When you tell an interviewer why you’re looking for a new job, you often must toe the line between honesty and tact.
A good hiring manager is likely to ask you what is spurring your migration from your current job. In our quest to hold back on tales of frustrating clients, backstabbing co-workers, and boredom with our unfulfilling work, too often, we will mute ourselves with a bland response like, “I’m looking for a new challenge.”
Why looking for ‘new challenges’ doesn’t cut it
But the “new challenge” dodge has been used so many times that it’s lost meaning in job interviews. As Ask a Manager’s Alison Green explains, you need to go beyond this tired phrase that she says people politely use instead of the answer people really want to give like “my manager is driving me bat— crazy.”
“You need to say more than just ‘I’m looking for new challenges,'” she advises. “You need to give some detail about why you feel that way and what it is about the new job that excites you and offers more than you can get from your current position.”
Are you switching careers or industries? Moving to a new city? Managing more people? Picking up a new skill? These are all good challenges you can expand upon.
To explain why you’re looking for a new job, in other words, you need to go beyond the sob story of your current frustrations and sell the story of your career, so that employers can understand why their role is perfect for you.
A four-step step up
To do this right, The Muse suggests breaking down your answer into four steps that make the case why this position is exactly what you need.
First, highlight the skills you already have to show off what an asset you would be to your potential employer. Next, explain your motivations about why you want to use your special skills at this new job.
Then, signal that you see this job as a long-term committed relationship by talking about how this job will help your professional development.
Finally, wrap it up with a statement on how this company’s role and mission excites you.
Why badmouthing your current workplace is a bad answer
Job searching while you’re employed is all about presenting your authentic self to future employers without burning bridges with your old ones. If you tell an interviewer that you’re looking for a new job because of a toxic workplace, this answer may be honest, but no employer is going to give you a job if they think you see it as just an escape hatch from your current problems.
You need to talk about what you want to create instead of what you’re trying to avoid, career coach Alina Bas told Monster.
Industries are small and careers are long, so it’s best not to badmouth your current employer even if that’s the real reason you’re hunting and gathering job listings. When you talk about previous employers’ dirty laundry, you may see it as an attempt to clear your good name. But future employers will see how you talk about your past employers as a premonition of how you will talk about them.
Despite these interview hurdles, the best time to find a job is when you already have a job. Unlike job seekers who are unemployed, employed job seekers have the luxury to walk away from bad offers and negotiate for higher offers.
As a job seeker with a job, your biggest minefield is in keeping the delicate balance between your current job and future career. You want to be tactfully honest about your career journey, so that you can persuade an employer that their challenge is the right challenge for you.