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How Your Interview Answers Really Sound, Part 1: Why Are You Leaving Your Company?

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A job interview is a delicate dance. It’s a fundamentally antagonistic ritual wearing a friendly face. The interviewer is mining for weaknesses and challenging the candidate at every turn, while the candidate tries to put their best foot forward. Each party, all the while, chooses their words carefully. 

 

Just about any interviewee will use embellishment, euphemism, and doublespeak to make sure their wins look like game-changing achievements and their losses – if the interview comes to that – look inconsequential. This is especially true in sales interviews, in which the candidate is treating themselves as the product and their interviewer as the prospect. 

“It’s imperative that you be hyper-cognizant not just of what you say, but of how it might be interpreted.”

For this reason, interviewers are often inclined to assume the worst about you based on the answers you give. It’s imperative that you be hyper-cognizant not just of what you say, but of how it might be interpreted. Here are some common answers to a common interview question, how they sound, and what you could say instead. Stay tuned for more common questions and answers coming soon to the Betts Blog.

 

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The interview question: “Why are you leaving your current company?”

Common answer:

“It’s not the right culture fit.”

How it might sound:

“I don’t get along well with others.”

What you could say instead:

“I’m looking for a more professional work environment.”

 

Whatever the reason your current or previous company wasn’t a great culture fit, this answer is a solid way to frame yourself as being too big for your britches and ready for growth, rather than unable to adapt to your environment. 

 

And best of all: it’s likely to be perfectly true. Is the reality that they party too hard at your current company? Do they work hard but lack organizational structure? Are they too relaxed from an HR perspective, turning a blind eye to off-color jokes and inappropriate relationships? In each of those cases, one could describe the problem as a lack of professionalism without being the least bit dishonest.

Common answer:

“I’d hit a dead end. There was no path to promotion.”

How it might sound:

“I fell short of earning a promotion, so I’m leaving instead of working on my shortcomings.”

What you could say instead:

“I’ve outgrown the role.”

 

It’s perfectly normal for you to want a promotion (who doesn’t?), and if the role you want to grow into simply doesn’t exist at your current company, there’s only so much you can do about that. That’s a much better way to phrase your answer to this question. Saying there was no way for you to get promoted leaves open the possibility that the problem was you, not the company. If you instead say you’d outgrown the role, or the role you wanted was not available, then you’re framing the problem as stemming from the way the company itself is structured, which you can’t exactly control.

Common answer:

“I’m not happy with the work/life balance.”

How it might sound:

“I can’t handle being really busy from time to time.”

What you could say instead:

“They don’t respect personal boundaries” or “They were misleading about the hours.”

 

Here’s the truth: If you bring up work/life balance in your interview at all, there’s a decent chance your interviewer will think: “I’ve been talking to this person for 15 minutes and they’re already telling me about their limits on how much they can be expected to work.” That’s not a great look, from your interviewer’s perspective.

 

Work/life balance is important, to be sure. But if you bring it up in an interview, you need to use tact. There’s a difference between telling a new hire, up front, that they might have to work occasional weekends, and calling them at 9PM for last-minute tasks on a weekly basis. Make it clear that it was the latter kind of situation that you were dealing with, as that’s essentially the only reason it’s acceptable to talk about your work/life balance demands in your job interview.