Linda Hertz Group

My Medical Device Sales Career

Single Most Important and Loaded Interview Question: Why Do You Want to Leave Your Job?

Most people know that one of the first questions a Hiring Manager will ask you on that first interview (and some savvy recruiters), is "Why do you want to leave your current job?". The most valued answer is; “I wasn’t looking, a recruiter called me out of the blue and your job sounded compelling to me because…”. Why most valued answer? Simply due to the fact that this type of candidate is a PASSIVE CANDIDATE, they are typically happy in their job and see value in something specific to the open job opportunity. The Passive Candidate is COMPELLED by the Job Opportunity, NOT COMPELLED by leaving their current Job.

This is the central difference between a Passive Candidate and a Job Seeker; one is typically a satisfied employee, and the other, a disgruntled employee with their current employ. Now there are huge dynamic shifts that happen immediately between the roles that are played when a Hiring Manager finds out they have a Passive Candidate vs. a Job Seeker Candidate, but that is another article onto itself that I will address in a future blog. Let it suffice to say, that if you are a JOB SEEKER, how you answer the question of why you want to leave your job is critical!

As a Job Seeker, you have reasons of why you want to leave your job, and the hiring manager needs to find out why. The Hiring Managers thoughts are, "their reasons for leaving their current job MAY be the same reason they will want to leave me (or I will want to fire them) after I hire them!". He is wondering if his management style, company culture, job responsibilities and other characteristics of the open career opportunity will mirror fully or even partially your current job situation.

So what are your reasons for wanting to leave your current job? Be careful, some answers can be virtual landmines that could blow you out of the water on the first interview! Here are some big ones that I would suggest NOT stepping into:


  1. My Hiring Manager is a careful, anything here is dangerous. The worst way to complete this sentence: a micro manager, incompetent, new to the job and doesn't know what he is doing, he travels with me all the time, he is not there when I need him. (Just don't go there...don't start the sentence!)
  2. My company has a less than stellar Commission Plan this year and I told my boss I am sick of not making money this year, sure previous years were great, but not this year! (OK, you have been making great money and the company put together a bad plan this year...that's how long you will stick it year? On top of it, the manager is thinking, you may be a star sales person, but a complainer or whiner).
  3. We have a horrible backorder and it has affected my commission this year, I am done with it. (Like no company has had a bad backorder that affected sales for a year or more?)
  4. I put in hours on the job and it has grown to 6 days a week, 12 hours per day and they keep increasing the administrative work, like sales reports, monthly reports and etc.,. (Wow, really? Possible work ethic issue or is it someone who has poor time management and/or administrative skills?) See Kevin Onareckers great article addressing this issue at the Linda Hertz Group or, if currently a member, click directly to the article here! Kevin is currently a Medical Sales Manager and he speaks with experience.
  5. I thought the company was "sound" when I hired in, then 6 months into it I find out they may go out of business (Wow, aren't you the person who makes "sound" business decisions based on research!)

As you can see, these may be all valid reasons to leave, but this is the First Interview and first impressions are lasting. Once you indicate a reason for leaving your current company in an interview, it will stick with you throughout the interview process (if you are lucky to get beyond the first interview); if the hiring manager saw a read flag in your answer of why you want to leave, it will keep coming back at you, right until the end. If the red flag does not go away fully by the final interview, an offer is not made. Yes, I have been there as a hiring manager, and now as a recruiter! Red Flag reasons Job Seekers give in their first interview, of why they are leaving their job, will play on that manager right up to the point of the final interview. It that reason is not fully put to rest it most definitely could result in no job offer extended.

The Hiring Manager does not know you or your job, manager, commission plan or your company culture; he does know his open job, commission plan, company culture and certainly what management style and philosophy he adheres to drive sales numbers or gain results. If your answer reflects ANYTHING that is in conflict or not in harmony with those key areas, you have just given that hiring manager red flags that will be addressed throughout the interview process and often, even the most qualified super stars, will not get past the first interview; the loaded interview question did it's job for the hiring manager to the unwitting Job Seeker!

So why set yourself up for something you said in earnest, yet could have been presented in a different manner or perhaps, at best, left off the eye chart if it could be one of the land minds mentioned above. I am sure you could find another secondary valid, and more appropriate reason, of why you wanted to leave your current position.

Most sales people have been trained and role played over and over on how to best present and sell their product. Sales people have been trained on the right "terms" to use when stating their products benefits and how to handle their products "perceived" drawbacks. In an interview, YOU are the product! Make sure you have thought carefully on how you would answer the loaded question and how it may be "perceived" by your customer, the hiring manager.

Make sure you use the right terminology that presents your desire to leave and pursue new career opportunities in the best light. There is a technique to this and my last sentence alludes to it; seeking a new job should be like "following the light". You are leaving your job to follow the light of what the new opportunity can offer you;

It turns an answer from:

Candidate 1 Response: "I am leaving my current job because I am not making enough money"


Candidate 2 Response: "I am very excited to take my sales career to the next level, I am a top sales producer, and I see your job as an opportunity for advancement not only monetarily, but in career growth".

Which person would you be more interested in as a hiring manager, Candidate 1 or 2? If you do not see that the answer is clearly number 2, then you will have some problems during the interview process!

In addition, make sure the information you have on the new career opportunity is accurate BEFORE you answer the Loaded question. In the above example, clearly if you are currently making $80,000 and the new job is only paying $70,000, you should not be even taking the interview with that particular company, let alone answer in this manner!

For those of you that are members of the Linda Hertz Group, I will be adding a down-loadable Word Doc. that will have a menu of the most common reasons why people leave their jobs and the best way to present this during the interview in a truthful, yet "best light", scenario next week. Remember, the best answer always follows the light! Always center on what the new opportunity is offering you as a "step up or positive change" from your current position, and again, make sure your information on the new opportunity is accurate.

As mentioned in the beginning, you may be a Job Seeker Candidate wanting out of your current job, and not a Passive Candidate, but begin thinking like one: be COMPELLED BY the job opportunity. Let the bright possibilities of the new job opportunity excite you as you answer the hiring managers question.

So now you know how to handle the most important and loaded interview question! Fire back with a loaded answer, that tells the hiring manager not only why you want to leave your current job, but why his job could possibly be the perfect fit for both of you!

©Linda Hertz, All Rights Reserved

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Tags: interview questions, interviewing skills


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Comment by Linda Hertz on May 13, 2010 at 10:22am
Thanks Sean! I just need to get busy and build the attachment to this article! Thanks again.
Comment by Sean Moore on May 12, 2010 at 9:11pm
Very nice article. I appreciated how you "spelled" it all out about the Job Seeker.
Comment by Linda Hertz on April 29, 2010 at 10:14pm
Thanks Again Jane for your kind words and feedback! Happy to have your comments as we grow!


Comment by Jane Patton on April 25, 2010 at 5:29pm
What a great and very true article. I am excited about your web site and look to learn more from you to further advance my career.


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