If you’re looking for a new position or trying to change jobs, employers are going to ask why!
And if you don’t have a convincing answer, it could cost you the opportunity.
So in this article, I’ll walk you through the following:
Employers ask this job interview question to make sure you didn’t cause problems at your last company, and to understand your goals so they can hire someone who will be a good long-term fit for the role!
They’d ideally like to find someone who is looking for career advancement and/or is genuinely interested in their company and position.
Note that employers might phrase this question in slightly different ways, too, including:
You can answer all of these questions in the same way, and coming up, you’re going to learn how.
While there isn’t one single “correct” answer to why you’re job searching right now, you do need to be ready to give a clear explanation. This isn’t a question where you want to hesitate or draw a blank.
Next, let’s look at how to answer, and I’ll also give you a list of acceptable reasons that you can provide when answering this question!
When explaining why you’re looking for a new position, be direct and upfront.
You should state your response in a very clear, matter-of-fact way, and don’t try to dodge the question!
However, don’t stress out and act like this question is a big deal. The goal is to answer quickly and then move on with the conversation!
Don’t panic and don’t be apologetic. It’s normal to search for jobs, whether you were recently laid off or are simply looking for a better opportunity while still employed. There’s nothing to apologize for. The interviewer simply wants to know your story.
Next, I’ll share a list of good reasons you can use to explain why you’re job searching! These aren’t the only acceptable answers, but hopefully, this gives you some idea of the wide range of answers you can use.
You should usually be honest about why you’re searching for new opportunities, but there are times where it may be better to omit a fact or two.
If you’re currently employed, it’s best to sound like you’re making a change for career-related reasons (such as wanting to take a step up in your career) or for unavoidable personal circumstances (like your spouse or partner finding a new job in a different state and you needing to do the same).
An example of an answer that I wouldn’t want to hear as an employer is, “This job is 10 minutes from my home and I’d love to have a shorter commute. I’m sick of commuting.”
This answer might be the truth. It’s something I would have done in my past years! I hated commuting. So I get it!
But this response isn’t going to help you get the job offer in most cases. It’s better to sound like you’re leaving your job in order to grow professionally.
You can still mention your commute length as one reason, especially if it’s extremely long right now, but it’s best to mention one or two career-related factors as well (you’ll see this in the example answers coming up!)
The biggest mistake to avoid when answering this question is badmouthing a former boss, coworker, or employer. Never do this!
It doesn’t matter if you were laid off, fired, or currently work for the company! It’s always best to sound positive when you explain why you’re looking for a change or a new opportunity.
If you complain about another employer in your interview, the hiring manager is just going to wonder if you were part of the problem, since they haven’t heard the other side of the story!
I experienced this many times as a recruiter. I’d listen to a candidate complain and badmouth, and it wasn’t attractive at all! If anything, it just made me wonder what the employer would say about them!
If you’re employed right now, don’t badmouth your current job or company, either.
One trick you can use to avoid badmouthing is to focus on talking about what you hope to gain in your current job search, instead of talking about what you’re looking to get away from.
For example, imagine your last position was very chaotic and stressful and the company laid you off because of financial struggles. You’d want to explain what happened, but then instead of talking about how awful it was to work there, talk about what you’re looking for in a new job, and why this next company seems attractive to you.
This is exactly how I recommend answering, “Why did you leave your last company?” too! The less you can badmouth, the better!
Now let’s look at some full sample answers so you can see how this sounds in real-world scenarios…
30% of my department was laid off and I was a part of that. I enjoyed the role and learned a lot, but the company had struggled financially for the entire time I was there. I’m hoping to find a company that’s in a better financial position so that I can continue learning and growing as a Staff Accountant and take on more responsibilities over time. One other thing that attracted me to your role was the industry that you’re in. I’ve always been passionate about the travel industry and am an avid traveler myself!
My current role is going well, but I’ve been at the company for six years, and I think it’s time to experience another organization in order to expose myself to new challenges and keep growing professionally. I’ve known about your organization for many years since we’re in the same industry, and I’ve always liked your line of products. I also read some fantastic reviews from current employees online.
Notice how in both of these answer examples above, I’m concluding by explaining why their job and company interested me. This is a great idea because it shows them that you have specific reasons for wanting to work for them.
Hiring managers always prefer someone who’s excited about their job and company, rather than someone who seems like they just want any job they can find.
So even if the interviewer doesn’t directly ask, “Why are you applying for this position?” it’s often a good idea to explain your reasons and show that you’ve done your research!
My family is relocating to the Chicago area for my wife’s job, so I’m looking to find the next step in my career here in Chicago, too.
I’m looking to change jobs because my family had to relocate for personal reasons and my commute is now 90 minutes each way. I’m hoping to find a position that’s closer to my home while also providing a great next step in my career. I saw that your job description mentions the opportunity to manage client projects with budgets of millions of dollars. That’s something that excited me a lot. I’ve managed 12 projects for my current employer this past quarter, with a total budget of $900,000, so I thought this could be a great potential fit!
I’ve enjoyed my current company but we’re going through big changes right now. Both of my bosses and the person who recruited me into the company have left the organization, and I feel that it’s a good time for me to look to make a transition as well if I’m able to find the right opportunity.
I wasn’t actively job searching, but a recruiter contacted me and your role sounded like an interesting opportunity. The story they told me about your company’s history and recent growth caught my attention, so I was hoping to learn more.
One situation not covered in the sample answers above is being fired for performance issues or misconduct. If you were fired and need help explaining it, read this article.
Also, as you can see from the examples above, there isn’t one “right” formula for how long your answer needs to be. Your answer can be quite long, but can also be one to two sentences. Use your best judgement when deciding what to say (and not say).
There are many reasons to be looking for work and there isn’t one single correct answer when interviewers ask, “Why are you looking for a new job?”
Use the steps and example answers above to decide ahead of time what you’re going to say, and practice so that you don’t hesitate or fumble.
Your answer doesn’t need to be long-winded, and you don’t need to explain every single reason, but you do need to give some type of clear explanation. And if you’re unemployed, the hiring manager will want to know the reason for that, too.
Address the question head-on with a clear answer that remains positive and never badmouths and you’ll impress the interviewer and be one step closer to landing the job!
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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