The Why Around Job Changes in Interviews

One of the most common problems I see when team members interview job candidates is related to questions about jobs in the past. The typical interview goes like this:

  • Interviewer: I see you worked at IBM. Tell me what you did there?
  • Candidate: I was a software engineer on the web services team. My responsibility was around web performance management and ensuring that we met the service level agreements.
  • Interviewer: Great. Next you worked at What was that like and what did you do there?
  • Candidate: Definitely. Let me tell you about my experience…

One of the most important questions to ask is “why did you change companies and what was the decision making process for that change?” Asking the “why” question opens up tremendous insight into how the person thinks, what went well or not well at the employer, what they were looking for in the new company that they didn’t get out of the previous company, and so much more. Understanding how someone thinks and evaluates major life decisions is critical in assessing their fit as a potential team member (see Topgrading Interviews in a Startup).

The next time you’re interviewing a candidate, ask the “why” question about job changes.

What else? What are some more thoughts around the “why” for job changes during interviews?

One thought on “The Why Around Job Changes in Interviews

  1. I love the “why” aspect of how people made decisions. I actually have them take me all the way back to high school and ask where they went to college, how they decided to pick that school over other options, and then continue through to their most recent job. Very insightful to see if someone is goal oriented and had real thought behind their progression, or they they are just floating from one thing to the next. Any one decision won’t discredit someone, but you’ll likely uncover a pattern than you either like or don’t like.

    It’s also amazing what people will end up revealing you when you just give them an opportunity to open up – sometimes bad and sometimes amazing and inspirational.

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