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Suzy Welch: How to answer the interview question, 'Why are you leaving your current job?'

Here's how to ace the question, "Why are you leaving your current job?"
Here's how to ace the question, "Why are you leaving your current job?"

A job interview could be the perfect time to explain all the reasons you've been eyeing the exits at your current role, right? 

Wrong. When a hiring manager asks, "Why are you leaving your current job?," you might be tempted to sound off on the long hours, the boss you despise, or the too-small-for-far-too-long paycheck. 

But that would be a serious mistake. In fact, a negative response will almost certainty ruin your chances of landing that new opportunity, according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch.

So how do you respond positively without being dishonest? "Look, this question can be awkward. I get it," Welch tells CNBC Make It. "But the antidote is to avoid ruminating on your unmet wants or needs, and to focus instead on the opportunity ahead."

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch

Here's how to strike the best possible tone:

1. Don't give a fake response

Hiring managers are generally pretty good at sensing when an applicant is being dishonest. "Don't make up a story," Welch says. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Lying is never good."

Don't avoid answering the question, either — that will make you look untrustworthy.

2. Avoid looking like a boss hater

You may have legitimate reasons to be dissatisfied with your current manager, role or compensation, but in order to move forward in your career, you need to move on personally, too.

"If you're hurt or bitter, let it go," Welch says, "before the interview."

"Your interviewer is trying to assess if you're the problem, not the job," Welch says. "They're looking for signs you're a boss hater, or a job hopper, or in my house, what we call a 'whining, moaning complainer.'"

You want to come across as a mature and positive person, not someone who holds onto grudges or creates problems.

Suzy Welch: Why this trait is a career killer
Suzy Welch: Why this trait is a career killer

3. Show you're forward thinking

Instead of lying or speaking negatively about your current situation, give a response that shows you're forward looking.

"Make your answer about the future," Welch says. "Turn the conversation towards why you want to join the new company. Explain why this job is so right for your skills, your values and your career goals."

You should acknowledge that you're currently dissatisfied, but in a way that's broad and succinct.

Highlighting "slow growth" or "lack of opportunity" at your current company is a good way to summarize what you're feeling, Welch says. And after you explain why you're currently unhappy, move on.

"After your quick and courteous explanation, quickly pivot to what excites you about the new company's values, mission and culture," Welch says. "Talk about its people and its products."

This type of response will show the hiring manager that you're both honest and positive.

"Let them know you aren't only about 'you' and 'your,'" Welch says. "You're about 'them' and 'us.'"

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at

Video by Richard Washington

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