I recently had the opportunity to sit in on an interview for a Vice President of Engineering with a leading Solar Developer. The interview went well overall, but as the interview progressed, the inevitable question came up: Why are you looking to leave your company? Now, I know this individual had some very good reasons for making a change, but his answer created more questions than it answered.
The answer went something like:
Culturally, it’s not a good fit. There are significant differences in communication styles and in how we want to do business. I am actively looking to leave.
The way you answer this question can be the difference between moving forward in the process and being passed over.
Never, ever get negative about the reasons why you left or are considering leaving your company. “It’s not a good cultural fit” may sound like a safe explanation, but can be interpreted as: “I am difficult to work with”. In solar having a few job changes is not unusual, but it is important that you have a succinct, compelling story about them.
Focus on the results that you have accomplished and more importantly, what has attracted to you the role you are interviewing for.
An example of a better answer could have been:
I really enjoy the role and my responsibilities. I have had the opportunity to build and manage a team and we have accomplished great things like X, Y and Z. I don’t have to leave, but this role will allow me to lead a larger division focused on more interesting projects. This seems like a natural progression for my career and I won’t have an opportunity like this if I stay at X Company.
Obviously you must be honest and have specific examples of your successes, but the way you tell the story will produce very different results.
As we say in our office “The Why is more important than The What”. The fact that you worked at XYZ Company for two years is less important than why you left and what was more attractive about the job you moved to. Just remember that nobody ever wants to hear the dirty laundry about why the last company you worked for was miserable.