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It is well known that during a job interview, one should not rant against the previous employer when asked the question why the candidate left the previous job. There are plenty of questions and answers on this very site about it.

However, if one was very happy in a job for several years, but a sudden change in management (boss leaving and being replaced with someone else, company being bought, or some reforms in the company which shifted its culture and goals, etc.) made one unhappy, is it wise to mention it, or should one stick to the bland "looking for new opportunities" answer?

Can a generic "I was happy there for a long time, but there were big changes in management recently which made me concerned" style answer be given without sounding like a rant or a stab at the previous company?

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    In short, yes. I would use something like "Recently there was a change in management that caused a significant shift in the company culture" and try to leave it at that. – Mister Positive Apr 17 '17 at 13:11
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    @whrrgarbl 1)that answer is closed 2)This is different in that in your linked question, the problem was just management, this problem is due to a corporate shake up and would be answered very differently, as per Joe's answer below. – Retired Codger Apr 17 '17 at 15:39
  • @RichardU, I did see it was a duplicate, of a duplicate, of a... so based on that I thought it was fine to pick (what seemed to me) the most obviously related one, rather than going back through the whole chain. But if that's not acceptable practice I'll note it for next time. – user812786 Apr 17 '17 at 16:20
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    @whrrgarbl closed posts may eventually be deleted, so if you reference a closed post, the one you've marked as a duplicate may be orphaned. – Retired Codger Apr 17 '17 at 16:35
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Can a generic "I was happy there for a long time, but there were big changes in management recently which made me concerned" style answer be given without sounding like a rant or a stab at the previous company?

That's not the right approach.

The change in management wasn't the problem. Instead, it's what the new management did that made the workplace one that no longer met your preferences.

So it would be okay to talk about the change in management as a lead-in, but the real story is how the nature/culture of the workplace changed, what you didn't like about it, and what you are now looking for.

If you just left it at "the management changed" then a prospective employer would rightly conclude that if management changed in their shop that you would leave.

Instead focus on the changes brought about by the new management. And make sure that you aren't conveying that "all change is bad" but emphasize the specifics that didn't fit your needs.

Finally, tie the potential employer in to your thoughts. Explain how what you are seeing/hearing about them meshes well with your idea of a terrific work environment.

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    +1 excellent answer. It could absolutely be taken as a fear of change, resistant to change, or just someone who ups and leaves when management changes direction, or even just changes. – Retired Codger Apr 17 '17 at 15:16
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    "prospective employer would rightly conclude that if management changed in their shop that you would leave." Employers aren't robots nor the programmer in the 'programmers's wife asks him to buy eggs' joke - one would expect they're able to deduce that the change of management caused problems, not the mere act of changing management is what caused them to leave. – Rob Apr 18 '17 at 3:34
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    @Rob Your expectations might be too high in some cases, unfortunately. – code_dredd Apr 18 '17 at 4:58
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    @ray If the interviewer is going to be a direct manager or close colleague, then filtering out ones which such basic communication issues might not be a bad thing – Ben Aaronson Apr 18 '17 at 9:24
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    "If you just left it at "the management changed" then a prospective employer would rightly conclude that if management changed in their shop that you would leave." Huh? If I put on a jacket because "the temperature changed", would that lead any sane person to imply that if the temperature changed upwards I would also put on a jacket? No sane person would interpret someone leaving a job because "the management changed" as meaning that any change in management might cause them to leave. It quite clearly means that it changed in some specific way you didn't like. – David Schwartz Apr 18 '17 at 11:03
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As someone who was in this exact situation 3 years ago, it's important to talk about why you're leaving your previous company. Otherwise, you'll end up at a place just like what you're leaving.

That being said, you must obviously do this in a very careful way. Otherwise, you will be seen as ranting and negative. So what you say should be specific and, to the extent possible, positive.

Here's what I mean. You know what you did like about the job before the change in management, so focus on that. "We had a mission-driven culture. I liked being organized in cross-disciplinary scrum teams. I appreciated having flexible hours. Then a new management team took over and I no longer like the work environment."

You will receive fewer offers with this strategy. This is a good thing. The kind of company who doesn't want you because you like flexible hours is the kind of company you don't want to work for. (Obviously, insert your own likes.) Remember: interviews are just as much about you screening out companies you don't want to work for as companies finding candidates they want working for them.

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    The last sentence is gold and needs to be burned in everyone's brain. You're not begging them for a job like they're doing you a favor, you're trying to find a match that will be as beneficial for you for all of your reasons and not just money. – Chris E Apr 17 '17 at 19:05
  • More offers - more negotiating power at the company you actually do want to work for. If you don't know what to choose, pick any one. You will learn and make better choices down the road. Less offers - less choices. Your effort pays, always. – Neolisk Apr 18 '17 at 0:13
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    @Neolisk: Negotiating power comes from being willing and able to walk away, not from the raw number of offers. If you have 10 offers, but only really want to take one of them, you have substantially less power than if you have three really compelling offers. – Kevin Apr 18 '17 at 6:11
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    I'd be far more likely to offer a job to someone who naturally fits my company's work style than someone who is trying to please everyone. Being honest is a good thing for both parties in this case. . – David Apr 18 '17 at 9:17
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    @Kevin: Negotiating power in a transparent market comes from being to walk away. In general, negotiating power comes from the impression of having alternatives, and in non-transparent markets those impressions do not need to match reality (in either direction). – MSalters Apr 18 '17 at 11:24
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I think t's very important to answer why you left and to be as honest as possible. Some people are very good at sniffing out deception, even if you think you're good at equivocating.

In a case such as this, generalize. Don't say anything specifically negative about management but rather the effect of new management and how you see the company now.

I'd personally say say something like "Since a major management restructuring, the company has taken on a new, vastly different culture and in many ways I don't recognize it as the company I joined. It's not that they're a bad company as such, it's just that I like I've been traded to a company that is so different in almost every area that I feel the time is right to seek new opportunities, something that is, once again, a better fit."

That straddles the line between saying why you left without saying anything bad about the company.

It's important to remember that any employment relationship is two-way. They have to be a good fit for you, not just you a good fit for them. When there are significant changes, sometimes there is no longer that good fit and that's ok.

The bottom line is say nothing bad about the company and in fact talk it up a bit. It's a great company but "after some soul searching, i've decided that it's not for me any more and I'd like to move on. I'd have no problem recommending someone who wasn't looking for the same culture I am to apply there." And stuff like that.

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I think you should definitely convey the primary reason behind you leaving without ranting.

Instead of saying you were 'concerned' may be you can say you 'did not agree' with new culture or direction. You do not have to point out or emphasise that they were wrong instead simply that it did not match your career goals. There are two reasons for this according to me.

  1. You sound more convincing and confident if you are telling the truth instead of making up a reason you yourself do not believe in.

  2. This is also fair in the company that they exactly know what makes you happy and can make an informed decision. Otherwise you yourself are in the risk of having the situation repeated.

I just got out of a pretty similar situation where the role and direction company promised me changed significantly because people who interviewed and offered me the role moved away. For all my interviews after that I made it clear why it did not work out in last company. I did not bad mouth them but I was very vocal that there are somethings (like the technology I work on) which I am very particular about and want to make sure it does not happen again. I do not think any company took it negatively and I got my next role fairly quickly.

  • It would be really nice if downvoters leave a comment here as well. Is being honest during interview about hat makes you happy in a job wrong ? – PagMax Apr 17 '17 at 13:29
  • I agree that it would be nice to get constructive feedback from down voters, especially since I'm sincerely trying to help. Without feedback, there is no way to know if the down vote is something I said, how I said it, or something else entirely. – Lazor Apr 17 '17 at 15:48
  • I didn't downvote (and in honesty, I'm not really sure why anyone would downvote this), but frequently people avoid commenting to explain their downvote because more often than not, it leads to the person being downvoted feeling obligated to defend their position, which can sometimes lead to arguments. My best guess in your case would be that perhaps people are concerned about sharing too much about why one is looking to leave. I think avoiding too much detail is usually in the best interest of the candidate. – Beofett Apr 17 '17 at 17:26
  • I agree. May be I didn't put it correctly but I meant exactly what other answers which are voted high are saying!! – PagMax Apr 17 '17 at 17:31
  • Upvoted. You sound more convincing and confident if you are telling the truth instead of making up a reason Exactly this. Interview is not a place to explain why you are right. There is only enough time to explain who you are. Ultimately, why you are like this does not matter. No point in proving your future employer anything, you are likely to waste this effort. – Neolisk Apr 18 '17 at 0:19
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My advice is for you to be "comparative," rather than "negative," about the management changes at your old company. The reason this strategy works is because you have something positive to say, about your old management.

So what I would do is to discuss the things I liked about A, the old management, and why I don't like B, the new management, as much. To tie it all together, I would point how and why C, the company you're interviewing with, is more like A than like B, and is now your company of choice.

  • "for you": Please not that this is not about me. I intentionally didn't write the question in first person, because it was not about a current problem I'm personally facing right now. – Val Apr 18 '17 at 9:10
  • @Val: That's just a standard form of address on SE, from an answerer to a questioner, even if it is not literally true. – Tom Au Jul 12 '17 at 3:42
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Yes, don't do it.

When going for a role, you're trying to tell the people (and, hopefully, meaning it) that what they're doing is of interest to you. That you are excited to work doing whatever it might be, that this industry is ideal.

What the company hiring wants (ideally) is someone who is excited to be there, who will add value and also stay there - not someone who is using this as a stepping stone to find another different job.

Whenever you say something about the past company, it isn't the bad-mouthing itself that is really bad (although, it is), it is the idea that you're not happy, which is precipitating the move.

Even if the company is in the same industry, wanting to see how a company you're excited by is doing something is much better.

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    I work for a large telco. I promise you that if I apply at Verizon they're not going to be excited about me telling them how great it is to work here. You don't go on a date and talk about all the great things about your ex-girlfriend If asked you say how it was ok and all but just not for you and you really want something better. If asked, you don't say "She was great! I loved being with her and we really enjoyed being together! I just want to be with someone else now." – Chris E Apr 17 '17 at 16:08
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    @ChristopherEstep: Statistically one will change jobs every 3-5 years, no matter how good the current one is. It is normal to have 10 jobs during lifetime. It is not normal to get married 10 times in your life. People want to hire other people who feel positive about their job, this includes their previous job. Not everyone leaves because they hate their job, and you definitely should not come across as that guy (even if true) - this will limit your options. – Neolisk Apr 18 '17 at 0:29
  • To support the answer further - many career coaches in their paid courses advocate staying positive at all times during the interview. I remember one of those advices - even if your manager was absolute nightmare, you should say "Yeah, my manager was great, very supportive, very useful experience etc." – Neolisk Apr 18 '17 at 1:42

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