During a job interview, it’s common for the interviewer to ask why you’re looking for a new job.
The company’s goal is to hire somebody who is qualified and capable of doing the work at a high level. This much should be obvious.
However, the company also wants to be sure it hires someone motivated, someone who will stay with the company for the long haul. It costs a lot of time and money to hire and train new employees. Because of this, most employers consider it a failure if a hire leaves a full-time, permanent position within the first year.
Employers will look at why you left/are leaving your previous role for clues as to whether or not you will be a good, long-term fit for this new role. Some of the questions they’re likely to ask include:
- Why are you job searching right now?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What are you looking for in your next role?
How to Explain Why You’re Job Searching Now
When asked questions like the three above, you should try to communicate a few key things to put the interviewer’s mind at ease.
First, you want show them you’ve put thought into your job search. Make it clear that you are looking for the right job, not just any job.
Next, show them you’ve researched the position. Highlight how the role aligns with your own career goals. If you’re interviewing for an HR job, but you tell the interviewer all the other roles for which you’ve applied are in sales, they’re going to wonder whether you really want to work in HR — unless you explain your reasoning very clearly.
Finally, show them you’re motivated and ready for a challenge, not just looking for an easy paycheck. Employers want to hire somebody who genuinely wants to do the work. We all go to work to get paid. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a good interview answer. Always be prepared to talk about what will motivate you to come to work each day aside from money.
Now that you know what the interviewer is hoping to hear, let’s look at what some good answers to the example questions from earlier in this article might sound like:
1. Why Are You Job Searching Right Now?
Example answer if you’re actively searching:
“I have been actively looking for work since being laid off three months ago. I’m looking for an opportunity to develop my skills in customer service and project management further, like I was doing in my previous role.”
Example answer if you’re passively searching:
“I’m not actively looking for jobs right now, but when your recruiter contacted me, they mentioned an opportunity to build a new team in your organization. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for the past few years, and I’m a big fan of your company’s products, so I was eager to find out more about the opportunity. It seems like it could be a great next step in my career.”
2. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Example answer if you resigned:
“I had spent three years in my last company and felt it was time for a change. It was proving difficult to search for a job while working full-time, so I decided to resign and focus on my job search. My priority is to find a position where I can continue developing mobile apps for the finance industry. Your position offers a great combination of hands-on app development work and project management experience, so it seems like a great next step in my career.”
Example answer if you were laid off:
“My company went through some downsizing three months ago, and I was laid off. I’m actively job searching right now and looking for a position that will let me continue to build my skills in web design. I’ve been aware of your firm’s great reputation for many years, and when I saw you post this position, I was eager to learn more about it.”
There are a lot of reasons you can give as to why you left your last job, but the important thing is to be clear and direct. Never badmouth your previous employer. Don’t dwell on why you’re leaving. Instead, quickly transition to talking about what you want to do next and why this particular job caught your eye.
3. What Are You Looking for in Your Next Role?
“I’m looking for an opportunity to work more closely with clients and to start managing projects. I feel I’ve developed a great understanding of the basics of customer service and client support in my most recent position, and I want to keep building on that. Your job description mentions these are some of the key responsibilities in this role, so I was eager to learn more about the opportunity.”
When answering this question, always be ready to name specific things you’re hoping to find in your next job — responsibilities, opportunities, challenges, a certain type of product you’re eager to work with, etc.
Make sure the things you mention are offered in the position you’re interviewing for. You don’t want to say you’re looking for an opportunity to lead and manage people if you’ve applied for an individual contributor role with no chance to lead in the near future.
If you follow these tips, you’ll quickly impress any employer. From there, you can move on to demonstrating your qualifications and convincing the hiring manager to offer you the job.
Biron Clark is an executive recruiter, career coach, and founder of careersidekick.com.