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I've been in my current job for about 18 months now and keep an eye out for interesting (i.e. better) opportunities. I've just thought on how to answer if I were to be invited for interview and I was asked, "why are you leaving your current job?"

I am not desperate to leave my current job but am passively keeping my eye out for new opportunities.

I can see both positive and negative connotations that can be drawn from that but that could be said if I went the other way - that I was actively looking for a new position to further my career as there are no opportunities for progression in my current role.

So, question is, what's the best way to answer?

  • 2
    no, sorry, that's an entirely different question, this is for prospective employers in a job interview situation, not my current employer. – martincarlin87 Mar 26 '13 at 17:03
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    I have clarified your question. The original strongly suggested a different question - hopefully my edits are in line with what you are thinking. – enderland Mar 26 '13 at 17:07
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Recruiter here, and those two statements

actively looking for a new position to further my career as there are no opportunities for progression in my current role.

keeping my eye out for interesting (i.e. better), new opportunities.

are not the same from a hiring manager's perspective or from a recruiter's perspective. Much is made about there being little difference between active and passive candidates, but once one specifically declares himself/herself as an active candidate the difference is very clear.

When you add the word 'actively', as in "I am actively seeking new opportunities", it gives the appearance that you have some strong motivation to leave your current job, and thus you should have a specific answer if asked "Why are you looking to leave your current job?". Whether or not you consider yourself an active candidate, making that declaration puts the employer in some potential position of power, and takes away at least a bit of your ability to negotiate and potentially your attractiveness as a candidate.

You say you are not desperate, and the word active would suggest that you at least could be.

Why might someone be an active job seeker, as opposed to passive?

  • Unemployed
  • Unchallenged in their current job
  • Conflict with a boss or co-worker
  • Fearful they will soon be unemployed

The list could go on, but hopefully one can see that most of these have at least some negative connotations. Why is this person unemployed? Why do they feel unchallenged, and would they feel unchallenged in the job we are offering? What is the source of the conflict? None of these are going to be viewed as positives.

Active also insinuates that you are talking to many potential employers. This could help your ability to negotiate, but you only need two potential buyers to drive up price. If companies feel they have a low chance of hiring you due to other suitors being involved, how much are they going to invest in you during the interview process?

One could say they are actively seeking better opportunities, but the word active just creates an unnecessary issue. Say that you are not actively looking to leave your job but are keeping an ear open to new opportunities, and go on to say what intrigued you about the opportunity being discussed in the interview.

10

I'm a big fan of telling the truth. In your case it seems like the truth is:

I'm not actively looking for a new role, but when I saw this one it really appealed to me and I'm willing to leave my current job for it.

Your followons are likely to be what you especially like about it, and so on. I don't think I've ever asked an applicant "why are you leaving your old job?", but if I did, and they said "I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with you" I couldn't be anything but flattered, could I?

Of course, if you have some discontent in your current job, you can adapt the answer a little:

I'm not actively looking for a new role, but there are some aspects to the job I have now that can't be changed and that I don't do well with, so when I saw this role it really appealed to me and I'm willing to leave my current job for it.

This isn't as good an answer because now we're going to talk about what's not good in your current role, and if I don't believe you that those things can't be changed, I might start to think you're someone who changes jobs at the drop of a hat, but it's not a kiss of death. For example maybe your old job has a long commute and you don't want to move because you live near family, love your neighbourhood or whatever and my job offers a much shorter commute. That answer has actually reassured me that you're likely to stick with me if I hire you. Compare that to "my boss is a jerk" or "I'm not getting promoted fast enough" or "the stock options are insufficiently generous".

And finally, if the reason for you knowing the job exists is a flattering one, then this is a giant softball question that you can use to make yourself look fantastic:

Everything I've heard about you from my friend Mike, who is a [whatever] in your [whatever] department, has convinced me this is a great place to work. So when he told me there was a job opening coming that fit my skills so well, I jumped at it.

Now you've mentioned your internal contact, flattered the firm, and stated as a fact that their opening fits your skills really well. This has to be sending the interview in the right direction.

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    I think your first or last option is the way to go. Indicating you are willing to leave when things do not go your way is not something you want to even allude to(even though most of us leave more because of pain than potential) – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 26 '13 at 19:42
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am passively keeping my eye out for new opportunities

This isn't an answer to "why are you leaving", it's "how are you going about your job search?".

I was actively looking for a new position to further my career as there are no opportunities for progression in my current role.

This is both "why" and "how" (and the "why" contradicts your previous statement of passively keeping your eye out).

There is nothing wrong with being honest and saying directly "I feel that I've taken my career as far as I can with my current employer, and to make the next step in my professional development I need to look elsewhere."

2

Be honest with whatever answer you give and focus more on the prospective employer thinking, "What do I have to do to get you to come here?" as that could be another way to read into this question of, "Why do you want to leave where you are now?" which I have heard in a few variations over the years in interviews as some companies may want to know what motivates you, what are the key features to point out in the role if they do want you, and what possible issues could there be here.

Something to consider if you haven't already done so is to consider what are the qualities of your dream job and be able to articulate what these are so that a prospective employer could look at this and think, "Hhmm, can we deliver that?" as what you'd probably want to articulate is that you are being selective in where you'll go next. Analyzing the fit is an important point here and may be something to point out though be careful of how you paint your current employer as this can be seen as a way to get taken out of the running if you rant about where you are now like those answers near the end of Kate's answer.

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From your question, I assume you are a passive job seeker. This means you are open to interview invitations.

In that case, the potential employer cannot ask you "Why are you leaving your current job?". They contacted you. This puts you in an excellent negotiation position: "Why did you contact me to come here? What can you offer me that might make me leave my current position?".

Of course, you are still expected to answer the question. Focus specifically on things you know they could offer. Example:

I want to evolve on a technical level. This is not possible in my current job. From what I read on the company website, you focus on high quality code, so this job would match my interests a lot better. Is this assumption correct?

Show that they are a better match than your current employer. Show that you will be able to use all of your skills at the new company (and therefore deserve a considerable salary increase).

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actively looking for a new position to further my career as there are no opportunities for progression in my current role.

keeping my eye out for interesting (i.e. better), new opportunities.

These two things sounds basically the same to me. Both are true, neither would be offensive to a hiring manager.

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    Welcome to the workplace. We expect answers here to explain why they are correct as well as what the correct answer is. This answer just says what the answer is not why it is correct. Please edit your answer to include and explanation of why it is correct. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 26 '13 at 19:46

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