The "reason for leaving" that brings many candidates unstuck

I’m a recruiter, so my job involves me speaking at times to 100+ candidates a week via the phone and face to face interviews. With every candidate I speak to, I always ask “why are you leaving your current position?” I get a whole variety of responses – pay is too low, no career progression, boss is nasty, travel is too far etc. However one reason for leaving can often leave candidates very vulnerable…


Candidate: “The role isn’t challenging”

This is a very valid reason for leaving. However it is a reason that has become a safe line to use for many candidates. It sounds good, it positions the candidate as someone who wants to be challenged, learn, improve and grow. If this is the reason, I am going to need for the candidate to be able to demonstrate that they were able to master the challenges of their role. Because if you love a challenge, you won’t be happy until you’ve mastered that challenge, right?


Interviewer: “So you are seeking a role that is more challenging?”

The candidate will normally respond with something like “Yes, definitely”. The candidate has established that being challenged is a key part of their work. My assumption therefore, is that they were able to meet (and hopefully exceed) the challenges in their previous role. But never assume in recruitment, always ask…


Interviewer: “Will your last manager attest that you perfected your duties and responsibilities?”


The response here from the candidate will determine the sincerity behind their reason for leaving. Those that confidently answer “yes” will go a long way to convincing me. They know they have met all the challenges and that their manager (referee) will back that up. They are genuinely seeking a role with greater challenges.


But for those that answer “no” or “not really” – I’m going to dig in and need to find out why. Normally the candidate is either lying or has been underperforming in their role. If they have been underperforming with the challenges that their last role presented we need to discuss why – boredom? Product too hard to sell? Customers too difficult? Poor culture? We are now at a different reason for leaving. We are at the real reason.


Challenging by definition is “testing one’s abilities”. Candidates need to show their interviewer that they performed well in meeting these “tests”. If you haven’t you need to be honest with why you are really looking for a new job – it’s in your best interests to be as honest as you can.



James Witcombe

The Candidate Coach

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