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« WHERE ARE THE GREAT COMPANIES? | Main | Fireside Chat with Alexandra Levit - Success for Hire »

July 24, 2008


I've heard the "No opportunity" one literally hundreds of times. I would definitely consider it a red flag answer as well. Those people generally dwell on having things handed to them and thing they are deserving without taking initiative and action themselves to make it happen. Not the kind of person I'm looking for, that is for sure!

How would you revise her answer to communicate that she has high standards but it not high maintenance?

On leaving for a new opportunity, that is one of the reasons I am looking for a new job. I am training to be a manager, however I don't want to be a manager at my current employer. In my interviews how should I communicate this point?

Richard - I think that the best answers focus on what they are moving toward (why they wanted to work for the new company) versus what was wrong with the old company.

I am fully aware that many people leave their jobs because they don't like working for a particular manager or they no longer enjoy the work culture.

As an interviewer, I want to weed out the people who seem to have repeated troubles with managers and workplaces. If the same thing happens over and over again, it is likely more a function of the person (the only constant) than it is the company.

If this is the only job on your resume that has this same reasoning for wanting to leave, you are likely fine. It's the patterns that give me the greatest pause.

That said, based on the details you put in the comment, I would ask why you don't want to manage at your current company and, if you are still learning, are you really qualified to manage at another company? This depends, of course, on the type of position you are applying for.

I get resumes all the time from people applying for VP and Director level jobs who are years away from being qualified.


What most concerns me about the "no opportunity" reasoning is when they use this and then make a career choice that is not moving them in the direction of their path. For example, if I have already asked her how she wants to grow and develop in the future, but then the career decision moved her in the opposite direction. This tells me that something else is going on or the individual does not make sound decisions.

It also tells me she was not a rock star. I have never known a work place that did not promote or develop their rock stars.

I would rather people be really open and honest. I am much more willing to invest time and energy in someone who appears coachable and has learned from her mistakes.

"if you are still learning, are you really qualified to manage at another company"
I never stop learning but I've learned enough to step up to manage. Another company will need to determine if I'm qualified based on my accomplishments. I don't want the VP or Director job. I am qualified to run a team of project managers, additionally I lead and manage other business and civic endeavors outside of day job.

"I would ask why you don't want to manage at your current company"
I don't wish to manage here because I don't agree with the mgt culture. Placement and advancement in the mgt ranks is based on working the corporate system not providing value. I have been told, by my mgr, that perception is more important than results. Our culture is focused on micro-management and somewhat adversarial. We have over 150 SOP's created as how to do your job, including how to leave an out of office reply on your voicemail and email. A typical manager will spend 3/4 of their time in various meetings and evenings catching up on email. I also have some ethical concerns as how certain decisions have been made at the senior mgt level.
This is a brief summary but essentially we have a VP who thinks he is a king and we are his servants to build his empire.

This is a fortune 100 company that is constantly rated as one of the best places to work.

Well Richard, these all sound like pretty valid reasons to want to change companies, but I assume you would not go into this in an interview (please don't, for your sake). Here's why. During an interview with a new company, the interviewer will not know you. He or she will not know whether the problem is really the culture or if you are not a team player. Avoid planting this question in the interviewer's mind by focusing on why you want to work in the new company, not why you DON'T like working in the old.

Yes, we are always learning, that is why my blog is called Management Craft. I thought from your first comment that you were in a management training program (in other words, had not yet managed) and certainly meant no offense.

Micromanagement is the number one reason I hear from people about why they want to leave a company, by the way. So the question is, how will you know if the new company will be any better? This is where personal networks are invaluable, to get the skinny on places before you make a mistake.

Would you like to know one of the most important of all job interview tips? The interview questions to ask the employer! This is another major consideration that many job seekers fail to properly plan for. Preparing for job interviews without asking the interviewer the appropriate questions tell him/her getting the job is not important. Another serious mistake job seekers make is assuming the interviewer is competent or properly trained in how to conduct job interviews!

The writer of this article notwithstanding, as a mediator of employment issues I have seen numerous cases where what has been consistent is the inconsistency of job interview questions. Job seekers should understand where the person doing the interview was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He or she had little or no experience and had not been adequately trained.

Job interviewers routinely ask illegal or improper questions either out of ignorance or deliberately with the intent to discriminate against certain groups. That makes learning to give good job interview answers and asking good job interview questions so important. The questions asked at job interviews often hide what the job interviewer really wants or needs to know! What is the interviewer’s most wanted response? Is the interviewer sure of what the want or need to know? One of the things in the job interview process for the applicant involves discovering what that is. As a job seeker, why am I being asked these interview questions?

For example, the interviewer asks, “Have you had challenges working in various cultural workplace settings?” From my experience, here is what the job interviewer is really asking. “Have you had trouble dealing with different racial groups?” When preparing for a job interview spend time investigating the business. You should learn about the company’s history and what it does for the industry. Review the company’s website and its about us page. I would be looking at how well it treated its employees with things like salaries, benefits and promotional opportunities. Ask the interviewer questions such as:

“What are the company’s goals?”
“Where does the company see itself in five, ten years?”
“Why is the company a good fit for you?”
“Why will the company be a good fit for me?”

Try to find out how well the company is doing financially. It would be to the job interviewee’s advantage to know if the company is going to be around for a while. You could do some research with the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau. I would make inquiries with local, state and federal consumer advocacy groups for any complaints filed against the employer.

Is it on the verge of layoffs that could include the position applied for?
Is the business going to be sold in the near future?
Are their any bankruptcy issues?
Does the organization have a history of employment complaints on file with state and federal agencies?
Are there any employees that you know personally, who could give some insight into the “culture” of the organization and its management?

Interviewees are not just interviewing to get a job; they should interview the company and job to get them!

It is true job seekers should educate themselves about what topics to stay away from or how to frame a response to an interview question. It is just as true that the interviewer(s) be aware of “What NOT to say during a job interview” as well.

"It also tells me she was not a rock star. I have never known a work place that did not promote or develop their rock stars."

I've known plenty of places that have failed to promote 'rock stars'. Sometimes it's politics but usually it's down to a quite simple fact, they're a small to medium sized company and there's no vacancies at the level they'd promote that person to and no realistic opportunity to create a vacancy.

In big companies it's fairly easy to promote rock stars as the sheer scale means that at any time there will be a number vacancies at most levels. When someone is ready to move up you just have to wait a couple of months and there will probably be something suitable coming up somewhere in the organisation. They might have to move business units but the opportunity will be there. In a small to medium sized company (say 30 to 70 employees, there are a lot of companies in this range) there might be plenty of turnover in the bottom echelon but it might be years between vacancies in the managerial levels.


Stephen - I hear what you are saying and I am sure you are right about your observations. They don't match mine, however. I work with a lot of TINY companies, in addition to the big organizations. Some of these companies have just 20 people total. And if they had a rock star, they would develop and grow this person - in some way.

And by the way, just because someone says "no chance for advancement" once on an application, it does not mean I write him or her off. But I do ask more questions to better understand if the reason they have not grown is due to a lack of opportunity or something having to do with their lack of initiative or commitment to growth.

Great comments, thanks so much!

Doesn't use this word "yes sir/Madam" again and again at the time of interview.

Thanks for nice post!
The information, that you have provided on the 'What NOT to say during a job interview.' is totally make sense to us. It was really very interesting to read the article.
I have gone through many blogs, sites and forums which been providing great knowledge about the same, as like recently i was reading something about Interview Question on the information that shared here is also great.
I appreciate your work for this post, sure I'll come across your blog again when you will share something new.

This is great information. There are all these sites about how to act and how to dress but I've never seen one like this, which actually tells you what to avoid saying. Thanks!

This is great. So many sites out there that tell you do's and don'ts but never what actually NOT to say.

The red flag answers you gave should make things clear when the interview goes to this direction about the previous jobs. Like everything else, a job-seeker should be prepared to be asked with these kinds of questions. It's good that you shared the reason why you generally ask about leaving the previous jobs. Preparing for a job interview indeed takes more than just dressing good and making sure that you've got a pearly white smile.

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