can you say you’re looking for a new job because you want “a new challenge”?

A reader writes:

When being asked by a hiring manager “why are you looking to leave your job,” one of the common advised response is “I’m looking to take on a new challenge.”

Do you think that answering with “I’m looking to take on a new challenge” can be interpreted as admitting that the candidate (me) is not qualified or lacks the experience? I’ve always struggled with responding with this answer.

Here’s the deal with “I’m looking for new challenges”: Most interviewers understand that it’s used as a polite catch-all for all sorts of things. It’s the answer people give instead of “my manager is driving me batshit crazy” or “I’m really not into my office’s constant Nerfball tournaments.”

And that’s basically fine. We’ve apparently all agreed to accept it as a reasonable thing to say. (Of course, sometimes it’s also true.)

But you need to say more than just “I’m looking for new challenges.” You need to give some detail about why you feel that way and what it is about the new job that excites you and offers more than you can get from your current position. For example: “I’m ready to take on a new challenge! I was brought in to set up a new team selling teapots to the Pacific Northwest. I’ve spent the last three years getting that team off the ground — staffing, developing our strategy, course-correcting once we saw what worked and what didn’t work. Now things are running really smoothly and have been for a while, and I’m itching to move on to what’s next.” Or: “I’ve been able to learn a huge amount during my time here and have gone from painting teapots to training new teapot makers and overseeing our Teapots on the Town program. But now I’m really interested in taking on more responsibility for teapot strategy, and because we’re such a small team, there’s not a lot of opportunity for me to do that here. That’s why I’m excited about the role you have open — it’s exactly what I want my next move to be.”

So, as you can see, it needs to be a bit more than literally just “I’m looking for new challenges.”

Also, make sure you don’t say it when you haven’t been at your current job long enough for that answer to make sense. If you tell me that you want to change jobs after a year because you’re looking for new challenges, I’m going to think that (a) you have really unrealistic expectations of your jobs and get bored far too easily (and I don’t want to deal with that a year from now if I hire you), or (b) you’re using it as a cover story for something else and don’t have the sense to realize why it’s not a good answer in your context. So you really can only use it if it would make sense that you’d be looking for new challenges at this point in your current job.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. plip

    Are there any good catch alls for when you ARE leaving a job because management are driving you crazy etc. and you’ve only been there a year or two?!

    1. BRR

      I would try and identify what interests you about the job you’re applying for. I think that something more tailored is better than a catchall.

      1. Annonymouse

        plip

        Depends on what the managers doing and what the job is.

        You can say:
        * You want a role with more autonomy
        * You’ve done some work on X in your role and are looking to do more in your next job.
        * You’ve gone as far as you can in that company – it’s small company and there just aren’t any promotion or growth opportunities. You are looking for a new challenge.

    2. G-Unit

      Came to ask this exact question!

      I took a career leap that very quickly turned out to be the wrong decision and I want to go back to what I was doing previously. How do I phrase that?

      1. hayling

        I think you basically say that. “I thought that moving into Teapot Handle Specialist was the right direction for me, but I realized that I missed being a Teapot Spot Specialist for reasons a, b, and c.”

      2. Annonymouse

        G-Unit.

        I’ve had to do the same thing. Here is what I say:

        “That as much as I enjoy being a teapot strategy analyst (or whatever) I prefer to be a teapot designer and artist because it’s more aligned with my strengths and passions like the time I …. (Positive work story/accomplishment here).

        So you’re showing why you’re changing direction and why you’re a good fit.

    3. Pwyll

      A few options off the top of my head:

      “When I joined Company my focus was on revamping our teapot system. I did that by instituting x, y and z. Now that the project is complete, I’m really looking forward to taking those skills to Your Company to (job duties here).”

      “I’m really thankful for the skills I’ve developed at Company. Over the last 2 years, though, I’ve decided that it’s really not the right fit for me in the long term. I see myself thriving in an environment where (x that new company has), whereas Company is a lot more focused on y.” (for example, I’m looking for a company with better work/life balance, but currently I’m expected to be on call. Or, I’m looking to do something more innovative with teapots, whereas my company can be really ‘old school’ about those things)

      1. Synonym for Sunrise

        Ooo, good answer. The dilemma I’m facing at my current job (and the reason I’m going to start looking once I hit the 2 year mark) is that it’s a small company and the owners don’t want to give up control of ANYTHING, so I’m being thrown scraps instead of the meaty stuff that I actually want to do. Like, there’s so much stuff that I could be doing/helping with/working on that I would find challenging AND interesting, but the owners have absolutely no intention of ever delegating anything important, so after a year and a half here I realize that I need to move on in order to grow.

        I’m not quite sure how to put that diplomatically, but basically I can see the writing on the wall that if I want to grow professionally I need to go work for a company that’s interested in… well… growing me professionally!

        1. Pwyll

          How about, “Based on the way my role is structured and the size of my company, there isn’t much of an opportunity for me to take an ‘ownership’ role in any of our projects. I’m really excited about Your Company’s Role because it would give me the opportunity to really take ownership of the x part of Project. I’m really looking to move to a company where I continue to hone my skills, and where there’s a pathway for me to grow into more challenging roles in the future.

        2. Kipper

          I have a similar situation, and I’ve used phrasing like, “My company’s management is very hands-on to the point of micromanaging. A lot of us in the office struggle to work under that system. That’s just not the culture I thrive in despite spending a lot of time and energy trying to adapt, and I want to get back to those more independent roles. I’m great at making thoughtful strategic decisions, finding creative solutions, and keeping things moving forward, and I need a team that will give me space to do the work I’m best at.”

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think there’s one catch-all for that situation; it’s got to be tailored to your situation. For example, if you were hired for a job focused on X but it’s turned out to be focused on Y, that’s a reasonable explanation. Or if it’s different in some other (significant) way, that can work too.

      1. Wendy Darling

        I’m trying to change jobs after six months at Horrible Remote Job, and I tell people it’s because working from home ended up being a poor fit for me and that I’m the only Teapot Analyst at Horrible Remote Job and miss working with other analysts because I felt like being around peers helped me learn and grow.

        I leave off the part where I could probably get over the remote part if I didn’t have a horrible boss who, in addition to being herself horrible, encouraged and nurtured horrible behavior in her employees.

    5. Ayla K

      I’ve written here before about a toxic manager who made it clear that she was going to make sure I was never promoted (by giving imporant high-visibility projects to more junior people, badmouthing me to department leaders, etc.) I talked in job interviews about how there was a lack of opportunity for growth in my current role – it’s technically true!

    6. Anonymous Educator

      I think there are ways to be up front about your current workplace not being a good fit without airing all your organization’s dirty laundry. Not everything has to be ultra positive. Sometimes you’re leaving because you’re unhappy.

      And if you have solid tenures at previous places, leaving your current place after one year won’t make you look like a job hopper.

      1. Jadelyn

        I remember doing a phone-screening once where the candidate talked very openly yet very calmly and professionally about how there had been a change of management at her previous company and the work environment had changed drastically to the point where she wasn’t a good fit for the culture anymore, so she was looking for a place that had more of [xyz qualities that my org had in abundance] and it sounded like we would be a great place to get back to that kind of environment while still doing the same type of work. It was clear that she’d been unhappy, but she didn’t get nasty or really *badmouth* anyone, she was just matter-of-fact about how what had been a good fit initially turned into a bad fit and that had prompted her to leave. So it’s entirely possible to say “management at my current job sucks” to an interviewer so long as you present it well – and most specifically, present it without bitterness or anger.

        1. Fortitude Jones

          Yeah, when I was looking to leave my prior position (after a year), the culture fit thing was what I used in my interviews. People within my company were able to interpret what I meant without me having to say it (“My manager’s a loon, and I need to move on to some place sane”), and the external hiring manager who ended up offering me a job looked as if she could read between the lines as well.

        2. Anonymous Educator

          This gets you the added bonus of seeing how professional they are. Can they relay negative information without coming across extra negatively?

          1. Jadelyn

            Good point – I do remember responding very positively to the fact that she was able to be so calm and professional about a negative experience like that. It was part of why I recommended her for the following in-person interview. (I think our salary expectations wound up being incompatible, but I remember really liking her.)

    7. sjw

      Plip, I actually think it’s OK to be honest (with professional, concise explanations) if it’s a one-off and the rest of your resume is sound. If you tell me management drove you batshit crazy at EVERY job, well, it’s probably you!

    8. Jaguar

      Strangely, I’ve only been asked the “why are you leaving?” question occasionally in interviews (honestly, I don’t think a good interviewer asks that question), but when I have and the place I’m leaving is insane, I sort-of put on a little performance act of squirming, along the lines of, “I… um… well, I’m not really comfortable with badmouthing a former employer. Could we suffice to say that the job isn’t working out?”

      I guess that’s pretty intense and probably more honest than I should be, but it’s never seemed to hurt the interview – I don’t think I’ve ever taken a job where that question was asked in the interview, but it hasn’t changed the tone or direction of the interview. I suppose if it did disqualify me because they were paranoid that I wouldn’t like the work environment in the place I was interviewing any better, I was self-selecting out of a toxic workplace anyway.

      I just find it far easier, from a number of different perspectives, to be honest. I don’t like playing wink-wink-nudge-nudge euphemism games and my impression is that people are actually warming up to me by not engaging in it, but that’s just speculation on my part.

      1. Jadelyn

        To be honest, I’d be pretty concerned with that response. That makes it way more dramatic than any “poor fit” or “culture mismatch” euphemism would. It gives just enough information to make me wonder wtf is going on at that place, without enough information to suss out *why* the situation made you uncomfortable enough to leave. It could be bad management bullied you and forced you out, or it could be that you were a toxic coworker who reacted badly to management trying to rein you in and stormed out in a huff, and I have absolutely no way of making an guess between those two types of situations based on squirming and “I’m not comfortable badmouthing a former employer”. At that point, I’d rather be safe than sorry and would probably pass on you – and it’s not that I’m at a toxic workplace, rather than I want to avoid *making* my workplace toxic by bringing on someone who may well be the *source* of toxicity rather than a refugee from it.

        Maybe that’s harsh of me, but that tactic is IMO a bad combination of dramatic yet vague and may make it worse than playing the euphemism game would.

        1. Jaguar

          You could be right. I think I cover my personality in the way I present myself, but maybe people think my casual attitude is a big ruse. But I would have the same questions about “bad fit” or “cultural differences” euphemisms. “Whoa, whoa, what on Earth does that mean?” I have to question how much these euphemisms are generally-understood code words and how much they are people trying to obscure the details of something that’s unfavourable to them (which is the whole point of a euphemism). I don’t think an obscuring euphemism skates you past the issue unscathed.

          1. Shiara

            I’m with Jadelyn on this. By squirming and bringing up “badmouthing” the interviewee would appear to be amplifying the drama of the situation. They’re also implying that there is something to badmouth, which is basically doing the exact thing they’re claiming they don’t want to do. In my personal life, I have encountered enough people who like to winkingly say “Oh, I don’t want to badmouth blah blah blah” when it’s clear that yes, they totally do want to dish, and they not infrequently overlap with the people who talk about how they “abhor drama” and yet are always, mysteriously, in the middle of it.

            If you say blandly say “cultural differences” that could mean that there’s tons of drama at your old place but by using a professional euphemism you’re indicating that you’re doing your best to maintain a professional attitude about it. Especially if you can talk about what appeals to you culturally at new place. Or it could be something more innocuous, that genuinely was a bad fit. Cultural differences can exist without either party being objectively in the wrong. I might want some more information, but it wouldn’t ping the potential drama llama radar for me the way talking about not wanting to “badmouth” would.

          2. Jadelyn

            I wouldn’t call it a casual attitude – from what you’ve described, it would come off as evasive to me rather than casual. And I guess the big difference between “I’m uncomfortable badmouthing a former ER” and “culture differences” is that the former shuts down the conversation, while the latter is open to some clarifying questions. Someone who says “culture differences”, I can ask “Can you elaborate on that?” and they can say “Well, my former employer had a culture that encouraged competitiveness and I really prefer a collaborative environment” or “There was an office cat that it turned out I’m allergic to” or something that points to an innocuous difference in workplaces that can nevertheless make for a bad fit on an individual level. Someone who says “I’m uncomfortable”, it’s a lot harder to ask for clarification.

            I’d also contest the idea that a euphemism is about “obscuring details that are unfavorable to them.” Those unfavorable details may be unfavorable to any number of involved parties, whether that’s the candidate or the company or a coworker or whatever – or they may not be unfavorable at all. It’s just a way of politely allowing some things to remain unspoken, nitty-gritty details that aren’t relevant beyond the schadenfreude and curiosity level.

          3. Annonymouse

            Bad culture/role fit with a little bit of explanation is fine.

            I.e the role is all X with circumstance I don’t thrive in.

            I’m interested in this role because I am great at doing Y particularly in an environment like yours with …..

      2. neverjaunty

        Being able to distinguish between diplomacy and “wink-wink-nudge-nudge euphemism games” is an important soft skill I would want to see in a hire.

      3. Annonymouse

        Why are you leaving / looking to change companies is a legitimate question to ask though.

        It helps me to know what motivates you and what you are looking for.

        There are nice ways of saying various common problems:

        Environment is toxic: I thrive more in environments/ companies that focus on (collaboration/giving staff ownership of their roles/a more results driven instead of hours based culture etc) like your company.

        Money is an issue (a legit one and not “I think as an entry level clerk I should be earning 100k a year”):
        I don’t feel as if my current company values my contributions and I believe your company can better appreciate what I bring to the table.

        I’m currently not working enough hours at my current job to adequately support myself (this makes more sense for casual and part time positions)

        I’m bored and under utilised: I’m looking for a new challenge like type of work you have.

        I have limited growth opportunities.

        I’m looking to use and expand my current skills like X,Y & Z and your role seems like it would be a great opportunity to do that.

        I also ask the question “Why do you want to work for THIS company?”
        Because it’s one thing to look to escape a bad job and another to be excited and a good fit for ours.

    9. NW Mossy

      My first employer in my current industry was insane, but rather than saying so, I described the consequences and how that led me to want to shift. In my specific case, I said “There’s a high level of staff turnover and I’m looking for more stability” and “There are practices in place that promote unhealthy competition between peers, and I’m looking for a more collaborative environment.”

      I’m sure that anyone who interviewed me during that stage understood the “OMG this place is nuts” subtext of those comments, but it didn’t seem to hinder my search as I ended up interviewing at 4 places and got 2 offers.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        “There’s a high level of staff turnover and I’m looking for more stability”

        I also used something similar when interviewing for my current company after deciding to leave Evil Law Firm behind. Luckily for me, Evil Law Firm is notorious in my city for its semi-annual layoffs, so no one was surprised by this. The fact that I was able to make it almost three years at that place actually helps me in interviews.

    10. MissDisplaced

      YES! Such a timely thing for me.
      I do love my job… but not my new boss. Too many managers dreaming and not enough boots on the ground to execute. And so, I’m looking, though really I’d rather not.

      And is it OK to say something about looking for a job that is closer and/or easier commute? That seems like a reasonable response to me, but maybe it’s also taboo?

      1. Murphy

        I think that’s perfectly reasonable to want a shorter commute, particularly if your current commute is pretty long.

      2. Jadelyn

        The commute thing would absolutely be understandable to me – within reason. If you live in a region where commuting is the norm, and you think your existing 15-minute commute is “too long” and that’s why you’re looking, I’d be side-eyeing your expectations about the convenience of your work and wondering if something like changing desks or some other minor work-comfort thing would be enough to cause issues later on. But it probably wouldn’t be enough to cause a real problem or prevent you from being interviewed.

      3. Kyrielle

        I think it’s a little risky if it sounds like the short commute is the *main* reason you’re interested in them, but when interviewing for my current job, I did talk about why I wanted to work there and then add, “And I won’t complain about the short commute, of course.” It’s a positive if it helps them retain me, but if it’s the reason I came here alone, they’d probably wonder how long before something more fundamental than commute distance moved me out the doors. (Not happening if I can help it; I love it here!)

        1. MissDisplaced

          Well, no, I’m assuming the job is fairly similar to the job I have now, and the company is doing something I’m interested in… but with the plus of a commute going from 60-90 minutes each way to about 30 minutes (or less!) each way.
          Often companies or industries I’ve never heard of or considered before come up that way if you search for jobs within 10 or 15 miles. So, while it may not be the only reason… it nevertheless why they came to my attention in the first place. I have the type of job skills that can transfer and adapt to many industries, so I’m not limited to a specific sector.

      4. Swimmergirl

        I left a job for a shorter commute. I didn’t realize how difficult the long commute was going to be, and I felt that I would be a happier worker and able to give more energy to my role/company.

      5. Job Hopper Extraordinaire

        That’s the main reason I’ve given for my soon-to-be job change. Currently I’m driving more than 3 hours a day both ways, which is a long commute for my area. In my new job, I’m going to be going on the train for half an hour a day both ways – it’s really a no-brainer. What I haven’t said is that the real reason I’m leaving is because the culture is so diametrically opposed to what I am comfortable with, that there’s no way I could adjust to enjoying this job. But the commute – well, that was my excuse for handing in my notice, which no-one batted an eyelid at, and my reason in the interview – and again, it was accepted easily.

    11. Mike C.

      I was in this situation when I had an interviewer grill me repeatedly on this question. It was really uncomfortable the third time when he was asking me things like, “are you sure there aren’t any other reasons why you want to leave?” It was really uncomfortable.

    12. Koko

      When I was fleeing a sinking ship with a diseased captain I found that people seemed to read between the lines when I expressed that there was “a lot of turnover” at my current company and I was looking for “a more stable environment.”

    13. Stellaaaaa

      People have disagreed with me in the past about going this route, but I’ve gotten good results with, “I enjoyed the work and gained a lot of valuable experience, but I’m looking for an environment that feels a little more positive.” If your current employer has a reputation for being difficult or if they’ve ever made the local news for unsavory reasons, it actually hurts you sometimes if you don’t acknowledge that.

    14. Ruth

      I left my last job after less than 2 years there. And I was essentially frank without being frank. I said “my current job has given me a lot of experience doing X and some experience doing Y. I really like Y, I’m very good at it, and I’m interested in this position where I’ll have more opportunity to do Y.” … I didn’t say that like management and other SUPER dysfunctional things at that job were what was keeping me from doing Y. So as BRR said, focus on what you do want to do at the job, talk about the fact that you’d like to do more of that and you’ve also got whatever other solid skills they need, don’t talk about the management part.

  2. Bad Candidate

    What do you say when you’re looking for a new challenge because management only gives challenging work, promotions, and appreciation to a$$ kissers?

    1. hayling

      I think you just say that there isn’t an opportunity for more challenging work and leave it at that. The trick when you’re trying to leave a crappy situation is usually to tell the truth but be selective about how you present it.

    2. Lora

      Ayla K’s answer, that you’re looking for growth opportunities, is technically true. I mean, I don’t have any growth opportunities where I am now because managers are chosen based on gender and age. So I’m leaving for a management job where they do actually promote women under 60.

    3. crazy8s

      “Your company has a great reputation for innovative workplace practices and good resource management and I want to be part of that.”

    4. all aboard the anon train

      I also say growth opportunities. I’ve been promised a promotion since I’m a high performer, but they fill positions based on seniority, not ability, and regardless each time they talk about promotions there’s always a hiring freeze that means no internal promotions and no internal moves to different departments.

      I’d love to say I’m looking for a new challenge because my company keeps going back on promotion promises, but I warp it into, “I’m looking for a new challenge because after almost 3 years in my current role, there’s nothing left for me to learn and no growth opportunities in my department. I’m looking to take the X and Y skills I’ve learned as a TITLE and use them in Z way.” And then try and merge it into a question about the company’s opportunities for growth and what a general career path for the role I’m interviewing looks like (because the last thing I want is another job where there’s nowhere to go unless someone higher up leaves and you have 15 people fighting for that role).

    5. Pari

      I’m sure you find it a bit off putting, but developing professional relationships and ass kissing sometimes mean the same thing.

      1. neverjaunty

        They often don’t, and if the only way to develop professional relationships at your workplace is ass-kissing, then it’s time to move on.

      2. Koko

        It can definitely be a perception thing. The thing is that the difference between respect and ass-kissing is whether it’s genuine or not. Respect is genuine and ass-kissing is false respect.

        So if you dislike someone strongly enough, it will look like anyone who actually likes that person or has a good relationship with them is ass-kissing, because you can’t bring yourself to believe that someone else genuinely respects the person you dislike.

        1. Pari

          True. Although Ive had co workers who had this “thing” with being overly friendly or doing nice things for seemingly no reason. They don’t do this sort of thing for anyone so to them anyone who does it is obviously ass kissing in the hopes of getting some reward.

      3. Bad Candidate

        Well when people are getting two promotions inside of a year and clearly can not do their job correctly or at all at times, maybe they are just developing professional relationships, but to the rest of us it looks like the same thing.

    6. jennie

      The tricky thing about saying you’re looking for advancement is it doesn’t work if you’re interviewing for a lateral move. Most managers will want you to stay in a new position for a couple of years before moving up. If you’re itching to move up as soon as you get in the door, that’s a red flag.

      1. Pari

        I see people do this shockingly quite frequently in their job applications. They list leaving a job for better opportunities or pay and sure enough they were unemployed right after, took a lateral or demotion with lower pay.

      2. Dante (from the call center)

        Seriously? If I’ve hit a brick wall in my career because of how management chooses to promote within the company, I can’t tell an interviewer I’m leaving because I want something “where there’s room for advancement?” What part of saying I don’t intend to work in an entry-level role ~forever~ reads as DEPOSE YOUR CEO AND SACRIFICE UNTO MEEE?

  3. Lora

    I usually turn it into answering a question with a question, because it does nobody any good if the crazy at the new job is the same as the crazy at the old job. I say what I am specifically looking for in this particular job (career development, working with specific colleagues I have worked with before and liked, working on particular projects/subjects, etc) that I cannot do at my current job, then ask if I understood the role correctly. Then I follow that up with a lot of pointed questions about the corporate culture and group dynamics and management style. They generally take the hint that I’m asking because I don’t get those things where I am now.

    At a couple of interviews, people asked me who I reported to at (specific job) and when I told them, no further explanation of why I wanted to leave was necessary…

  4. H.C.

    Agreed with the need for specificity; I’ve heard the “I am looking for new challenges” line quite a few times as an interviewer, and I always ask the candidate to elaborate since – as AAM already noted – it can be a catch-all for all sorts of different things. But at face value, I never take that statement as the candidate being underqualified for the opening.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      Yes to this. I just recently accepted a new job (start next week, yay!!) and in my interview I said I was ready for new challenges. I followed up by saying I’ve been doing ERP support/implementation work for a very long time, and I was really ready to do something new that would let me keep using my expertise, but in a completely different way.

    2. TrainerGirl

      I used Allison’s exact example when interviewing for my current job. I had set up an online training program at my previous company, but once it was up and running, it was back to business as usual. That was an unusual situation, as I didn’t dislike my job, manager or my coworkers. But I knew that I (and my skills) would get stagnant if I stayed there. I stayed as long as I did because having a good work environment is invaluable to me, but I knew where I wanted my career to go, and I’ve been able to accomplish my goals and more in my current position.

  5. Anonymous Educator

    I don’t think I’ve ever said I’m looking for new challenges.

    Fortunately, in several situations I was looking for a job because I was moving (always a good, neutral reason to give). One time I wasn’t actually looking for “a” job, but only that particular job appealed to me (so if I hadn’t gotten it, I would have stayed). Another time, the hiring employer didn’t even ask me why I was leaving.

    1. MissDisplaced

      Sometimes it really IS true though.
      Going from Intern to Employee
      Part-time to Full Time
      Retail/Waitress, Etc. to a more professional job
      Very entry level to a step or two up “Teapot Assistant” to “Teapot Designer”
      Etc.

      I had to explain that often during the Great Recession when I went from 3 concurrent and low-level part-time jobs BACK to my regular line of employment. People generally understood that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to survive.

      1. k

        I think these are great examples of when that line would be appropriate even after a very short employment term. I worked in a call center position once with very high turn over (3 months was a long time there). I lasted 9 months, and was by far the most senior person and there was no room for advancement. Since this was my first real job I didn’t realize that others would see that as a very very short time, it threw me when interviewers balked at me saying I was ready for new challenges and had reached the highest level there.

  6. Doug Judy

    I left OldJob for new challenges in July 2015 (I had been in that role for 8 years). I can’t stand NewJob. Part of it is the job itself, part of it is I just don’t fit in here.

    I have a phone interview Friday for a position that is exactly like OldJob, but with a little more higher level at the premiere employer in this city. How do I explain that I left OldJob for new opportunities but now want to go back to what I used to do?

    1. H.C.

      You can say that you were looking to expand your skill set/range of expertise with NewJob, but it deviated so far away from OldJob skills and responsibilities that you enjoyed and have mastered that you’re now looking for positions more in line with OldJob.

    2. Beezus

      “I thought I was interested in moving into a role with [characteristic of NewJob], but now I miss being involved in [characteristic of OldJob and job you’re applying for] and I’d like to move back into a role where I get to do that.”

      If there is something you can quantify about the “I don’t fit in here” bit, and you know it won’t be a problem at the job you’re interviewing, and you can say it without it sounding like badmouthing, maybe do that. If, for example, it has to do with the size of the team, or the amount of socializing they do/don’t do, I think that would be fine to mention. Basically, anything you can spin as “it’s me, not them, but I think you and I would be a good fit for the same reason they’re not a good fit.”

  7. AnitaJ

    Here’s a question. I left my job of 5 years for what I thought was going to be an amazing opportunity. It turned out to be wretched, and after 6 months, I happily returned to my old job. I don’t intend to leave here anytime soon, but when I do leave, what on earth do I say? No regrets on leaving the wretched job but I fully assume this blip is going to cause problems down the road. It may be in 2 years, it may be in 5 years. I’d love advice on how to phrase it. I do, however, have a stellar track record at my current job, so that’s in my favor.

    1. Blue_eyes

      I actually don’t think that’s going to be a big issue for you going forward. Since that blip is bookended by multiyear stays at the same company and a “stellar track record” at your job, you can just be honest with future interviewers. “I left for an opportunity at Company, but it wasn’t what I expected for reasons A and B, and I realized I really missed my previous job/company for reasons X and Y.” You can decide how candid you want to be about the reasons you left the terrible job. If your resume was full of these short stays it would be a red flag, but one job that didn’t work out seems pretty normal.

    2. plain_jane

      Is there a reason you need to mention the other job at all? I’d just leave it off the resume. Or you can do 2012-2014, 2015-2018. If they ask, say that it was a mistake, and you had a strong relationship with your current job and they were happy to bring you back on. You’ll just need to address why you don’t think it is a mistake this time.

      1. AnitaJ

        Thanks, all! I definitely don’t need to mention it on a resume, but it’s a pretty prestigious company (I’d say the top firm in their field), so it’s nice to at least show that I was “good enough” to be hired by them. But you’re right, I’ll probably leave it off. I don’t anticipate leaving my current job for quite some time, but whenever that point comes, I could probably just leave off the quick gap.

    3. Robin

      My husband is about to do exactly this. In his case it’s a little easier, since his reason for leaving the 6-month job is that he is the only employee at a family business where the owner is a racist and a homophobe and isn’t shy about it.

      1. AnitaJ

        Oof, been there. I wasn’t jazzed about my coworker referring to people as ‘retarded’ and ‘monkey-butt’, or commenting that ‘everyone who comes here needs to learn to speak English’. But I don’t think I can really say that in interviews.

    4. Stellaaaaa

      Another vote for not putting it on your resume. Functionally, it’s no different than taking maternity leave or a very long vacation.

    5. Bellatrix

      On top of all everyone else has said, note that it actually reflects very well on you to have been rehired by your old company. It means your employer liked you a lot!

  8. Jamey

    I would try to latch on to something that is different about this new position in comparison to your old one and cite that as a reason for wanting to try something new. For example, I recently left a job where I was doing consulting work for multiple different clients and moved to a job where I’m doing (admittedly similar) work for a single product that my new company owns. I told them, “Client work has been starting to wear on me because there are so many different products that need my attention, I feel like I can never give my full attention to any one of them. I’m ready to move on to a product team where I can really focus on a single product and give it my best work.”

  9. MK

    Also, I think there needs to be some basis for the new job being a challenge. I mean, if you are working as an executive assistant for the CEO of a multinational cooperation and applying for a receptionist position for a one-person accountant firm, it would sound bizzare to say this. Even if the prospective job is very similar to your current one, you might get the interviewer wondering if you have the wrong idea about the role you are applying for.

  10. RS

    Do you think it is reasonable to say that the job isn’t a good fit, partially because you didn’t do your due diligence in asking questions before accepting? This was before I found AAM, and was kind of desperate and ignored some red flags. Is saying something like “It isn’t really a good fit. I should have vetted the position more before accepting. I want the next job I take to be one I can stay in long-term, so I’m being much more discerning this time around.” Is that going to help or hurt me?

    1. NW Mossy

      I think your first two sentences work, but after that, I’d say something more like “And seeing [insert content earlier in the interview process here] shows me that this company/role is more in line with the fit I’m looking for.” Basically, show them that you’re doing the discerning as you’re talking, rather than telling them that you’ll discern at some other point.

  11. Cyrus

    I could honestly say that a new challenge was the main reason for leaving my old job, or at least, a major reason. I had been there for almost eight years and my responsibilities hadn’t changed in that time beyond general seniority stuff. I had been passed over for promotion twice. Management wasn’t playing favorites or unhappy with me, it’s just that the other guys were even better suited to the role, but the fact remains that things could have changed and didn’t, twice. And the job itself was fundamentally not challenging. It wasn’t that difficult when I started, the main skills required were just organization and time management and diplomacy rather than anything specific to the job itself, and I definitely hadn’t had to learn anything new in the last couple years there.

    It wasn’t the only reason I left, money and teleworking and other changes were also nice, but it was a major reason. If I had needed to sell my new manager on it, the fact that I was sincere and could go into details about the lack of challenges probably helped. If you can’t act sincere and can’t back up “want a new challenge” with details, then use one of the other lines people have suggested here.

  12. Swimmergirl

    On the flip side, do you owe the place you’re leaving an explanation? I’ve always just kept my head down and tried to make it to my last day.

    1. the gold digger

      Nope. You do not.

      You refuse to participate, and, two years later, when the horrible CEO is fired (the reason you quit and the reason everyone else in the high-turnover office quit), you rejoice.

  13. Michaela

    I just had a candidate try a variant of this line on me — they’d left all their previous positions within fourteen months, because they were looking to be challenged and grow. Four or five positions in six years, all on a quest for challenges.

    Yeah, no. No second interview for you.

    1. MissDisplaced

      I could see that if they were all very entry-level, or retail or something done while in school or something. But otherwise, a job a year is pretty sketchy.

  14. plip

    I’m looking to make a downward move – from senior manager at a small, batshit company where I manage a difficult set of individuals to a ‘lower’ position (in terms of responsibility and salary) at a bigger company where I’d have no staff management responsibilities (oh joy!!!). Any ideas how to explain that at interview?!

    1. AB

      I did this recently. At the moment I manage a a very very high maintence team. But I’m in my notice period and about to start a new role with no management responsibilities.

      I said in my interview;I understand that managing people is part of becoming more senior in any field, and while I feel equipped to handle that, management isn’t my passion. The balance of the role has slowly shifted over time to become almost full time dealing with team issues and development – leaving me no time for my own work and projects. I’ve enjoyed my time and learned a lot but I’m really keen to get back to where the action is. Even if it means taking a lower level/lower paid position, as I will be in a position keep developing, which will benefit me more long term.

      Every one I spoke to seemed to understand/sympathise with that. I work in a technical industry my which started off as ‘senior teapot maker who also manages junior teapot makers’, it has slowly become 100% management. So it started to feel like every extra month I stayed there was detrimental to my career, as my long term goal is to get better at making teapots, not better at managing people. And also the company/team deserves to have a manager who loves management and is happy to commit to that type of role.

      1. plip

        Now that’s an eloquent description I hope to deliver if I get to the interview! My reasons are broadly the same and a move away from service delivery toward near-full-time people management (which has happened in my time with my company) isn’t where my interests lie. We’ve taken over a few small companies in the time I’ve been there so on paper my successes are good, but with that has come a near 100% increase in the size of team I manage and it’s taken me away from the actual work of teapotting to managing a large team and everything that goes with that.

        I hope prospective employers are receptive. You’ve phrased it really really well so thank you!

        1. AB

          If the interviewer is also passionate about their industry then they will most likely understand. Good Luck!

  15. Chocolate Teapot

    I think leaving a job is often to do with changes (new boss with whom you don’t get on) and I have used the new challenge line, but then jumped in with why the new opportunity is much better suited.

  16. AB

    I’ve interviewed lots of people who have said they’re looking for a new challenge while applying for a job which is almost identical to their current job. Usually puts me right off but I did employ someone who used that against my better judgement (we desperately needed someone and we didn’t have many other options). It was a disaster. She was perfectly competent in her role but she was also lazy and had a bad attitude. Didn’t show up for work for several days without contacting me. Then when I wrote her up for it she handed her notice in. Later found out that she was fired from her previous role. ‘New challenge’. Pft.

    1. Candi

      Let me guess. Reference from previous job was one of those “we can only confirm Alicia worked here from Eptrmber the eleventeenth to Mumbob the fifty twentieth” type deals. Sigh.

  17. Ian Mac Eochagáin

    I find the catch-all euphemism of “looking for new challenges” for “unemployed” on LinkedIn and elsewhere irritiating. The same goes for “new adventures”. It’s just work! It’s usually a bit of a grind, not white-water rafting or something. It’s so refreshing when someone just writes “unemployed”, “between jobs”, or whatever on LinkedIn.

  18. Sarah My Starbucks Name

    What if you realize less than a year into a new job that the challenges you want just won’t be there? I recently started at a company where I thought I would have more exposure to opportunities and challenges. They are small, so there should be more work to go around with fewer employees, right? Turns out I was wrong. They have industry veterans with 10+ years of experience doing the type of work that people with <5 years of experience do at other companies.

    I've been here for less than a year, but I can see the writing on the wall and I don't like what I see. Would it really be inappropriate to interview at other companies at my 1-year mark, and say that I'm looking for new challenges?

    1. Candi

      Nope. But to make up for it, be prepared to stay at least 2-3 years at the next place -so it’s a good idea to be picky.

      And ransack AAM for guidance.

  19. Unhappy entry level

    I have been in the same company for 9 months in an entry level role. But am looking to leave because there is not much potential for growth. My direct manager has also started to learn a new systems (when its somebody else’s job) so she is not recognising the extra work that I do (beyond my duties). She has also taken the work I’ve done, added on to it and then “taught” others how to use this template, when it was my creation. She is also not motivating at all. I love the overall culture at this firm as it is small and varied and everybody is so friendly. The owners are extremely nice and I am by nature, a loyal person, so I would love to stay. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to do so when the work I do does not get recognised. My salary was also meant to increase after 6 months but when I had a chat with said manager, she said that they were formulating a new procedure for commissions, however this has not yet happened. Soo the question I have is do I bring the issue of my manager up to her manager and hope something changes? (My manager only has 4 people under her, & it would be obvious that I brought this up as the other 3 have been here longer and do not care to progress or get recognition). OR do I look for other opportunities? And if so, what do I say in potential interviews?

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