Answering: “Why are you looking for a change?”

This article was originally published as an "Influencer Post" on LinkedIn.

A member of an online job seeker group recently asked how he should answer the interview question, “Why are you looking for a change?” One member offered this response:

I believe in change. I always take on challenges to prove myself. It helps me to improve my skills and I feel more confident. Therefore, I always look for a change and try to improve my skills.

Another member suggested:

I’m looking for growth opportunities to progress my skills, experience and revenue making leadership through new challenges.

While both of those answers are acceptable, I’d like to offer some perspective from the recruiter’s point of view…

If You’re On An Interview, You’re Not Satisfied

Recruiters assume any candidate that is truly happy working where they are, doesn’t go on job interviews. By agreeing to the interview, you’ve indicated to them something’s missing from your current career situation. In other words, your employer isn’t giving you everything you want in the relationship. Thus, to answer the question properly, it’s important you articulate what’s missing. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw your current employer under the bus.

“It’s Not Them, It’s Me,” Is The Right Response

Talking about your employer should always be done with respect. First, they’re the ones paying you. They’re the customer and you’re the service provider. You should never talk poorly of the hand that feeds you. Plus, a recruiter knows how you talk about your current employer would likely be how you’d talk about their company if you worked for them some day. Therefore, you must find the polite way to explain where the current employment situation falls short. That’s when the, “it’s not them, it’s me,” approach comes in to play. By explaining how you have grown beyond the role and why your employer can’t offer you what you need to take your career to the next level, you can politely outline the limitations of the current work situation and why you feel compelled to take ownership of your career and find a new opportunity that will let you continue to develop professionally. Here’s an example of what you might say:

I’m glad you asked. I really like my current employer. I have learned a lot there and they have been good to me. However, I have reached a plateau in my professional development. I know I want to further build my skills in ___ and ___. I have explored my options at my current employer and have found they aren’t able to provide me with the opportunities needed to keep my career growth on track. Therefore, I feel I should explore other positions, like the one with your firm, so I can achieve my objectives.
The answer above demonstrates your commitment to taking ownership of your professional development. It also provides the recruiter with a sense of where you want to go in your career. Most importantly, it showcases your professionalism, while providing an honest, accurate answer as to why you want to leave.

P.S. – Interview prep is one of the most important things you can do to land a new job. The average person goes on ten interviews before landing a job offer!

J.T. O'Donnell
About the author: 

J.T. O’Donnell is the Chief Executive Officer at CAREEREALISM, a top-3 career blog with 2,300,000+ monthly pageviews, 1,000,000+ visitors/month, 1,500,000+ social media followers, and 100,000+ daily email subscribers.  In addition to being an Influencer on LinkedIn with 1.1 million followers, J.T. writes a column for INC Magazine and has contributed several pieces to Executive Vine.  Here’s where you can follow her on Twitter.