Tough Interview Questions: Why Are You Making a Move in a Recession?

Despite the recession, people are, in fact, changing jobs by choice. Voluntary job changers who have trouble explaining why they’d look for work in a tight economy can use these three tactics to answer this tough interview question.


If you just read the newspapers or watch television, you might think that most people are hanging on to their jobs by a thread. There are numerous stories about people putting up with a bad boss, a salary cut, long commutes and more difficult workloads because of work-force reductions. That’s just the side of the story that makes for “good press,” however. There is no story on someone who is essentially happy with her current position and voluntarily looking for something else.

People are, in fact, changing jobs by choice.

Moves are inspired by a variety of reasons:

  • You are in a declining industry with bleak short-term prospects.
  • Your specific company is in decline.
  • You are following a career track for which your current company offers limited opportunities.
  • You have personal or family reasons to make a change, such as relocating to another part of the country.

Career moves don’t wait for a recession to end. In fact, some savvy job seekers spot opportunities in crisis. If your intent is to find new work, it is important to to be able to explain your motivations clearly in an interview. I believe there are three basic tenets to focus the conversation:

  1. You are being proactive, not reactive.
  2. Your decisions are analytical, not emotional.
  3. The most important issue is what you can bring to the table.

You are being proactive, not reactive.

You do not have control over the current economic climate, but you do have control over your career. If you are in a declining industry, you have several choices, including making a move.

If you’re in a declining industry or company, focus your interview pitch on how you are making a proactive move, rather than waiting for a layoff and a severance package, Make sure to do your due diligence so you do not move into a similar situation. Consider what will be a reasonable level of risk for you.

Your decisions are analytical, not emotional.

You might be making a change because of problems at your own company. This is a subject that requires the most discretion because you do not want to “air dirty laundry” in any way. Steer the conversation toward a discussion of your most logical career path.

Most executives are following a formal or informal career path. Some are moving toward a C-level role. Others have completed education or professional training to take on more-complex roles, such as international project management. Sometimes people want to move to a smaller company, where they can have more influence and a broader range of responsibilities. Others want to move to a larger company with more resources or a global presence.

An interview provides a forum to explain your next intended career step and why you cannot take that step at your current company. Through behavioral interview questions, the interviewer will attempt to learn more about you as an employer. If your career has always moved through serendipity and not through intention, now is a good time to create a career plan that covers your next 90 days up to five years.

It’s fine to bring up your personal situation in an interview if you are asked and you can discuss it professionally. For example, you might say something like:

“I have stayed in Dallas until my daughter graduated from high school. But my parents and other family members live in Boston, so my wife and I have decided we can now relocate and return to our roots.”

You don’t need to volunteer details such as your parents’ failing health. Another example might be:

“My wife and I have a new baby. I want to find a new position that requires less international travel.”

Your interview tactic should be just to state the facts.

The most important issue is what you can bring to the table.

No matter what, you must be very clear on your transferable skills and knowledge. Why would someone want to hire you? If you are not sure, a career coach can be an objective sounding board as you consider your value to your next employer. Once you decide this, you can state clearly how you perceive your industry and how you can move within or outside of it.

So if you are currently employed but contemplating potential jobs, use these perspectives to develop a way to discuss your motives and goals. You need to be 100 percent confident and clear in an interview that you are forward thinking. Then you will be able to shift the interview to what you have to offer your next employer going forward rather than dwelling on your current status.

Your approach should be calm and composed, not desperate, secretive or unsure ¾ even if you actually have anger, frustration, fear or insecurity about your current job.

Your interview strategy should be just to state the facts about yourself and your plans for the future.