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Are You Ready to Bow Out?
Be Prepared to Answer Why

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, September 14, 2007 8:00 PM

Applicants look for new employment for many reasons. Perhaps one of the most common is lack of job satisfaction.

When interviewing, however, should you be honest with a hiring manager when asked why you want to leave your current job? Or more importantly, should you allow them to contact your boss before an offer has been made?

That is what one worker, who's ready for a change, wants to know:

I always freeze up with these questions: "Why are you considering leaving your current job?" and "Can we contact your current employer?"

How should I respond? I don't want to jeopardize my current job by letting my boss know that I'm looking for another job because I'm unhappy.

Before quitting, says Jim Gray, president of Charleston, S.C.-based human resources consulting firm Jim Gray Consultants, determine whether you're can work things out with your current employer. "You shouldn't take lightly what you have for what might not be a better opportunity," he advises.

If after careful consideration the worker is still adamant about quitting, he should be prepared for his manager to ask "Why are you leaving?" when breaking the news about his departure.

Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of the job, Gray recommends the worker talk about where he sees his career and the opportunities the new company holds. During this time, he should mention the types of challenges and growth options he expects. Gray warns, however, not to mention a salary increase as the sole motivator behind the job change.

Workers should only raise concerns (salary-related or otherwise) if they feel it's relevant. For example, if the company is suffering financially, says Gray, it is obvious why an employee would want to leave. "Most people don't want to be tied to a company that's losing credibility," he adds. And the applicant can simply say to a hiring manager that he thinks now is a good time to explore the marketplace.

Until a new offer comes, however, Grays suggests the worker respond to an interviewer when asked about contacting his current employer by saying, "I would prefer you not to contact my employer because it would jeopardize my continued employment should you decide not to hire me."

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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