Why am I looking to change jobs... OK, here goes.
July 27, 2007 1:31 AM   Subscribe

My wife is dusting off her resume and getting ready to stop by a few local businesses. But there's one job interview question she's not sure how to handle: "Why are you looking to leave your current job?"

She's been at this job for about 16 months. It's been good to her; it's helped her break into the field. She's worked her ass off too; she has always taken a lot of pride in her work. The reason she is looking to leave is the owner's management style. More specifically, because he doesn't have one. He hires people that walk in the door, with no interview, which has resulted in bad hire after bad hire. He has not taken any disciplinary action against anyone the entire time she has been there. No one knows what hours they will work form one day to the next; one week she might get 25 hours and the next week 70. People are choosing what work they will and will not do. Meanwhile, the place is always dirty, because no one is cleaning (which is their job) and no one's holding their feet to the fire to do it. She can't take care of the place by herself, and she's grown very tired of trying to do so. She also suspects that this business will not be around for a terribly long time with the way it is being run. But, you really can't lay out a litany of things like this in a job interview. What should she say when they ask her why she wants to leave her current job?
posted by azpenguin to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The answer to that question is the same as it always is: Your wife has gone as far as she can in her current job and is seeking new opportunities.
posted by kindall at 1:36 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Firstly, never, ever speak negatively of your previous or current employer, even at this question. I believe the best answer to questions such as these is that, although she enjoys her current job, your wife would like to gain experiences beyond what she has now.

Stress the word experience. Perhaps experience in terms of learning something new at a new job or getting something different with a new environment. If there are too many people at your wife's current job, she could state that she would like to have gain some more experience being an independent, autonomous worker.
posted by dnthomps at 2:11 AM on July 27, 2007

Also your wife could mention that she would like to progress further in her career and in order to do that she must seek new opportunities and new people.
posted by Sevenupcan at 3:03 AM on July 27, 2007

"Why are you looking to leave your current job?"

Answer: "I want more money."

Even if money is not the reason, it's the reason, the only reason, you give in an interview. As a general rule, always say what you DO want/expect in a new job and never talk about what you don't want or like about the old old. Money is the only valid exception to this. "I'm looking for a new job because I think I am worth more than my present employer is paying me." Period. Everyone can understand that.
posted by three blind mice at 3:11 AM on July 27, 2007

Ah, but three blind mice: what if she's looking to get into a field that pays less?
posted by malaprohibita at 4:33 AM on July 27, 2007

@ three blind mice:

seriously? That is horrible advice! It makes it sound like money is all you care about. You could mention the financial aspect, but only if you stress that what you're really looking for is an opportunity to further yourself, etc.

Even if money is your only motivation, I wouldn't state it so bluntly.
posted by boreddusty at 5:28 AM on July 27, 2007

I'm looking for a job and have looked at a lot of sample answers, and this has the best list I've seen:

jobsearch.about.com - on the left, click on Interviews/Networking, then Job Interview Q & A, then Interview Questions and Answers, then click on "Why are you leaving your job?". There's a really long list of answers - I think she'll be able to find a really good response from the list.

But I second that she absolutely should not say anything negative about her boss or the company.
posted by la petite marie at 5:32 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I go with the advice to just say she is looking for more of a challenge, or she has gone as far as she can, etc.

However, I don't necessarily agree with the advice to never say anything negative about your current boss. I understand why: you don't want to be seen as a whiner, or as someone who thinks they know more than their boss. However, anyone who would interview you already knows this "rule" and dancing around it may come across as bullshit. Plus, she may be asked "What DON'T you like about your current boss?" Saying that he is just wonderful would come across as being deceptive.

All that to say, there is a way to share negatives in a diplomatic way. I would not say anything about his hiring practices, because it would bring into question whether your wife was even qualified herself. But she might be able to say something along the line that she gets along with her boss and working for him has been a good opportunity, but she would like to be on a team that has more focused direction and goals, and she is looking for more of a challenge with bigger responsibilities, to give her a chance to live up to what she is capable of.

And of course there is nothing wrong with saying she doesn't like the inconsistent hours. She probably wouldn't even want a job with those hours again anyway.

Good luck to your wife.
posted by The Deej at 5:42 AM on July 27, 2007

She could probably say that the nature of the work meant that her schedule constantly changed and that she wanted more consistent hours. Provided that the new job actually has more consistent hours then it shouldn't raise any eyebrows--everyone likes to plan to do things outside of work.
posted by Tuwa at 5:45 AM on July 27, 2007

I'm gonna disagree about saying anything bad about your current employer. When I interviewed for my current job, I'd been working for a schmuck who only had sporadic work, whose only compliment in 3 years working for him was that I took a short lunch so we could get back to work, who flat-out contradicted himself, and who was known to throw things during frequent temper tantrums (but he paid well, and I couldn't find anything else). I mentioned two of these in the interview for my current job; I'd just been upbraided at length for using the same kind of wall anchor we'd always used instead of reading my boss's mind, and was in a bad frame of mind. My now-boss told me that my honesty in that matter - mentioning it at all - was what won me the job.
posted by notsnot at 6:43 AM on July 27, 2007

I'd latch on to the unpredictablity of scheduling, if it were me. Any potential employer should be able to understand her need to know approximately how many hours she'll be expected to work. That would make budgeting very difficult, I would think.
posted by unclejeffy at 7:06 AM on July 27, 2007

"I'm very happy with my current job, but when I saw the opening here it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up."
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:16 AM on July 27, 2007

Emphasize the differences that are nobody's fault but unchangable at that job. "I've enjoyed what I've learned there but I have realized that it's working with puppies that's important to me and they're a cat rescue." Except of course it'll be big company/small company, serving a different kind of clientèle, closer to home, whatever.
posted by phearlez at 10:44 AM on July 27, 2007

This is actually a situation where you want to consider judiciously introducing things that are wrong with the current situation because she hasn't been there very long - so a simple "looking for new challenges/money/whatever" invites the interpretation "ambitious/greedy, will look for another job in a year and a half."

On the other hand, my rule of thumb with slagging off the old boss is "given that I'm talking to the putative new boss, who is this person more likely to identify with in this story?"

There's no reason not to bring up non-judgmental issues like the extraordinarily variable hours. That could be a deal-breaker for anyone, swings from 25-70 are way over the top and any normal employer will recognize this as a basic incompatibility of environment, not whining about the job. If it is an issue in any of her potential job she should weed those out early anyway.

There's no point bringing in things like "chronically undermanaged." A potential employer is unlikely to identify with this vice even if they ought to, and it just invites questions like "do you need to be micromanaged? Are you not a self-starter?" (And a certain kind of interviewer looks for openings like these to ask just those sorts of questions, just to see how you react under pressure).

A good trick is to find relatively neutral examples that can be contrasted against positive employee traits your wife wants to exemplify: old boss has a very casual attitude about keeping office neat/orderly, she puts a high priority in staying organized and orderly in her work... that's sort of a lame one but you get the idea. You lay a clear but not shrill foundation of "I'm leaving a poor situation" but mainly to serve as a basis for a presentation of "I'm so great and I'll be even greater for a boss who doesn't have his head quite so much up his ass." The key consideration of any interview response is that you spend as little time as possible off topic, the topic always being "why I'm fantastic."
posted by nanojath at 12:53 PM on July 27, 2007

Thanks everyone. The answer from phearlez is actually kind of funny because its a vet clinic she's working for, and they work with a lot of rescues. That also means that it's one of those businesses where everyone knows everyone. So, it may end up being difficult to give the typical interview answers in these situations. You've given us a lot to go on from here.
posted by azpenguin at 12:44 PM on July 28, 2007

Wow I must be psycho. psychic.

You didn't say initially this was a very insular community, but it really doesn't matter. Everyone in that interview, on both sides of the table, knows that the answer to the "why are you leaving?" question is at least 1% nonsense, maybe 99%. The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter.

This question gets asked as if the answer matters, but really it doesn't. Like many questions in an interview, the purpose is to see how you choose to answer it. When someone says "because they won't let me cross-dress in the office" the thing you learn that's important isn't the cross-dressing, it's that this person has poor judgment and doesn't keep their personal life personal. (Reeeeely hoping I'm not accidentally identifying an unsaid truth accidentally here this time)

If the people asking your wife know that where she's coming from is a madhouse and only a fool would stay there then it makes it all the more important to answer in a way that displays the privacy and respect that one should show an employer, even an insane one. When she doesn't bad mouth them to someone else she'll demonstrate that she's a better employee than that place deserves and it'll be all the more obvious why she's leaving.

If she happens to interview with someone who pushes her on this, or says bad things about her employer and tries to get her to confirm them, then she should just shrug and say something like "everyplace has it's good and bad points and there's always some conflict in the workplace. I don't feel like it's right for me to gossip about those kind of little things."

And consider what kind of person would press someone to talk smack about an employer, of course, and if she wants to work with them after all.
posted by phearlez at 8:59 AM on July 30, 2007

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