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Imagine you are moderately happy in your current job, when you receive a LinkedIn message from a potential employer, and schedule an interview with them.

How do you answer the following question:

Why do you want to leave your current role? What's making you want to leave?

I was stunned, and couldn't think of a good answer. The only reason I had agreed to the interview was because they were offering a lot more money. I found it weird to be asked that when they were the ones to contact me, and not the other way around.

I feel that maybe answering something along the lines of "to better myself" might have been appropriate. What do you guys think?

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    Well, why are you talking to them? Why do you think they might be better than your current gig? – keshlam Dec 2 '16 at 4:22
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    "An opportunity arose and I acted on it because I felt I was ready for the next step in my career." – Edwin Lambregts Dec 2 '16 at 13:54
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I just tell them I'm always open to hearing about new opportunities and challenges, and the opportunity they are presenting sounds interesting.

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    While this is the standard answer, any interviewer worth his salt will keep asking. Crappy interviewers will keep asking even when they are the ones who initiated contact and the candidate doesn't even know anything about the company or position yet. – Lilienthal Dec 2 '16 at 10:40
  • @Lilienthal - The candidate has expectations independent of what the prospective employer has to offer and is expected to be able to lay out their expectations when asked why they'd want to leave their current position. The perfect current employer isn't born yet. Every current employer meets some expectations, could do a better job of meeting some expectations and fails to meet others - that's the nature of the beast. I am not a recruiter nor do I have any ambition of becoming one. Having said that, I am not wasting any time with candidates who don't know what their expectations are. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 4 '16 at 5:57
  • @VietnhiPhuvan True, but it's typically no business of anyone else in which ways your employer is dropping the ball. The reason interviewers ask this question is mainly to figure out what you actually want in a position and to filter out people who are only in it for the money. Moving on for financial reasons is fine but they want to know that you gave your next position more thought than that, so they want to know why the position you're applying for matches your interests. The problem is that some still try to do that when the candidate is largely in the dark, hence "crappy interviewers". – Lilienthal Dec 4 '16 at 10:20
  • Come to think of it, wouldn't "I'm always open to hearing about new opportunities" give off the wrong vide that your always willing to jump ship if something better comes along and subsequently go against the candidate during the interview? – user61078 Dec 4 '16 at 11:57
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As I've learned from experience - the honest answer might not be the best. If you subjectively think that you're not valued, you have difficulty getting along with someone or just want a more substantial raise, even though your reasons may be a 100% legitimate and honest, they can come across as unwanted personality traits to a potential employer who isn't and can't be fully acquainted with your situation.

If you don't have a straightforward reason like moving to another city, changing careers or something similar, it's best to say that you're looking for new career opportunities, you want to find an environment where you are more challenged or where you can grow as a insert job title here.

Potential employers want to get a vibe that you're trustworthy, loyal and professional.

TL;DR - Don't badmouth your current job, put a positive spin on why you're looking to move.

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I've faced this exact situation just recently and it's indeed a bit annoying when you get a persistent interviewer. The universal answer "I'm looking for the next challenge" is so over-used that it's become a non-answer, even in cases like this where it's perfectly appropriate. Let me guess:

  • you're not actively job searching
  • you are wondering if it might be time to move on whether that's for personal growth, improving your resume or out of financial motives
  • you want to keep an eye out for interesting career opportunities
  • you don't mind spending some personal time in interviews

It sounds like most of this applies to you and as a result you now find yourself in an interview with a company you may never even have heard of to talk about a position you don't have much info on but simply sounded interesting. And suddenly you get the magic question: why did you apply for this position?

As you'd expect a gut answer like "well I didn't apply" or "it's in line with what I'm currently doing but you'd pay 20% more" is not the way to go here. Instead, you need to acknowledge the reasons why you applied. Here are the core elements you want in your response:

  • you're at a point in your career where it makes sense to move on / look for the next [opportunity / project / employer / job]
  • the position interested you because of [specific reasons]
  • you think you'd do well in this position because of [relevant skills and experience]
  • you may have other specific reasons for wanting to work for this company or team: joining an an industry leader would let you work on the cutting edge of your industry, you'd work for/with a former manager who was an amazing colleague or mentor, there's some specific aspect of the work that fascinates you, ...
  • [optional for non-profits] you believe in the mission or what the company stands for

What you say exactly will depend on the job, your profile, the interviewer(s) and how the conversation plays out. One example script would be:

Well, while I'm happy with the work I'm currently doing I have been thinking that it might be time to move on. When I was contacted about [position] the job description seemed like an ideal match for my profile but it was the focus on X and Y that made me apply as that's in line with the direction I want to take in my career. My current company does not consider Y a priority but that's something I'd like to explore further and from what you've said your team is looking to deploy Y aggressively throughout your organization, which is something that definitely interests me.

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Why do you want to leave your current role? What's making you want to leave?

Regardless of who initiated contact, the question is still legit, and it's your responsibility - no one else's - to answer it. No one knows your motivation but you and you and only you can answer that question.

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When you're satisfied at your current job, and a recruiter initiates contact then asks why you want (or are willing) to leave, this response will put the burden of being impressive back onto them:

I am very happy with my current job, but I am always willing look at new opportunities. If the one you are presenting is really great, I may decide it's worth a change. Tell me about your opportunity and let's see if it is better than what I have right now.

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I think you're completely overthinking this. How about being straightforward? "Your organization contacted me with an attractive offer." Keep things simple.

  • I wouldn't onboard on my team someone who wants be there only because the money is good. What's to prevent them from jumping ship the minute they get a slightly better offer? Tell me when you are interviewing with me that you are here for the money and I don't hear any other rationale from you, and you are done. If you don't put any thought in taking on a position, I'll infer that you won't put any thought in leaving it either. You'd better think, and your thinking had better be pretty good. I wouldn't ask you "Why do you want to leave?" without having turned on my bullshit detector. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 4 '16 at 5:39
  • In summary, "the money and the benefits are really good" does not rate as a minimum viable answer. And Google would most probably not rate such an answer as a minimum viable answer even though they pay better than almost any other employer. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 4 '16 at 5:44
  • You're making grave assumptions. One could be attracted to the industry, location, amenities, or role. – Xavier J Dec 4 '16 at 11:38

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