Dear Matt: How should I respond when applying online or asked this question in an interview: Why are you looking to leave your current position? What type of answer are they looking for and what are they trying to find out? What is the best thing to say?

Matt: They are looking for an answer that will show them that you want a new job for the right reasons - growth, opportunity, challenge - and are trying to find out if you are a good match for their company. That's the feedback I got from discussing this with three different Twin Cities recruiters and human resources professionals.

On an application, it's important to keep responses short, simple and positive, such as saying:

Looking for growth opportunity.

Would like additional management responsibility.

If you have been laid off, simply state `laid off" instead of `employer lost major account and cut 15 percent of workforce.'

Hiring managers are trying to discover patterns, says Elizabeth Laukka, recruiting manager with COLLE+McVOY of Minneapolis. Have you left most of your companies due to your dissatisfaction with leadership or team members? Are the reasons based more on poor co-worker or manager relationships, or the inability to progress in your career?

One thing is certain, be positive in your response. Negative comments always reflect poorly on the person making them, and dishonest responses are usually revealed in the course of an interview, through reference checks or referrals, says Patrick Foss, CEO of Minnetonka-based ThinkTalent, www.thinktalent.net.

"Your ability to articulate what you're looking for in the new position and how it differs from your current or previous role can be a key indicator in your likelihood to stick around for the new opportunity," says Foss.

Remember that in an actual interview, the response you give will probably be followed up by an even more probing question, so it is even more critical that you be prepared, says Carole Arndt of St. Paul-based The Human Resource EDGE, Inc., www.humanresourceedge.com.

"In an interview your response should be genuine, yet you do not want to appear frustrated, desperate, negative or bad-mouth your current employer, boss, or co-workers," says Arndt.

Before answering the question in an application or interview, be confident you are really seeking a new job for all the right reasons.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.