Explore expert tips and resources to be more confident in your next interview.
In this guide, Mock Questions walks you through one of the most direct and challenging interview questions you will face. 'Why are you looking for a new job?' We provide a 4-step framework to approaching this tricky interview question and offer multiple answer examples based on various reasons. Whether you have already quit your job, want to switch industries, or were terminated, we teach you how to approach this question with confidence, poise, and a positive attitude.
Many reports and studies show that over half of employees are open to leaving their current job. If you are one of those individuals, you are certainly not alone!
As much as a hiring authority understands the desire to seek new work, the question around your personal or professional motivation remains. The interviewer wants to understand the circumstances that sparked the desire to leave your current or most recent position.
Perhaps you were terminated, left your job without notice, or your family relocated. Whatever the circumstances, the interviewer is seeking evidence that the situation will not be a recurring issue with their organization.
Some of the most common reasons for leaving a job include:
Be honest about your current situation, but be careful not to overshare or speak negatively about your current position. It is best to focus primarily on your future wishes vs. dwelling on what is going wrong or what went awry.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Jobs are opportunities. Regardless of your reasoning, leaving your job on good terms is always the best-case scenario. A positive approach shows your future employer that you are professional and respectful of the opportunities given to you, whether they worked out to your benefit or not.
There are three common themes around most candidate’s poorly delivered responses: Being vague, being negative, and being the same as everyone else.
Let’s break down these common mistakes in more detail:
1: BEING TOO VAGUE.
“My current position is no longer a fit.”
Why this doesn’t work: Vaguely saying that your current position is no longer a fit does not give the interviewer any information from which they can build. A response like this allows the interviewer to come to personal conclusions. It leaves room for them to assume that your job is turning sour and you don't want to talk about it. Give a detailed enough response to help the interviewer conclude that you are the best candidate for the job.
Try this instead: Help your interviewer feel assured that the hiring company, and this new role, will meet your long-term desires. Suppose you are employed and looking for a fresh opportunity. In that case, the hiring authority will want to know precisely how their job is different than the one you want to leave.
2: SPEAKING NEGATIVELY.
“My current company has a toxic work environment, and my boss is awful.”
Why this doesn’t work: Speaking poorly about your current company, job, or co-workers only reflects poorly on you. The interviewer may also have connections to your company, your boss, or your team members. Speaking ill of others is a quick way to eliminate yourself from the competition.
Try this instead: Even if a statement about a toxic environment or a bad boss may be true, it's best to keep that information to yourself and focus on the future. What do you want that you are not getting now, and how can you flip the delivery of your response into a positive tone?
3: GIVING A CLICHÉ RESPONSE.
“I am looking for a new job because I need to feel more challenged.”
Why this doesn’t work: It's normal to want to grow and feel challenged in your career. However, when you answer this way, it's still unclear to the interviewer why you are unwilling to seek more challenges within your current organization. Also, this response is highly overused by other candidates.
Try this instead: Discuss specific challenges that excite you the most! Express that you cannot gain this particular momentum with your current company, and touch on why that is the case. Then talk about why you believe this new company can provide the challenges and growth that you seek.
When forming your response to 'Why are you looking for a new job?', clearly outline how this new opportunity aligns with your professional goals. Make the connection between your desires and how the hiring company will benefit from choosing you.
Try building your response using this 4-step framework:
1: Set up the situation and mention the challenges you faced/currently face.
2: Outline the positive actions you took/have taken to overcome these challenges.
3: Highlight the transferable skills you have developed despite the situation.
4: Discuss the benefits of these transferable skills and provide measurable examples of how these skills will ensure your success in this new role.
Keeping an opportunity mindset, you can see why providing an opportunity-related response is the most effective approach.
Regardless of your reason for leaving your current or most recent position, the interviewer has the same goal. They want to know your career desires for the future and how these desires will be a mutually beneficial fit.
Let’s explore some example responses for a variety of situations:
HOW TO ANSWER IF: YOU QUIT YOUR LAST JOB
Leaving a position that you don't enjoy is a-okay! Many professionals have quit a job before. However, you will need to be crystal clear about your intentions since most people don't leave their job without a new one secured. Suppose you have already quit your job and are an unemployed job-seeker. In that case, you will need to work extra hard on answering this question in a positive and future-focused light.
For example: "Taking my most recent job was a misstep; however, I learned some important lessons from this experience. Last year, I joined Company XYZ - a start-up company with a fantastic business idea. Unfortunately, the overall framework and business strategy did not match the reality of the work environment. I remained in the role for one year before giving my notice and staying on to help train my replacement. Now, I am approaching my next move with more care, ensuring that I make a fully informed decision. I am passionate about serving my employer and generating growth. When I learned that Company ABC had this opening, I was thrilled. I understand that this position places a significant focus on strategic growth and employee upskilling. I appreciate that this company's mission is to be a name backed by integrity, a factor that sounds highly suited to the values I bring to my personal and professional life."
HOW TO ANSWER IF: YOU WERE FIRED FROM YOUR LAST JOB
If you have gone through job termination, remember that highly talented people find themselves in this situation. Being fired does not mean you are unworthy. The great news is that many reports show that 'fired' professionals end up moving onto a role that is better than the last! If you experienced termination from your previous job, address your situation honestly and highlight the biggest lesson you learned.
For example: "I was initially drawn to the position with Company XYZ because of my desire to work in a sales-based environment. I was ready to work hard, put in overtime, and take any training opportunity available to me. However, I was unprepared for the long sales cycle and how competitive the company was, internally and externally. It took me longer than expected to build a sales pipeline, and I could not recover after a slow first quarter. My employer did what they could to support me. Still, it became clear that being so new to sales; I should have pursued a role with a shorter sales cycle and a smaller, hands-on sales management team. We agreed that the role was not a good fit and went our way amicably. Since learning more about myself and my strengths, I have started to pursue a more fitting role confidently. Thank you for meeting with me today, and I look forward to showing you how my strengths can benefit Company ABC, should you choose to hire me."
HOW TO ANSWER IF: YOU WERE LAID OFF FROM YOUR LAST JOB
Layoffs are often a complex topic to discuss. They can come with mixed emotions and perhaps feelings of distrust because you didn't see the layoff coming. Feelings of confusion aside, it's time to show enthusiasm for the new opportunities in front of you while highlighting the positive aspects that come with professional change.
For example: "For 15 years with Education Company XYZ, I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside brilliant leaders and earning promotions based on my positive performance. I worked my way up the ranks in traditional education met many exciting challenges. However, the seniority I earned made me vulnerable to a layoff when the education industry experienced a dip during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Overall, my experience with Company ABC was incredibly positive, so I am using discernment while exploring new career opportunities. My career desire is to utilize my communication, leadership, and curriculum-building strengths to approach a career in the ed-tech industry. I appreciate that this industry is ever-changing while remaining strong during economic challenges. I researched Company ABC. It appears the organization has earned steady and consistent growth through a recession and the COVID-19 global pandemic. The prospect of joining the ed-tech industry and lending my transferable skills in traditional education is fascinating. I believe my background in curriculum-building will be especially beneficial for your team."
HOW TO ANSWER IF: YOU ARE CURRENTLY STILL EMPLOYED
As a currently employed job seeker, you are arguably in the best position of all. You likely have more room for critical decision-making before taking your next career step. Express the positive aspects of your current job while being honest about what you desire from your next adventure.
For example: "Since Company XYZ was acquired, my position has shifted to a primary focus on new business development. However, my primary goal when joining the company was to become an Account Manager focused on developing long-term client relationships. I enjoy building long-term relationships and see the best results in this type of environment. Since the acquisition, I've been actively looking for an opportunity to work on key accounts with long-term projects focusing on strategic growth. When I can deliver significant value to a client over the long term, I know I am in the right place. When I saw that your organization was looking for a Key Account Manager focused on post-sales client relationships, I was excited to apply. This opportunity sounds like a hands-on, strategy-focused opportunity where I know I can thrive."
HOW TO ANSWER IF: YOU ARE A RECENT GRADUATE
If you are a recent graduate, you might be leaving a part-time or casual position that isn't in complete alignment with your recently acquired certification or degree. You know that it's time to take the next step in your professional career. Still, it can be hard to express this move without giving a plain answer. For instance, most candidates in this situation will say, 'I am looking for a new job now that I have completed my post-secondary education.' Instead, form a response that takes the interviewer on a journey and tells them more about your career interests.
For example: "Now that I have completed my degree in Business Management, I am ready to let go of my part-time position at Company XYZ. My goal is to pursue a full-time position and build on the skills and knowledge gained during my post-secondary career. I'm looking for a role with a brand that I believe in, where I will be a proud contributor. While completing my final research paper, I studied different approaches to discrimination prevention in the workplace. I came across Company ABC's approach to diversity and inclusion and felt inspired by this organizations' mindful approach to D&I. I would be honored to have the opportunity to build on my existing knowledge by starting my professional career guided by your esteemed team of leaders."
If you do not have a rehearsed answer for 'Why are you looking for a new job?' you are at risk for swerving into a negative space or saying something you might regret.
In addition to practicing for this question, consider preparing a structured response for every position on your resume. An inquisitive interviewer may also dig deeper into your reason for leaving past jobs.
Overall, remember to be specific in your response and show that your past and current career movement occurred with intention and thoughtful consideration.
If you’re looking for extra coaching to get you through a tough question or interview situation, check out Mock Questions one-on-one coaching options.
View all of our answer examples for: Why are you looking for a new job?