How to answer the question 'Why do you want to change jobs?'

It’s not an invitation for you to bash your current job. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

How to answer the question 'Why do you want to change jobs?'

Avoid getting into negative details about your current job.

It’s always important to be honest in a job interview, but no question will cause you to stretch the truth as much as this one: “Why do you want to change jobs?” or its variation, "Why are you looking for a new position?"

Tempting as it may be to spill about your horrible boss or the long hours you work, you've got to keep your lip zipped on the “real” reasons. Otherwise, you could blow your chances at the job by looking like a complainer—and god forbid if your interviewer actually knows your boss somehow without your realizing it.

Getting negative in an interview can also make the interviewer wonder if you’re the problem, says Jennifer Read, director of career services at The Art Institute of Charlotte in South Carolina. “It will send red flags to the potential employer that you might be difficult to work with, or might quit when you disagree with management,” she says.

Before you say too much, read these tips to develop an answer to this question that will make them want to hire you rather than run from you.

Be honest (kind of)

Interviewers ask this question mainly to determine whether you've put enough consideration into such a big decision, says Michael Lan, senior resume consultant at Resume Writer Direct in Wilmington, Delaware.

Have a planned, authentic response, says Philip Blackett of Boston-based Magnetic Interviewing. Talk about looking for a new challenge in your career, learning a new industry or focus area, or needing to find a new job because you’re relocating—those are honest, relatable answers.

You say: “I feel as though I’m ready for another stage in my career. A new challenge. I’d also like to continue to grow and learn in this field, and take on some new tasks—ones I haven’t had the opportunity to tackle in my current role.”

Focus on the future

To answer the question effectively, talk about what you want to create instead of what you’re trying to avoid, says career coach Alina Bas of Mind Terrain Coaching in the New York City area. Talk about the opportunities you see at the company where you’re interviewing, and how you’d like to work within its mission while bringing value to the position.

When someone asks, "Why are you looking for a new position?" find ways to talk about what you like about your current job and how you’re interested in transferring those skills and experiences into the context of a new employer, Read says. “Confirm what you have learned about their company from the research you have done and how you see yourself optimizing your previous experiences in order to positively impact the potential employer's long term growth.”

Highlight your excitement about facing the new challenges that are before you, Lan says, and show how the position is the right step in a career path that you are genuinely interested in and passionate about.

You say: “Well, I have noticed this company faces [insert specific problem here]. I’ve always wanted to work on a team charged with the task of solving this issue. And I have a handful of ideas as to how I would go about implementing these fixes. [Discuss your ideas here.]

Read the interviewer

If you’re trying to transition to a new job in your industry—or a tangentially related industry—it’s very possible your interviewer has gone through this same transition at some point in his or her career.

It’s to your benefit to be conversational in your interview. This question could serve as a good opportunity for you to ask about the interviewer’s background. After you’ve given your own answers, have the interviewer describe how their career ended up where it did and how they’ve liked the new challenge.

You say: “Also, I was wondering, did you make a similar transition to this industry? Why did you do it? And how have you liked this space so far?”

Your answers matter

No matter what your answer is to the question, "Why are you looking for a new position?" the fact is you deserve to enjoy your job. If you're unhappy in your current gig, there's no harm in seeing what else is out there. Need some help with that? Join Monster for free todayAs a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Let us help you find a job you'll want to keep.