During an interview, you may be asked, “Why are you looking for a new job?” In your answer, interviewers are looking for a few key pieces of information. They are probably curious about how much thought you’ve put into starting your job search, why this specific job opportunity is appealing to you and what you’re looking for in your next position.
Potential employers can learn a lot about you and whether you’re a good fit from your answer to this question, so it’s smart to plan your response in advance. They will be listening for any red flags that may come up. For example, how do you handle conflict resolution? Are you likely to leave shortly after you’re hired? How have you contributed to the situation you’re looking to leave? In particular, they may become concerned if you say negative things about your former employer, wondering if you would, in turn, also say negative things about them one day.
To make a good impression, focus on the positive reasons for why you’re leaving your current job and looking for something new. This is a great opportunity to emphasize your skills and abilities, and why you’re looking for a situation where you can use and improve them.
Related: How to Ace Your Final Interview
Example reasons you may be looking for a job
Let’s look at an example of a good answer to this question, and how to use it to approach your own answer in an interview:
“I’ve been refining my project management skills with volunteer opportunities and side projects, and I received my PMP last quarter. I’m looking for an opportunity where I can put those abilities to work for a mission I’m passionate about. I was also excited to read in the job description that this role will require regular presentations to key stakeholders—one of my key motivators is the ability to connect with colleagues and communicate my team’s work, so this is an especially exciting part of this opportunity. Ultimately, I’ve learned a lot in my current role, but I’m looking for the next step where I can continue to grow and use the skills I’ve honed at a company I love, and this opportunity seems to be a great fit.”
This is a good answer for several reasons. Here are some insights to help you understand what a good answer would look like for you:
Focus on your skills. In the example, the candidate opens their answer by mentioning skills and abilities. This can be a good opportunity to talk about what differentiates you from other candidates. This includes any extra work you’ve done, projects you’re proud of or even extra education you’ve completed that shows the value you’ll bring to their team:
“I’ve been refining my project management skills with volunteer opportunities and side projects with other teams, and I received my PMP last quarter.
Give a positive answer. In the example, the candidate connects their skills into a direct answer to the question. This is a more positive way of saying that their current company’s mission might not resonate with them or that they might not be finding opportunities to do the work they want to. Whatever your reason for looking for a job, apply the same principle by positioning your response into a positive and opportunity-driven statement:
“I’m looking for an opportunity where I can put those abilities to work for a mission I’m passionate about.”
Connect your answer to the job. The candidate then moves on to explain why the position they’re interviewing for is right fit for their next career move:
“I was also excited to read in the job description that this role will require regular presentations to key stakeholders—one of my key motivators is the ability to connect with colleagues and communicate my team’s work, so this is an especially exciting part of this opportunity.”
This is where researching the job description and company can help you craft an answer that your interviewers will appreciate. Recalling specifics about the job description or company from your research provides an opening for you to address how your skills and background make you the right person for the job. Think about the question, “What are you looking for in a job?” Then find the overlap in what the employer is looking for in a candidate, and bridge that gap with your answer.
Related: Interview Question: “Tell Me About Yourself”
Provide a recap. If your answer is long, it might be appropriate to give a quick summary at the end. In our example, the candidate quickly and positively mentions their current job, gives a high-level recap of what they want in their next job, and establishes that the job they’re interviewing for fits into that plan:
“Ultimately, I’ve learned a lot in my current role, but I’m looking for the next step where I can continue to grow and use the skills I’ve honed to contribute to a company I love, and this opportunity seems to be the perfect fit.”
Here are a few more examples for reference as you begin planning your answer to this question:
Example 1: Data Analyst
“My current role is focused on data analytics, but I’ve learned what I enjoy most and what sees the most results is my ability to turn the data into strategic stories. I’ve been searching for an opportunity where I can provide strategic insights for high-growth accounts. I’m most excited when I see how my work has affected the bottom line, so I was thrilled to read that you’re looking for someone who thrives in a sales environment. This opportunity seems like a perfect fit to use my data strategy background in a more sales-oriented environment.”
Example 2: Critical Care Nurse
“I’ve enjoyed learning from my mentors and growing through the ranks at my current hospital. I want to use my strengths in building patient relationships and providing complex care in an innovative environment. This hospital has a reputation for challenging the way healthcare approaches problem-solving, and I’m excited at the prospect of having a hand in that. I also understand that your ICU is one of the most renowned for treating advanced cases, and believe my background in specialized treatment positions me well to be successful on the team.”
Example 3: Merchandiser
“I’m looking for a position where I can build on my successes representing and promoting the store brand for a company I love and where I have the opportunity to build a team. Being a team lead in my current role has shown me how much I truly love serving my colleagues, so I was excited to learn that this position has a heavy focus on management growth and training. I love your company’s mission to revolutionize the consumer goods space, and I can’t think of a more suited position for my background to bring value to the company.”
As you begin to think through your own answer to the question, keep the interviewer in mind. When asking why you’re looking for a job, the interviewer probably wants to learn about your relevant aspirations and what makes the open position a good fit for your background. Use this as an opportunity to highlight your skills and explain why this position is what you’ve been looking for. Most importantly, stay positive throughout.