Relax, Job Seeker. Hiring Managers Understand.

Don't spend too much time crafting an explanation for why you're leaving your current job.

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Suzanne Lucas

I've been putting together my resume and begun to fill [out] applications. My current job has become way more demanding than was originally explained to me, and my manager has since admitted that she intentionally misrepresented the work load when she hired me. I'm fine with working longer hours, but I stated that I should be compensated appropriately for my work and despite several flawless reviews, my salary increase has been "under review" for two quarters. To add insult to injury, in the meantime, I was permitted to hire a direct report, who was hired at the exact same pay as myself. At this point, I can handle staying in my current position for as long as I need to but it just seems like there are too many uphill battles to fight with management for this to be a permanent job for me.

So, until now, every other job change I've had has been for some obvious reason (leaving school, relocating to a new area, end of contract, etc.) So, I don't know what to say when asked my reason for leaving my current company. I know that if I were interviewing a potential hire who told these stories, I might begin to wonder if they were a problem employee. At the very least, it would cause me to look harder at a few of the other applicants. I want to tell the truth, but I know there are better ways to communicate the truth.

You are assuming that people leave companies only when they're forced, for reasons such as the ones that you've listed. But people change jobs all the time, and for more minor things than you've listed.

You're right, however, that presenting your stories in an interview will not go over well. But, you don't need to do that. Instead of asking the question, "Why am I leaving?" Think, "Why am I applying to this job?"

Figure out why you want the job for which you're applying, and approach the question from that angle. That way, when the interviewer asks, "Why are you looking to leave Acme Corp?" You can respond, "I'm looking for X, Y and Z, which your company does very well." Explain how this job is a good fit for you. You turn the focus away from what is bad about your current company, toward what is good about the potential company. Keep in mind that this requires you to research and understand what the potential job is and what the company has to offer.

Honestly, any wise manager (and any wise recruiter) knows that the number one reason people leave jobs is their managers. They don't want to hear about that, though, so they won't push you on the issue.

Don't worry about it too much. We expect people to move around. Gone are the days where you get a job out of school and retire from that company 35 years later. Movement is normal and expected. You should be honest ("The workload increased without an increase in pay" but not, "my manager lied to me"), while keeping the focus on why you want the new job.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.