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Tips for Job Seekers
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Interview Questions You’ll Be Asked – Part 2 of 2

In our last post, we discussed the question that starts every interview: “Walk me through your resume,” or “Tell me about yourself.” Essentially, this question is asking you, “What is your career story?”

The second question you will be asked if you are employed at the time you are interviewing is fraught with the potential to send the wrong message to your interviewer.

Question 2: Why do you want to leave your current employer?

The reasons someone is looking to leave their current job are numerous. According to a recent study by Monster.ca, the number one reason is insufficient or unfair pay. The top five also include an unhealthy/undesirable culture and a lack of work-life balance.

In order to complete a successful interview, your goal is to tell your interviewer what they want to hear. To do this, you must understand why your interviewer is asking a particular question.

We can’t speak for all hiring managers, but when we interview a candidate, we try to gauge the following:

  1. Ability to articulate. (Having above-average communication skills is extremely important – if you need to boost your skills, check out this article from Indeed Canada)
  2. Problem-solving skills
  3. Confidence and having a clear sense of purpose
  4.  Likeability
  5. Will they stay for a long time if given the job?
Smiling woman with curly hair sitting in black chair talking to man and woman in white shirts across the table in foreground who are blurry

Asking “Why are you leaving your current employer?” gauges whether a candidate might be a risky long-term hire. Although most employers will not expect an employee to stick around until they their retirement, they want to hire someone who will stay in the role for a while. After all, it can cost up to 150% of a departing employee’s salary to replace them, taking into account lost productivity, recruiting fees, retraining, and other factors.

We mentioned previously that you want to be ready to tell your career story succinctly and without rambling. That same “be prepared in advance” advice applies to answering why you’re looking to leave your current employer. You want to tell your interviewer why you’re looking to leave without hesitation. The key is to make your interviewer feel comfortable you won’t jump ship after one or two years. 

Before crafting your “why you’re looking to leave” answer, consider these two factors:

  1. Length of time at your current job. We suggest leaning on the example we give below to explain your reasoning.
  2. Your employer’s size, brand, and reputation. Wanting to leave a well-known financial institution or international pharmaceutical company might raise an interviewer’s eyebrows; therefore, your reasons for wanting to leave must be convincing. A possible answer to this could be: “Big Company has given me invaluable experience, however it has made me realize that I would prefer to work at a smaller company where I can have a greater impact.”
Close-up of man with shaved head wearing black blazer gazes out window into distance

Your goal is to show you are not only looking out for yourself. Employers and employees both have self-interests—it’s a given that you will look out for yours. During your first interview, focus on the employer’s self-interests. Avoid mentioning you are looking for an improved work-life balance, more money, better benefits, a greater challenge, or furthering your career. Employers are not in the business of growing careers. Their success depends on having the right people doing the right things. You want to come across as the right person for the job and company, who will do those right things.

The standard advice is to never bad-mouth your employer. We encourage interviewees to be candid, but polite. You can be hired by saying something along the lines of, “My manager and I no longer see eye-to-eye.” Expect a follow-up question that will determine whether you will be a fit for their management style: “What are you looking for from your next manager?” 

Employers will also hire candidates who admit they were fired. A follow-up question to this admission might be, “What did you learn from being fired?”

Good reasons to want to leave your job:
  • Hours
  • Commute
  • Recently received a degree or certification
Lots of cars backed up on a freeway

The tamest answer you can give: “I was not considering a move, but I saw your job posting and was intrigued. It seems like an exciting opportunity, and I believe it would be a match for my qualifications.” (This works well if you’ve been at your job for less than 5 years.)

Being more specific, “I earned a project management certification last month, and I am currently looking for my first job as a project manager,” will make you appear career-focused, which is positive.

We hope these tips help you craft an answer to the question “Why do you want to leave your current employer?” For additional interview support, check out our monthly workshop on Interview Techniques or register for our services to book a practice interview with an Employment Services Consultant.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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