As part of Interview Intervention: Communication That Gets You Hired, I included what I consider the 14 most effective job interview questions an employer can ask a job candidate. While there are loads of great interviewing techniques and questions, I feel it’s important to balance time and effectiveness when determining whether a candidate and employer relationship will be strong long-term.

Job Interview QuestionsTo aid in that effort, I identified the 14 I consider the most comprehensive—to gain the best understanding of the candidate’s overall fit in the least amount of time. I will gradually release these though the blog, but if you’d like to see a complete list immediately, feel free to download a complimentary ebook from our site!

Why would you leave your current company?

With this question employers are evaluating several areas including: What are the candidate’s current pain points; is the candidate a malcontent; how plausible is it the candidate will leave current employer; can the company provide the candidate a better opportunity?

In my opinion, this is one of the best openers because it provides the interviewer with loads of information regarding you. It highlights how you feel about your current employer, role, and situation, as well as surfaces your pain points. The interviewer can begin to evaluate early on whether her company can actually address that pain and truly offer you a better situation. It also helps her identify whether you will be realistic or practical in your needs. Other variations of this question that address these same issues include “Why did you leave your current company?” and “Take me through your job transitions throughout your career.”

Regardless of whether you are actively or passively seeking a new job, it is paramount you provide insight that shows you would leave for the right opportunity. At the same time, it is crucial you avoid portraying yourself as a malcontent; do not badmouth your current employer. While this might seem obvious, many of us become unaware of the undercurrent in our tones or comments when speaking about something as important and emotional.

The easiest and most effective way to balance the plausibility and malcontent components is to speak only about issues that you do not hold your employer responsible for nor can alter through your own actions. The interviewer will consider you tactful and professional if you avoid sounding disgruntled, but it is also important not to complain about something you could actually change. This, in fact, is one of the greatest mistakes a candidate can make early in the interview. Below are a few examples to illustrate this.

Candidate: “I would be open to leaving my current employer for a position with more challenging career development opportunities.”

While this sounds neutral, the interviewer could infer that you are not performing well enough for your employer to challenge you with more rewarding opportunities or that you are not taking responsibility for proactively growing yourself professionally. Furthermore, what would prevent you from leaving them for another company that provided you a better opportunity? (An effective interviewer would likely follow your response with a question asking you how you are addressing this issue currently.) During the interview, it is irrelevant if neither of those thoughts are true. The only point that matters is what she thinks. Sadly, in many cases, there is often a communication gap between what you said and what she heard. Remember, your goal is not only to sell yourself and your value, but also do it in a manner that leaves no room for misinterpretation. Whenever you encounter an interviewer continually asking additional questions about your original point, you can be fairly certain she is unclear of your intentions (not necessarily your response) or there is a communication gap.

An alternate, more effective way to handle this particular reason might highlight certifications you have recently achieved or areas of interest. For example:

Candidate: “I would be open to leaving my current employer because we are not in a position to secure opportunities for me to work in an area that greatly interests me. Recently, I attained

[insert certification here] certification with the hope of working in that area, but my organization has decided to hold off providing that service to our customers. It is an area of great interest to me, and I’m hoping to leverage my learning from that certification process. The primary reason I’m interviewing with your company is because that area is one of your core services and appears to be a large part of the job responsibilities.”

In the latter example, the candidate remained neutral regarding her employer (i.e., the company made a conscious decision regarding which services to provide its customers), and she took action to further her career development. You have also provided the interviewer a preview into the next question she will likely ask.