Q&A – Why Are You Looking?

Carol B. asked me, “I’m pretty happy where I’m working, but I look at new jobs occasionally. I get stumped when asked ‘why are you looking for a new job?’ I feel like I don’t have a great answer… how do you answer this question?” Great question, Carol B.! “Why are you looking?”, is a pretty common interview question, and one that people should be prepared for. If you are gainfully employed and interviewing for another job, it’s really important to handle this question the right way.

Whenever answering any interview question, it’s a good idea to consider the intent of the question. Why are you looking? is a question focused on uncovering a reason that is compelling for the potential employer, and to eliminate people who might be looking for the “wrong reasons”. Some good reasons as to why are you looking include:

More Challenging Role – pick out specific aspects of the new potential job that are broader than your current role, will help you gain more experience, and present learning opportunities. Seeking a more challenging role is a great reason to move jobs.

Better Company – don’t be too negative about your current employer, but cite reasons why the potential employer might be a better company. Perhaps your current employer lost major clients and is making cuts. The new employer might be growing much more rapidly and expanding their business while your current employer is stagnant.

Location – the commute to work can be a very legitimate factor when considering a job move. A new role that is good for your career and saves you substantial commute time is definitely a valid reason.

Structural Changes – if there are things happening at your company outside of your control, or life factors that might lead to a job change, you should mention them. For example, your company is planning to move offices out of the area. Perhaps you are getting engaged/married and your significant other is moving out of state. Maybe you are having a family and settling in an area outside your current geography.

One or more of the above types of answers are great ways to approach the “why are you looking” question. Topics to avoid would be money (we’ll cover how to handle that in a later post), personal problems with colleagues, or being too vague or general. You should be prepared for this question with a good answer that is tailored to the specific opportunity where you are interviewing.