Written by: Ben White
Some of you are probably wondering “ why does my reasoning for looking for a new job matter? I am looking and I have the necessary skills, what more is there to it.” I would counter by saying while that is totally fair, that is tackling the question solely from your perspective. While the “why” might not matter to you, it matters a ton to us. By us I mean recruiters and hiring managers. The reason it matters to us is because this one question can tell us so much about you as a candidate and as a potential employee. If you read my article on how not to answer this question, I take a deeper look at the bad conclusions employers are able to reach just through this one question alone.
The first thing is are you looking for a good reason. That is important to me because if you reason for looking isn’t strong that increases the likelihood that something will go wrong later in the process. For example, if you reason for looking is you want more money, you might receive a counter offer from your current employer and you might accept that. If your motivation for looking is that you “Just wanted to see what is out there” I will end up drawing many conclusion, none of them particularly good. Just looking to see what is out there, well that hardly motivation to leave your current job (it’s not an easy thing, people are typically change averse). What if we make an offer and you were “just looking” all along and turn down the offer? Were you just woefully unprepared to answer this question? Who doesn’t prepare for an interview? Did you not prepare because you don’t value this opportunity? What kind of employee makes decision, just because? The best candidates have strong reasons for looking that are non-negotiable. The bad answers fall into two categories in my opinion. They either make it appear like something might go wrong down the road if we are able to get to the point of offer or they make you look like the type of candidate who we won’t want to make an offer to anyway. Both of those conclusion have one big thing in common, time. As a recruiter time is crucially important. We are measured by how long our roles are open so filling them as quickly and efficiently as possible will always carry some gravity. If aren’t a good candidate, then having the interview itself is a waste. Even worse, if you have a bad reason for looking and you end up getting to the offer but you turn it down we have wasted a ton of time. Not only will it be disappointing to our hiring managers to lose out to someone they wanted but now it’s highly likely we need to start the search over (assuming we don’t have a second place candidate). So, now that I have hopefully convinced you why getting this right is so important lets go over three examples on how you can do just that.
- I have always admired your company
Saying that you are interested in applying for a role because of your admiration for the company is a very solid option in my opinion. It kind of goes without saying that if this is the approach you choose to take you should have a solid knowledge of the organization (if you are taking the time to apply to a company I hope this would be the case already). Imagine saying that is your reason for applying and then being asked for specifics only to fumble over some obvious talking points, illustrating your lack of preparedness. That is obviously not the way to go. So if you choose this approach, do your due diligence and when you answer have some passion in your voice. There is no substitute for being prepared and being passionate.
- I don’t foresee the growth I desire at my current company
This is another answer that works best if it is absolutely true. However if it is true it is an absolutely great way to answer the question for several reasons. The first is it shows that you are interested in advancing in your career. There managers who want someone to fill their role and not leave for 20 years, it’s true, they exist. However most hiring managers want candidates with ambition, passion and goals. When you say you wouldn’t be looking however your company isn’t able to provide you with the growth you desire you give off the impression that you are goal oriented and high potential, what hiring manager doesn’t want to see that? Another component of this answer that is often overlooked is it gives you the chance to speak highly of your current company. I am sure many of you are thinking “Wait, why does that matter?” Well it matters for three reasons. The first being it allows you to showcase a positive attitude, which is important. Negative people are not fun to work with, showing you are positive is always a good thing. The second is it’s the opposite of speaking negative. If I was going to put together a ten interview commandment post (oooh, great idea, coming soon) one of those ten commandments would be to never speak poorly about a past employer. It doesn’t make people feel sorry for you, it makes you appear difficult. Lastly it starts your positioning for negotiation. One of the most important things you can do in negotiation is be negotiating from a position of power. If you speak highly of your current company, saying things like “I wouldn’t be looking if it was for ABC because I really enjoy working here” it lets them know that approaching you with a weak offer would be a waste of everyone’s time. Have you ever accepted a position with a company because you desperately needed a job? If so, how empowered were you to counter their offer when it came time? My guess is not very. By letting them know that there isn’t a lot of urgency behind you exploring opportunities you are positioning yourself to not only receive a stronger offer but to be able to negotiate, should you choose to do so, from a position of power.
- The job description fits my interests and skills perfectly
This is another excellent way to answer this question. Most job descriptions are written with the intent of solving a problem. When a job description says needs someone with 5 years’ experience in project management, preferably leading cross functional teams, the company is telling you a pain point of theirs. They are letting you know exactly what hurts and what they anticipate will fix their issue. So when you specifically say you are interested in applying to this job because the description is a great fit for your education and experience you are telling them that you are the answer to their problem. If you choose this approach make sure you read the job description and are prepared to speak as to why you are a good fit (also, you should be prepared to do this anyway). A pro-tip here would be to print out the job description and write down an example of a time when you did that type of work by both the job duties and qualifications. I like to write down examples so that when I am asked about my experience it is concise and directly applicable. I have always been a big fan of this answer. Not only is it a valid reason for applying for a job but it’s a 1-2 punch, showcasing why you are a perfect match based on experience.
Bonus note: Now, if you use techniques 1 or 3, on occasion a recruiter or hiring manager will say something like “ok, well I see why you are interested but why are you looking in the first place?” To their defense, technically this is true. Sure, you might be the perfect fit for the role, but what motivated you to go to indeed and look in the first place. I personally answer this by saying something like “I am not actively looking for a role. I am actually very happy with my current role but I always keep my eyes open for good opportunities because you never know when the perfect role might become available”. To me it’s a great point. I shows that you are happy where you are (setting you up to negotiate from a position of power), that you are someone who understands the value of staying prepared and perhaps most importantly. Should satisfy their desire of getting to the bottom of why you are looking.
Well there you have it. I know that was a big post to be dedicated to a single question but believe me when I say that question carries a lot of weight. There are right ways and wrong ways to answer every question. To me these are 3 excellent ways to answer the question “why are you looking for a new role?”. Executed properly each of these answers should help you pass this stage of the interview with flying colors and set you up for success later on in the process. Which is your favorite? Feel free to comment below and as always, thanks for reading!