How to answer the interview question “Why are you looking for a new role?”

This is day one of 31 interview questions in 31 days. If you are wondering what this is all about check out yesterday’s post, 31 Interview Questions in 31 Days, detailing my plan for the next month. Today we will start with a question you will be asked virtually every time you interview, why are you looking for a new role? This one is first up so let’s tackle it!

In just about every interview you ever take, you will be asked why you are looking for a new role. In every corporate interview, I have ever conducted it has been on my interview form. Every head hunting call I have ever made, if the conversation progressed, I would ask why they are interested in entertaining a new opportunity. The fact of the matter is if you ever plan on interviewing again, odds are you will need to answer this question.

So, let’s start with why. Why do recruiters and hiring manages alike ask this question? The reason is that there are good and bad ways to answer. An example of a good way to answer it is, “Well I am not actively looking, but I have always admired your company and the description for the role sounds exciting”. They might push further because the assumption is that if you are willing to leave then something must be wrong, but generally speaking, that is a good way to answer that question.

An example of a bad way to answer the questions is, “Um, I don’t know, I just wanted to see what else is out there”. That answer is bad because it doesn’t inspire confidence in your desire to ultimately take the job. From a recruiter perspective, it is just really important to know the candidate’s motivation. If they let you know they are looking for a new role because they don’t see any realistic way to move up within their current organization, it’s something you want to emphasize your company having, assuming that’s the case. Also, if you ever find that candidate accepting your offer and then receiving a counter offer, it’s important to be able to remind them exactly why they were looking in the first place. Does that counter offer you were just extended solve your original reasons for looking for employment elsewhere?

So, let’s talk about answering this question. Let’s assume you are already employed, because if you are unemployed then answering this question is much more straight forward, you are looking for a new job. So, start by establishing leverage, “I am actually not really looking, I am quite happy where I currently am, I just so happen to stumble upon this position and it really intrigued me”. By answering the question in this manner, you let them know that you aren’t desperate, you would be perfectly fine going back to your current job if this doesn’t work out and that if they really want you they are going to have to bring it.

There is a possibility they will push further and try to get a deeper answer. They might say something like, “well sure but there must be some reason why you are entertaining other opportunities”. I like responding to that question by saying something along the lines of while you really enjoy your current role, you don’t see a lot of future growth, development opportunities or ways for you to expand the scope of your work. This gives them the additional “why” they are looking for while also positioning you as someone who seeks development.

You must avoid sounding like you don’t care about this role and are doing it for kicks. That is the wrong way to establish leverage. You also must avoid saying negative things about your current employer. They may all be true but you will come off as difficult to work with. There you have it. If you do those things you will have done a great job answering that question. Tomorrow we will tackle the question likely to come up next, “why are you interested in this role?” So, come back and find out the secret to answering that question. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about a great opportunity!

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