If you’re currently employed and interviewing at other companies, you can count on being asked why you’re looking for a new job. Show up unprepared to answer this, and you could fall into the trap of trash-talking your employer simply for lack of a better response.
Ace this common query by following these five totally valid responses hiring managers actually like to hear.
1. Weave in Your Strengths
To take this tricky interview question and turn it into an opportunity to further showcase your strengths, Charina L. Flores, VP of human resources at the Barbelo Group, has a solution: Share your long-term goals with the hiring manager, stating how your current company doesn’t provide the foundation for those specific goals, then explain how your strengths and goals align with this new company.
Here’s an example:
“My goal is to lead digital projects in a fast-paced agency. I love working on a creative team, thrive under pressure and have been told by my managers I excel at project management. My current company works with a small group of clients and I’m looking for exposure to a larger diversity of brands so I can continue to hone my skills.”
2. Make It Compelling—and Not About a Paycheck
For Ali Mercier, marketing content manager at The Leadership Program, the best answers are ones that focus on your career growth and passion, and not ones that mention you just need work.
“Are they looking for an opportunity to grow? Have they sought out my company because of the culture and brand? Are they interested in investing in themselves by doing something they love? All of these answers sound great to my ears—as would many more,” says Mercier. “Don’t tell me you need the paycheck.”
3. Be a Little Obsessed With the Company
Another approach is to make it clear the company you’re applying to is the only company on your radar. Chris Dessi, founder and CEO of Silverback Social says all he wants to hear from a candidate is, “I’m not looking for a new job, I’m looking to collaborate with you.”
“I want to be wooed,” says Dessi, “I want them to only, and desperately, want to be associated with my agency, and my agency only.”
To go with this approach, you’ll need to take some time to learn all you can about the company, its greatest projects, related industry trends and what you can contribute. And it helps if you’re, you know, actually super passionate about working at that company.
4. Talk About Your Boundless Energy
Alex Twersky, career expert and Mediabistro’s own resume and cover letter writer, says to take this as an opportunity to complement your current company on the opportunities you’ve been given to learn, grow and contribute to the team. And, because of your unstoppable enthusiasm to grow in the field and to further develop your talents, you are now seeking out new opportunities.
“The undertone of answering the question in this way is that you have boundless energy and are seeking a new outlet in which to channel it,” says Twersky. “Ultimately, this puts a very positive spin on your reasons for wanting to leave.”
5. And Remember—Don’t Talk Trash
No matter how awful your current situation may be, it’s never a good idea to speak negatively about your current or former manager.
“From an employer’s perspective, it’s always refreshing to speak to candidates that are more laid back and looking to learn new things and grow in their professional and personal lives,” says Maxwell Barna, manager of digital content and communications at RushOrderTees. “So when a candidate’s first inclination is to speak out harshly against their current employer—even if it’s totally justified—it tends to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.”
Barna says it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of why you’re looking for a new job and reminds candidates to “keep it classy and professional.”