Q: Why are you leaving your job at XYZ? A: Because of my boss
July 29, 2013 11:02 AM   Subscribe

So, when someone asks "why are you leaving your job at XYZ?" I'm looking for a good and truthful answer that doesn't leave me in a bad light.

I'm looking for a better answer.

The situation: I have a great job. I get paid well, and the benefits are good. My boss has made my work life unbearable.

The truth: I would love to work at this company forever if my boss wasn't in the picture.

The problem: My resume will show that I have held increasing roles of responsibility over the 2.5 years I have worked at my current company. 3 different jobs all under the same boss. Each a promotion.

So, when someone asks "why are you leaving your job at XYZ?" I'm looking for a good and truthful answer that doesn't leave me in a bad light. I regularly interview people myself and find that when people talk poorly about their previous boss it is a sign they will not likely work out for us.

Here are some I have thought through:
I love what I do. It has been very rewarding. One thing I've learned is to always be watching for opportunities. When this position came up on LinkedIn it caught my attention as it is very aligned with my experience and expertise. I think it was very worthy of exploring, and from what I've learned so far, I was right. I read about ____ in the posting, can you tell me more about....

My job is great one. I love what I do. The company is in the middle of some organizational changes that are solidifying the roles above me in the organization for the next several years. The result is that my forward potential is limited due to these changes. Therefore, I have decided to review opportunities with companies that excite me. Like yours. Can you tell me more about _____

Any thoughts would be awesome!

Some background:
I hold an upper level management position
I have pulled out all the stops to mend the relationship with my boss

Thank you,
posted by jseven to Work & Money (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Here is what AskAManager has to say about this. You don't have to be 100% Truthful in this answer. You can totally say something vague and vaguely true like "I feel like I've learned everything that current job can teach me and I'm looking for new challenges." You don't need to go into depth.
posted by brainmouse at 11:05 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Keep it simple. You are looking for more challenge, more responsibility, and you are specifically so excited about this specific company and this specific job because XYZ.
posted by manicure12 at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Hiring people absolutely do not want to hear you blaming anyone else. It makes you sound like a whiner and a bad risk. Just lie, like everyone else does.
posted by thelonius at 11:12 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Fit. Just go with fit. It's true in your case and it could mean absolutely anything.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:17 AM on July 29, 2013

I had a similar problem, and when I was interviewing, rather than fudge an answer, I simply said that any two people in the world are going to get along or not get along, and while we tried to make it work, it simply wasn't going to work out in the long term.

Everyone has been there, and there's no shame in it, as long as you handled it appropriately. You don't have to reveal it right from the get-go and seem all complainy, but being forthright about personality issues isn't a killer. If you don't get into details (and again being all complainy), it may even be a plus. It certainly was in my case.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:17 AM on July 29, 2013

Best answer: Your instincts are right on, and your first answer is ideal. Hiring managers all know that this isn't a real question anyway, it's a signifier.

You're going to wear nice clothes to the interview, right? Not because a fundamental truth about you is that you love suits and wear them all the time, but because you understand that dressing sharply for an interview one of our agreed-upon signals, that says "I get the culture of a professional office, and I can fit in when needed."

The answer to this question is the same way. Your not-the-whole-truth-but-by-the-book answer doesn't really tell me why you're leaving, it tells me you understand 'the rules' of the workplace, including that you don't badmouth your boss.
posted by Ausamor at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2013 [19 favorites]

Yeah this is one of those things. Like the real answer to "Why do you want to work here?" is usually some flavor of "Well, I want you to pay me, and I'll do shit for you, and this seems like a decent place to uphold that basic bargain" but you don't come out and SAY that.

I'd do something like "While I've made a lot of progress and increased responsibility at Current Job, your company's focus on _______ is a field I'd really like to get into or learn more about..."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:24 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

You can try to work in the negative things your boss did as reasons you were no longer comfortable or happy working where you are/where (I felt that the culture was becoming too focused on details and missed the big picture), but that can get sticky, so I'd agree that your first idea is great.

You don't have to leave a job because it's bad, you can leave because you see something better. Staying with your prior job for a few years and moving up to more responsibilities shows you aren't someone who is really leaving because you couldn't get along with people.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:27 AM on July 29, 2013

jseven: "The company is in the middle of some organizational changes that are solidifying the roles above me in the organization for the next several years. The result is that my forward potential is limited due to these changes."

That's your answer.
posted by theichibun at 11:47 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yup, your responses are 100% correct.

No need to slag your boss. It never ends well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2013

Been there. I dislike lying but agree with everyone above that saying anything bad about people/place I was at would simply sound terrible, so I evaded. I talked up all the great points about my current job and how much I learned there, but I was very attracted to (all the actual reasons new position looked good to me). It is also good to end your answer with an upbeat question about the new place and/or your interviewer. People love talking up themselves and their work.
posted by bearwife at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2013

First one looks exactly right to me.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:48 PM on July 29, 2013

Just answer as though right before this question they explained that the next question would be a test of your skills at diplomatically answering questions about things you don't like about your employer.
posted by yohko at 1:30 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It depends on your field and the culture of the company you're talking to. If you're applying to the HR department of a large bank, for example, I think everybody else is exactly right that what they really want to know is that you won't cause problems by badmouthing your coworkers. If you're going in to a technical position at a tiny little startup full of twenty-somethings, you can probably be a lot more direct -- in fact, some of the answers above might come across as overly corporate or dodging the question.

My personal bias is to be as honest as possible while still spinning things in a business-palatable direction, though that can be difficult. An approach that has served me well is to think "If the nicest person I know were trying to be fair to both sides, what would they say?" In situations like the one you're describing, I've said things like, "The office culture has evolved over the time I was in the position, so while in many ways it's still a great place to work, I think for me personally it's no longer a good fit." Be ready to answer questions about what changed and what you prefer, ideally with references to policy changes rather than personality conflicts. I don't know know the particulars of your situation, but if pressed on the specifics, phrases like "a more confrontational managerial style than I prefer" or "a more flexible approach to [thing your boss is a jerk about]" might be helpful.
posted by djspinmonkey at 3:51 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with all about your first answer. This is usually just a test of your diplomacy skills. My caveat would be to make sure you balance the 'looking for opportunities' out with 'I am loyal to my employer'.

But you must be pretty good at this kind of stuff to hold the position that you currently have. Just follow your instincts.
posted by danteGideon at 3:37 AM on July 30, 2013

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