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The question, “Why do you want to leave your current job?" is one of the most common interview questions, yet it often leaves candidates stumped. While it may seem like an opportunity to be dismissive about your current employer, this is highly unlikely to paint you in a good light.

Planning a persuasive, positive response can go a long way to highlighting your suitability for the new role.

What does the interviewer want to find out?

As with many interview questions, it can be helpful to consider what the interviewer really wants to learn when asking why you want to leave your current job. To put it another way, they could be asking: "Why are you looking for a new role?" In this context, it has much more to do with the positives afforded by a new job, rather than any negativity you may feel about your current position.

Related: How to prepare for a job interview

Why it's important to avoid negativity

Just because your interviewer wants to get to know you, that doesn't mean they're your friend. Remember that you're not venting in the pub after a hard day in the office, you're trying to impress a hiring manager. Launching into a tirade about grievances with your boss or employer – broken promises, slights against your ability, lack of respect – will only paint you as someone who likes to complain. Who's to say you won't be the same at another company?

Examples of positive reasons for leaving a job

Fortunately, there are plenty of reasons for leaving a job that can be explained in a manner that paints you in a positive light. Consider the following:

  • I want to learn more
  • I feel like I'm ready to take on more responsibility
  • I believe I've progressed as far as I can in my current role
  • I need a change of environment to motivate me
  • I want to develop a new skill that isn't required in my current job
  • I don't feel like my current role is challenging me anymore

It's sensible to prepare a couple of answers to this question because people often leave jobs due to a combination of factors. Your interviewer may ask for additional reasons.

Want to secure more interviews for exciting new roles in your sector? Check out all the live roles on the Michael Page website today.

How to structure your answer

Answering this question gives you the opportunity to show off how much you know about your potential new employer and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position. Give your reason for leaving, then explain how this makes the new job particularly appealing.

For example:

My biggest reason for leaving is that I'm ready to take on more responsibility. I want to manage a team, but there are no leadership positions available at my current employer. I enjoy delivering training sessions and upskilling junior employees. It's something I do a lot in my current role, and I've received lots of positive feedback, but I could do this even more effectively if I had my own team. I know you're looking for someone to lead a small team of graduates and I'm really excited about the prospect of helping them to develop.

A similar question you may need to answer in your upcoming interview might be 'Why do you want this job?'.

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