay the course.
Some interviewers will try to push you into a corner and test you. They may ask something like, “You’re likely making six figures at your current job. Why would you want to come here and make less?” Maintain your story. It’s not about the money; it’s about professional development and fulfillment, which you don’t have in your current job.
The most important lesson here is to keep it positive. Who wants to work with a negative person? Stay focused on this opportunity. What is it that excites you about this particular company and job? Embrace the refreshing feeling you get from answering that question, and let it show in the examples you provide in answer to their questions, and even in the questions you ask the interviewer.