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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

January 26, 2016

I want to leave my current company because it is in decline, bonus payouts are gone and I don’t see a future. How would you portray this motivation in an interview?

Julie Q. Brush

This is a follow up question to the January 25th Q&A: My company has been struggling and the stock has been sinking for a while. How much will the negative brand impact my candidacy for a new job? Do companies only want to hire lawyers from “successful” companies?”

This Lawyer Whisperer group member wanted to know the best way for a candidate to explain the motivation for leaving an employer if the reasons involved the decline of the company.

In an interview setting, the question “Why do you want to leave your current job” is a raised in virtually every discussion. So it’s and inquiry that should be anticipated by job seekers with careful preparation for a strong response. Some situations are dicier than others to explain and require varying degrees of finesse. Exploring other opportunities because your current organization is struggling, your compensation is compromised and you are concerned about its…and your future is a straightforward and practical reason for seeking greener pastures. It’s also a reason widely understood and accepted among today’s employers. So when crafting a message to communicate your departure, keep it simple, keep it honest and keep it positive.

In order to create the best message possible, I recommend that you follow the steps below:

  1. Jot down on a piece of paper or on your computer the following: (1) the reasons you are exploring new opportunities; (2) what you have learned in your current role; (3) what you like about your job and employer; (4) what you seeking in your next job.
  2. Once you’ve identified the above, write a script of what you’d like to say when asked the reasons behind your motivation to leave.
  3. Then read the script out loud and revise accordingly.
  4. Continue to practice either with another person, in front of the mirror, in the car etc. until you feel comfortable and confident with your message.

If you’d like a little guidance before you start your process, below are a couple of examples:

Interviewer #1: “So tell me why you want to leave your job.”

Candidate #1: “I’ve worked at Company X for three years and during that time I’ve developed great commercial experience and have had a lot of fun working with a great legal team. But the company has been struggling for a while now and I’m not sure about its future. The stock has been declining and it has impacted the culture. Given the uncertainty, I’m also unsure about the opportunity for career growth and advancement. So I’m exploring the market for an exciting new role.”

Interviewer #2: “What are your reasons for exploring a move at this time?”

Candidate #2: “My Company has been experiencing some challenges over the last 2 – 3 years and while I enjoy my role and the people, it’s a very uncertain time within the organization. I’m valued in the legal department so I don’t have to leave and I also don’t want to leave for a role that isn’t right. But this opportunity is attractive to me because I really like the industry and the position provides the opportunity to manage others and work with an exciting product.”

In this dynamic market, companies come and companies go. And while some thrive, many others struggle. If you are currently tethered to a company in duress and are thinking about a move, your message about Why will be important as you seek to move the ball forward in an interview. So use the guidance above when the time comes, and you’ll be well positioned to tackle this question with ease.

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