32

It's time for me to find a new job.

Politics at work are making it impossible to accomplish anything. People who should be collaborating and who I need to work with will not talk to each other, management is not setting direction, and all the people who are not talking to each other are off writing/modifying applications without any coordination.

My boss changes his mind every other day on what I should be doing while the real work that should be taking place, ie, improving/developing the software that our employees use in the field, the employees that generate the income, is being put off.

I won't badmouth my current employer on a job interview, but what do I give as a reason for wanting to leave my current job? Any other reason I can come up with sounds lame.

42

Some of my favourites:

  • I want to learn new skills and take my career in a new direction, which is not my current employer's direction (but just so happens to be the potential employer's direction);
  • No advancement opportunities. Use this one carefully. Your new employer may not have any either. But if you're interviewing or a higher level position with more responsibility, it makes perfect sense;
  • Imminent risk of downsizing due to the global financial crisis (or take your pick) and this great position happened to come up;
  • I want to get out of industry X and into industry Y because I find it more interesting (if the two jobs are in different industries). You'll need to back this one up with a good reason why. It could be prior job experience, interest or whatever;
  • I want to keep my skills current and due to budget cuts new projects and the upgrading of existing technology has been put indefinitely on hold. This could cover, say, .Net 2.0 to .Net 3.5;
  • This job is closer to home and I want to spend more time with my family. Of course, both of these facts have to be true to use this (having a family and being closer). This may sound lame but it's a good one because in an offhanded way you tell your employer you're a family man who wants some stability. If the new employer has a company ethic of working long hours this may put you at a disadvantage but this is a good thing as you've ruled yourself out of getting a job you probably don't want without offending the employer;
  • I'm frustrated by our projects not finishing or getting put on hold. Be careful not to be negative here. If you deliver this right it tells the employer you're a finisher, which again is a good thing;
  • I've been wanting to work at [new company] for some time. Again you'll have to back this up but it'll be a good opportunity for you to talk about the company enthusiastically and demonstrate that you know something about who they are and what they do;
  • I want to work in a larger team. Lots of reasons for this: opportunity to learn from more experienced people, opportunity to teach less experienced people, variety of projects;
  • I want to work in a smaller team. Lots of reasons for this too: more personal, more variety of work, not getting pigeon-holed into doing the same thing;
  • I'm doing the same thing and not learning anything new. You have to have been working for your current employer for probably 2+ years before you can reasonably use this one.

The key to whatever you use is that:

  1. You don't come across as bitter so don't sandbag your current employer;
  2. You have to be able to back up why for whatever the reason; and
  3. You need to be able to sell it. Its no good having a good reason if you fail in the delivery and sound like you're BSing.

Take the larger and smaller team comments. I wouldn't think twice about saying one of those to one employer and one to another. You might say I'm obviously lying but the fact is there are advantages and disadvantages in every situation. You simply have to know what they are and be able to focus on and sell the positives.

31

You should try to minimize the talk around your current job, rather look forward to the position you seek. Never bring up the point, and if the interviewer does, focus on the chances you will have in your new place to evolve in the direction you see appropriate for your professional development.

Also, never, ever burn bridges, no matter how bad your current situation is. Never say anything that hurts your current employer, don't get personal, and refrain from complaining.

13

I don't consider it badmouthing if you would state that your vision of professional software development differs from your current employer's vision. I think it speaks for you as a professional developer that you can reflect upon the way you and the organization around you work and that you feel uncomfortable if the organization is not up for improvement in the direction you see best fit. You can continue the interview from there without digging into dirty laundry.

7

You're right to want to avoid badmouthing, so +1 for that.

Anyway, my reason I used at my last interview for the job I'm starting in a week and a bit was the following (and true):

"I've been at the company for 2 years and when I joined there were 4 developers including myself. There are currently still 4 developers and I feel as though my passion for the job is being eaten away due to the fact I am unable to progress in my career. My aim is to work my way to the top of my game, eventually ending up running a team of Juniors myself; I just cannot achieve this where I am at the moment."

In your case I'd go with the passion thing. You love what you do, but you want to move somewhere else to keep the love of the career alive.

3

I've always found honesty to be a (surprisingly?) effective approach. Negativity isn't good, but if you can present a clear explanation of what's wrong and what you would do about it without making any personal attacks, you will (hopefully!) do better than if you try to avoid the issue.

3

It's less about what you say and more about how you say it.

If you complain and wine about the last job you'll put the interviewer off. However, if you come at it with a positive attitude, in that you want to further yourself and you want an environment that will help you do that, then you'll impress any interviewer.

Remember:

  • Stay positive
  • Focus on you not anyone else
  • Be confident

Good luck!!

1

If there is a genuine reason which doesn't burn bridges then just tell them, last time I switched jobs it was because I didn't want to travel close to 100 miles each day. Things like "I'm bored and want to do something new" is a guaranteed way to get shown the door, no-one wants to hire someone if they think they'll only stick around for a couple of years.

1

I think Chris Nicol put it best: "Focus on you not anyone else". But I'd add that whatever reason you give about why you're leaving, turn it back on the company you want to join, either by asking a question that addresses your reason for leaving or by reflecting on something you've already discussed.

1

tell the truth.

1

Tell the truth, but don't badmouth. The truth for you is that at this job

  • you don't program
  • you don't learn
  • it seems like you're wasting your life

If the interviewer wonders why, I'm sure you'll be able to name some plausible reasons that don't put any direct blame on others. (I've been in the same situation, and the reasons I said were: the client's management was reorganized, so we've been forgotten and had literally nothing to do for a few weeks; other works were postponed because of the crisis.) Then you say that you want to work hard and productively, and all the positive stuff.

Of course, you can say "we had different visions", closing the question and not giving any info, but this may sound insincere and leave the interlocutor in doubt. A down-to-earth explanation, like the mentioned above, should satisfy him.

P.S. I've done a similar thing, and switched to a less paid job from a boring one. Even though the next job sucked it's own way, I'll never regret that, because in the next few months I've learned new things 10 times faster.

0

You should say

"Politics at work are making it impossible to acomplish anything. People who should be collaborating and who I need to work with will not talk to each other, management is not setting direction, and all the people who are not talking to each other are off writing/modifying applications without any coordination.

My boss changes his mind every other day on what I should be doing while the real work that should be taking place, ie, improving/developing the software that our employees use in the field, the employees that generate the income, is being put off."

0

You definitely want to avoid the appearance of someone who's just looking for the "greener grass" on the other side of the fence. The interviewer, who doesn't know anything about you or your current workplace, may wonder if the source of your current problems is the workplace or if the problem is really you. I've certainly known a few toxic co-workers who left the company because they thought the workplace politics were terrible. More often than not, things got a little better after they left.

So, first of all, focus more on your goals and desires than your current job's problems. Make this more about finding growth rather than avoiding stagnation. Forget the interviewing questions for a bit, forget the terrible politics of your current place. Ask yourself what you'd want from any job right now.

Expect to be asked about working under difficult conditions. If I were interviewing you, and I knew anything about what you stated in this question, I would certainly be asking you questions like "tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult co-worker (or difficult work situation)". Two reasons why: one is to find out how you might approach a bad situation, the other is to make sure you're less likely to be the workplace antagonist. If, in answering the question, you made it seem like the other people were somehow stupid or beneath you, or if you went "cowboy" and went behind everyone's back, that would be a red flag to me. You'll never avoid co-workers you don't get along with or office politics. It's important to find an employee who's going to be able to do his/her job even when things get a little tense. And not take his ball and go home when he doesn't like the way the game is going....

And also remember that you are interviewing the company as well. This is the time to make sure the grass is really greener, and you're not just leaving one messed up workplace for another. Ask people about the work environment. Ask them about what their typical day is like: how much time do they spend doing real work vs. having meetings or doing bureaucratic tasks. Make sure this is the place you want to spend a good bit of your waking life.

0

I am simply looking for a new challenge and have found you're company/firm to be an exciting opportunity.

0

Well, my previous employer was a small company that ended up with major financial problems. My employer started to delay paying salaries so I decided to search for a new job. But when doing so, I made it clear I wanted a job that paid a bit better. (About 500 Euro's more.) Getting paid more would then be my primary reason to switch jobs, and was quite convincing. Didn't need to badmouth my previous employer. (Who went dead-broke the same day when I left the company.)

I wanted a raise and my previous employer couldn't afford this. And I am highly skilled and was very qualified for my new job so that was good enough. They did negotiate about my pay and I lowered my price a bit and that was enough for me to get hired. (And yes, my new employer felt triumphant over "stealing" a high-skilled employee from another company...)

0

Reasons you could give:

"Politics at work are making it impossible to accomplish anything. People who should be collaborating and who I need to work with will not talk to each other, management is not setting direction, and all the people who are not talking to each other are off writing/modifying applications without any coordination.

My boss changes his mind every other day on what I should be doing while the real work that should be taking place, ie, improving/developing the software that our employees use in the field, the employees that generate the income, is being put off."

I think those are all valid reasons. However, a prospective employer should be examining your role in these situations. To do this you must honestly assess how you contribute to these situations, and how you can improve this in your new job. You also need to understand why these things are occurring. If your boss changes his mind every day, why? If you think the answer is "because he is an idiot", you need to dig deeper. You need to understand and articulate how you handle the differences of opinion between your view of what "should" be done and what the boss said.

It is important to talk about the situation, not the people. If you are badmouthing people that is a non-starter. If you are examining the situation and figuring out why and where things are not going well, and how to improve them, then you have a chance finding a sympathetic ear. And who knows, it might just help you survive your current job.

0

You could say that you want to develop using different methodologies than you currently use. The idea here is to know that there is a shift but that this fits well for you because of either some personality trait or personal preference for development, e.g. I've dabbled with TDD and would like to use it more as I believe it fits with the idea of a lean code base and my current position doesn't allow me to use these practices as they use BUFD instead.

Another line would be that you wish to move up and you couldn't do that where you are now. For example, if the position you are applying for is a senior/intermediate and you are coming from an intermediate/junior position that you've held for a couple of years then you could claim that this is a progression for your career and your current employer passes you over despite your desire to be treated fairly. This can work if you can show some things you've learned but didn't feel you were rewarded for doing, e.g. learning design patterns on your own that your annual performance review gave lip service as a reward, that hollow, "Good job, but we can't give you a raise or bonus for that kind of thing, you know?"

0

It's okay to just be looking for a job that pays more. Free market and all that. Business people love that sort of thing, apparently.

0

I think the best option is to tell the truth. but never respond to something you've not been asked to answer. Pick one/two from the list given in the begining and make sure you have certain reasons to back up those statements else you might land yourself in trouble.

0

Tell them that you have a problem with your eyes: You can't see working there any more.