Today during an interview I was asked why I'm looking for a new position. I gave the honest answer that I'm looking for new challenges, where I am just isn't challenging anymore.

The interviewing manager replied back with "And what's to stop you from leaving here in lets say 3 years after you've decided you aren't challenged here anymore? Not everyday can be exciting"

Another team member replied with "Looks like you've done a lot where you are, how can you be bored?"

I felt really taken aback, was there a better way I could've handled that question?


11 Answers 11


I've met basically 2 types of people in my IT career.

First group were exactly the people you've met in your interview. They are oriented on stability and security. Their goal in life is to find a safe haven and stay there as long as possible. Changing the company because you've got bored or because you want new challenges is something abstract for them. They'll look on you like on Sindbad the Sailor, who is never happy with what he had.

Don't count on their understanding. You want to learn or experience something new. However, financial or romantic motivations are something they'll usually fully understand (you want a better paid job or your fiancée lives in another part of the country).

Such folks usually dwell in big companies.

The second type are more like you. They are challenge oriented. They want to learn new things, acquire new skills, work in diverse industries etc. For them, staying in one company too long means regression. Instead of learning new things, you forget the old ones because you're constantly doing the same ones. As opposite to the first ones, they distrust people that stay throughout their lives in the same company, considering them less agile and less able to learn new things, sometimes even lazy and opportunistic.

They usually dwell in contracting business.

It's not surprising that many developers, when growing older, migrate from the second group to the first. In your first professional life experience is crucial, anyway.

Have you made an error on that interview? If your goal was to get that job then probably yes.

But if your goal was to find the job that fits you the best, it probably wasn't the best company, anyway. You wouldn't feel well in a company where nobody understands your motivation for challenges but expect you to enjoy your life near the coffee machine when there's not much to do.

  • 45
    Last paragraph is pure gold.
    – HLGEM
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:11
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    agreed, +1. I think too many people forget that interviews are just as much for the potential employee to get to know the company as it is for the company to get to know the potential employee. Jul 18, 2014 at 18:23
  • This last paragraph is everything. Interviews are a two-way street. If they don't want you after what you said, I can guarantee it won't be the sort of place you're going to be happy working. Jul 19, 2014 at 14:57
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    +1 for being the only answer to acknowledge that he might not want to stay more than 3 years. Why should a candidate waste time and effort trying to redirect the question or convince a hiring manager of something that's not even true?
    – Aaronaught
    Jul 20, 2014 at 14:47
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    -1 - I think your assessments of "big-company"/"contracting business" makes no sense. In order to get ahead in a big-company you need to be really good at your job or really good at office politics. The key words being "really good" and that doesn't mean you sit back and rest on your laurels. As for contracting, almost all contractors talk a big game but provide little bang. Of course, there's specialists that you are sometimes forced to hire because of the steep learning curve but those specialists wouldn't fall into your description because they tend to do the same specialty over and over.
    – Dunk
    Jul 21, 2014 at 21:34

They both had a definite point about lack of challenges. Unless you were in a role where you were dramatically and obviously underemployed, saying that the role didn't challenge you any more can make people feel...well, exactly the way they did.

Whenever possible, do not cast a former job or role or supervisor in a negative light unless there was very public, very obvious problems with the company or position. Instead of spotlighting why you were looking to leave that role, tell them why their particular role attracted you. Tell why you're moving toward a new role (specifically, theirs) rather than moving away from the old role.

A better way to have answered that question would have been "I was specifically looking for a new position that allowed me to do X, and (the research I've done about your company / the job description for this role) indicated that I'd get the chance to do that here. I'm very excited about getting to _______."

FULL BORE CYNICISM AHEAD: Think of job interviewing like longform speed dating: your next Significant Other wants to hear why you find them attractive, not "Well, the last one got kind of boring after a while; you'll do for now." (Bad, bad, no no no no no.)

  • That is a more positive way to say it. I suppose showing I'm attracted to their company as opposed to repelled by where I currently am is more attractive. Jul 18, 2014 at 2:09
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    @Leigh that last comment is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever seen on SE!
    – Liath
    Jul 18, 2014 at 7:34
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    @Davor I don't consider it political correctness as much as a better way to approach the situation. Yes, the OP's motivation to start jobsearching was most likely being bored right out of his tree; but I'm doubting that he'll take just any job to get out of his previous one, or he'd be doing level 1 helpdesk phone support. So answering with why that role interested him...is as true as "I outgrew my previous job". It's just a value of "true" that will be more appealing to the interviewer. (...when did I become a politician? HALP!!!)
    – user22432
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:47
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    @Leigh The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable - so maybe you are just getting wiser, rather than turning into a politician. One can hope, anyway :)
    – BrianH
    Jul 18, 2014 at 15:11
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    @Aaronaught So I guess you missed the bit where that was a comment of mine, and people asked me to add it to the answer? (And good romantic relationships can leave a person with a lasting positive emotional/mental change, just as bad business relationships can be abusive and/or all about one party's needs and wants, rather than mutually beneficial. And I stand by my assertion that interviewing can be much like speed dating: it's for making first impressions, and deciding if both parties want to continue the relationship from that point.)
    – user22432
    Jul 20, 2014 at 15:36

"Looks like you've done a lot where you are, how can you be bored?"

It doesn't look as if the new position is going to be as challenging as the current one, at least from their point of view.

You could make the points that:

  1. It's quite possible being bored to death doing a lot of things, and get totally stoked on doing a few. A few exciting things are a lot better than a lot of unexciting ones.

  2. I said I like being challenged. I'll take tough but necessary and unexciting over flashy and useless every time.

  3. I've done so much at my current job that I feel that I practically grew out of it. I am definitely getting restless and I am looking for ways to get myself in trouble so that others get out of trouble. Of course, the best part of being in trouble is when I get out of it :)

  4. If you are totally out of ideas by next calendar year, may I suggest that you keep promoting me and raising my salary until I cry "Uncle"? :)

  5. It's true that not every day is exciting. And that's good! Because I can take take only so much excitement, and I'll use those unexciting days to give myself some decompression until the next time the poop hits the fan - I am not a machine, you know :)

  6. If worst comes to worst, what's wrong with "boring and profitable"?

  7. I am not relying just on you to keep me entertained. I can be working on a number of Open Source projects after hours.

  • With respect to #5 I made the point that I have no expectation that each day be exciting, but that where I am there have been too few exciting days in the last year. Jul 17, 2014 at 22:19
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    I like 1 and 2 but the others aren't going to go over well, at least as worded. They would benefit from the same sort of redirection in Leigh's answer. Except #7 -- you could just as easily have been doing open source while at the previous job, and you're implying your job won't be your focus. Irredeemable. Jul 19, 2014 at 12:46
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    @MatthewRead You're right. I don't depend on my job to keep my skills set up to date and my professional networks alive. And I'd be a fool to depend solely on my job to do that. If anyone reads into the fact that I look out for myself that my focus is not on my job, I couldn't care less about their opinion. Working on Open Source projects is something I do after-hours and what I do after-hours is NONE of my employer's business, unless covered by the terms of my employment contract. The development of my career is no one's responsibility including my employer's but mine. Jul 19, 2014 at 13:05
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    @MattewRead I could have focused on Open Source just as easily on the previous job. Acknowledged. But the skills I acquired from working on these Open Source projects might be more valuable to my next employer than to my current employer. Trying the same thing in a different environment is not the same as trying again in an unchanged environment and hoping that the outcome changes. Jul 19, 2014 at 13:10
  • @MathewRead Take care of yourself. There are others who are well intentioned and caring including some of my employers but at the end of the day, the responsibility for taking care of you is not theirs. If you can't take care of yourself, you are in no position to be of help to anyone else. Jul 19, 2014 at 13:43

Some people ask questions in an interview that are just designed to rattle you. This is the kind of question, intentionally trying to put you into an awkward position to see how you react.

So they claim that they worry you might leave in three years time. Three years is a long time. Three years is enough time for you, and the interviewers, to be run over by a bus half a dozen times. Three years is enough for the department where you are supposed to start to close down and reopen again. Three years is enough time to fall in love, give up your job because you want to live with someone on the other side of the country, fall out of love and reapply for your job. Three years is plenty of time to either produce plenty of benefits for the company or to be fired for incompetency. If, after three years time, you did actually leave because you are bored again, and they felt bad about it, then hiring you was a good decision.

The correct answer is: "Well, it's up to you to provide a working environment that is interesting and challenging after three years. Myself, I'll be happy with any challenge that gets thrown at me".

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    +1: Three years is a long time! I'd be disappointed if every new hire candidate pretended they wanted to stay at my company forever Jul 18, 2014 at 11:01
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    I'd start taking more care crossing the road after the first couple of times being run over by a bus. 6 times in 3 years looks like carelessness. Jul 18, 2014 at 11:48

The interviewing manager replied back with "And what's to stop you from leaving here in lets say 3 years after you've decided you aren't challenged here anymore? Not everyday can be exciting"

Another team member replied with "Looks like you've done a lot where you are, how can you be bored?"

I felt really taken aback, was there a better way I could've handled that question?

You always need to be prepared to answer questions that will logically follow when you state something. Here, rather than just being taken aback, you could have replied with answers indicating why you don't expect to be quickly bored in this particular new job.

"I'm sorry if I misled you. I certainly don't expect every day to be exciting. I'm looking for a place where I can grow over time. That's the kind of place which will challenge me - and based on the research I've done, I believe your company has exactly that!"

  • +1 for growth over time. Instead of challenge I usually use learning new skills. If I don't learn anything in a week or a day, maybe even a month, I don't fret. If I have not learned anything new or grown in a meaningful way much longer than that and I start to worry. A lot of times I would check with my boss and ask what is expected to come down the road and if there are skills I should be prioritizing to learn on my own, online courses and degrees are a good supplement but they need to tie into your career. If I feel I have absolutely no room to grow in a company I start looking elsewhere.
    – kleineg
    Jul 18, 2014 at 18:52

You didn't answer the original question ("Why did you leave?") wrong at all, but you could have handled the followup question better.

There are two potential problems here.

  1. They have a normal job but they are concerned you are flighty and have unrealistic expectations.

  2. They have a boring/unchallenging job and are worried you will leave when you find this out.

So, I would recommend immediately mitigating the first instance and then turning the question back to them. An interview is a two way process.

For example:

"Well, I certainly don't expect every day to be exciting! But yes, I do want a job where I can develop my skills and grow as a [job title]. The reason my previous job didn't challenge me was [blah]. I applied for this role because I thought that it would give me interesting challenges and [something that shows how blah doesn't apply to new job]. Do you think that CompanyName can provide this?"

This answer does a number of things:

  • It reassures them that you don't have unrealistic expectations of every day being exciting, and you aren't going to leave immediately if they don't meet said unrealistic expectations.
  • It gives them a clearer picture of what you are looking for. As long as they actually have the job you're looking for, this should reassure them.
  • You mention a specific reason why reason-for-leaving-old-job doesn't apply to this job. Again, reassuring them.
  • It opens the question up to them to enable them to reassure you that they are what you are looking for as well as vice versa. The fact that they asked the question is a bit of a red flag from your perspective, so you want to give them the opportunity to explain themselves rather than you having to guess what they meant after the interview.
  • Finally, if their job isn't what you're looking for, you find out now instead of after you've started.

You left the old job because it wasn't challenging enough. You don't want to be stuck in a new job where you have the same problem. Otherwise switching jobs accomplished nothing. Your best bet is to be completely honest about what you are looking for in the new company (focus on the positives of the new rather than the negatives of the old) and let them tell you whether they can provide that or not.


Did I answer wrong?

If your goal was to get this job, then yes, you did answer wrong.

This question is not only asked to put you in a difficult situation to answer. At least in Germany, many companies do want to hire people who would like to stay longer than three years. Of course, it depends on the job for which you apply. So this question is perfectly valid for me, as was their reaction to your answer.

You should prepare better for this kind of questions, as it is a standard question which will be asked by most interviewers. Depending on your own goals you could also be more careful to select the companies/jobs for which you apply.

As @Leigh wrote, you should have tried to convince them why you selected to apply for this job at this company!

At least you have learned this for the next interview :-) Good luck next time!

  • Eh, from my experience, these question don't matter at all. Of course, this could just be my industry (IT), but unless the candidate is socially retarded, were gonna go with the one who seems to have most expertise in the field.
    – Davor
    Jul 18, 2014 at 12:33
  • @Davor For some jobs at some companies this might be appropriate. If a big company wants to hire a knowledge worker, at least in Germany, the costs of the HR processes are very high (think of several hundred applications that have to be processed for one employment). Also the adjustment to a new job which is complex will be for example 6 months. These are valid reasons to hire an employee who really wants to stay at this company/this job for a longer period.
    – prockel
    Jul 18, 2014 at 12:52

In both cases you should talk about the things that attract you to the new company, but you could start with:

And what's to stop you from leaving here in lets say 3 years after you've decided you aren't challenged here anymore? Not everyday can be exciting

"I think your company offers excellent opportunities for career development over much more than 3 years. My previous company isn't able to offer me the step that this job represents for me. In 3 years I will be looking to take on more responsibility within your company".

Looks like you've done a lot where you are, how can you be bored?

"I wouldn't say that I'm bored at work, but this job interests me more because of the challenges it provides. I've mastered my old role, and achieved a lot in doing so. However, it's important to me to develop new skills, not just repeat old ones"

Actually I think this question is kind of silly if taken literally. Obviously you can be bored after doing a lot, even if you weren't bored while doing it. However, it may be that they think they've caught you out in something: if your CV says that you've spent the last two months doing something amazingly exciting and challenging from which you learned XYZ, then to say that you've run out of challenges immediately afterwards might look like you're either judging your old employer too quickly or else making it up as you go along.

I agree with others that it's probably intended to provoke you, rather than as a genuine request for an answer to an almost-philosophical question about the nature of boredom. They want you to make clear why they're a better prospect, because they want to hire someone who wants to join their company.

Assuming it's true, if there's anything wrong with your first answer, it's that it's kind of clichéed. Anyone can say that the position they're applying for is their dream job right now, and that they're always looking for challenges. Be more specific. Also make sure that you don't give the impression you think that doing something well is beneath you, and you're solely looking to do things you aren't qualified for ;-)

Probably another cliché, but one "right" answer to the interview question "where do you see yourself in 5 years time?" is, "in your job". Assuming the interviewer is themselves planning to move up, they want employees who want to move up too. If an employer declines to hire you because you want new challenges, then it's because they believe the job you're interviewing for is unchallenging. They're probably right. Don't say you want new challenges if you're applying for a dead-end manual labour job with no prospects. Luckily for you, most employers don't think that the jobs they're offering are dead ends. If anything they err in the opposite direction.

From a good employer's POV, the only thing worse than an employee who wants a better job in 3-5 years is an employee who doesn't want a better job in 3-5 years. It's just about how you present it.

  • I can tell you the wrong answer to "where do you see yourself in five years" is "I'll be your boss." I can assure you the hiring committee made sure there was no chance of that happening when we got that answer.
    – HLGEM
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:10
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    @HLGEM: sure, it's a rare interviewer willing to value their employer's interests above their own to quite that extent! And that's even assuming the candidate genuinely has potential to be promoted over their head, and isn't just being rude. That said, I may be involved in interviewing for the post of my boss next week, in which case there's only so offended I could be by "your boss", and "in your job" wouldn't be impressive ;-) Jul 18, 2014 at 15:28
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    @HLGEM: Obviously "In 5 years I'll be your boss" is not going to make friends, since it insultingly implies that the other party either won't move up or much slower than you. Especially bad interviewing for a new company, since the claim is that you've assessed the other as stagnant during the course of a single interview. I would expect "In 5 years I want to move up two rungs, to the position your boss has now" to be much more favorably received; although it may establish you as a competitor if the other wants that spot, it just doesn't carry the same implication.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 18, 2014 at 17:34

You CANNOT anticipate every question you may be asked and try to memorize all the "right" answers. You develop strategies. For this scenario whenever describing a condition your last job didn't have (in this case challenge) be prepared to offer why the job your are interviewing for has that. If you left due to lack of upward mobility, why is that expected in the new position? If you left due to lack of influence in the decision making process, how is it the new position will offer that? You owe yourself the answer to this question. If the new position does not have what you missed in the old one, why are you applying anyway? VP Client Services, executive search firm


A real simple reply could have been something like not just the fact that your looking for new challenges, but that you also felt that the company seemed more secure. Better hours, better pay, somewhere you could have seen yourself for a long time rather than just 3 years. It's not always about being honest. Sometimes you just have to know what to say whether you're lying or just being honest. You have to do those things for positions nowadays. Good luck though man


You look the hiring manager directly in the eye, and you say in a confident, booming voice

There are no guarantees in this industry. That's a chance you'll have to take, whether you hire ME, or hire the next person.

At least then, the manager will know you have courage and honesty. And if those are qualities that the manager doesn't appreciate, you probably don't want to work there anyway.

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