Home / Interview Questions / What Are You Looking For in a New Position?

What Are You Looking For in a New Position?

Some interview questions are tricky to navigate. They leave you wondering whether the interviewer wants a straightforward answer, or is giving you a test to see how you respond. “What are you looking for in a new position” is one of those questions. 

There are a few approaches to answering this question, depending on the interviewer’s attitude and how the conversation is flowing. You’ll need to make a judgment call in the moment to determine the best strategy, which means having several different responses to choose from going in.

Start by doing your homework on the company. Understand its goals, culture, and the specifics of the role you’re applying for. Then, reflect on your career aspirations, motivations, and what you genuinely want in your next job.

Why do interviewers ask what you’re looking for in a job?

The first reason is straightforward: they want to learn about your motivations and see if they align with this position and company. 

Both you and the hiring manager are presumably looking for a relationship that’s going to be a positive, long-term one, so your answer will help them understand if the job is going to utilize your skills, engage you, and provide the opportunities you’re looking for. All of these are key to hiring for longevity.

The second reason interviewers ask what you’re looking for from a job is more surreptitious: they’re digging to find out why you’re job-searching. Are you looking to escape a negative experience? Are you difficult to work with? Are you being pushed out? Your answer can give them subtle clues that may influence their opinion of you. 

While you may believe it’s not the interviewer’s business to know the details of why you’re on the job market, it won’t stop the question from being asked. You can’t stop it from happening, but you have control over what you say. And, perhaps more importantly, what you choose to keep to yourself.

What interviewers are looking for when they ask what you want from the position

In addition to learning more about why you’re leaving your current job, they’re really looking to uncover several key things about you as a candidate. Employers want to feel like you’ve chosen to apply specifically because their job or company interests you, so you’ll want to consider this when formulating your answer. Here’s the breakdown of what they’re looking for:

Alignment with company goals

Remember, they’re not just filling a position; they’re looking to add value to their team. They want to know if your career aspirations fit with the company’s direction and how you can contribute to their long-term success.

Motivation and passion

It’s all about the drive. Interviewers can sense when someone is genuinely enthusiastic about the role and the company. Expressing excitement about the opportunity shows you’re likely to be an engaged and motivated employee.

Cultural fit

Companies aren’t just collections of products or services; they’re communities. Interviewers want to see if you’ll mesh well with the team and the company vibe.

Growth and development

Interviewers want to learn about your larger career ambitions. If you have a vision for where you see yourself five or ten years down the road, explain how this position fits into that path and why you think it will help you achieve your professional goals. 

Contribution beyond the job description

Lastly, hiring managers inherently want someone who’s willing and able to put in more than minimal effort. There are many ways to achieve this, such as leadership, innovation, or community involvement.

How to answer the interview question “What are you looking for in a new position?”

Be authentic

Whether you’re looking for a higher salary, greater flexibility, more advancement opportunities, or some other motivating factor, list the qualities you’re looking for in your ideal job. 

You want your answer to this question to be honest because otherwise, you could set yourself up for a mismatch. For example, if you’re burned out from an exhausting workload but tell prospective employers you’re looking to take on more responsibilities, you risk ending up burned out all over again.

Map your motivations to the job requirements

Once you’ve defined your requirements for your ideal job, look back at the job description to see where similarities exist. This will reveal the best attributes to focus on in your answer. 

If you’re looking for the chance to do work that makes a difference, you might call out your interest in the company’s philanthropic mission. If you’re looking to move into a more senior job title with higher earning potential, you might focus on the job duties of leading a team or conducting strategic planning. 

Decide on the best approach

Finally, you’ll need to decide how calculated your answer should be. This decision is best made during your interview when you’ve had a chance to gauge the interviewer’s demeanor and your level of rapport with them. 

Some interviewers will be more receptive to a candid answer about wanting more work-life balance, while others will be looking for a more thoughtful and deliberate response that showcases how your skills align with the position’s needs.  

How not to answer

Focus on a ‘superficial’ aspect

While money is the number one motivating factor for most job seekers, it, unfortunately, doesn’t make for a great answer to a question about what you want from a new job. Your answer should encapsulate the value you’re looking for from your job beyond just a paycheck–although there are diplomatic ways to signal that salary is important to you. 

For example, you could say, “I’m looking for a position with room to grow because increasing my level of responsibility and my earning potential is an important career goal for me.”

Sample answers to “What are you looking for in a new position?”

Example #1

“I’ve spent many years building up my project management experience and recently completed my PMP certification, so finding a position that allows me to exercise those skills is a top priority. I’m also seeking an employer that values continued learning because I constantly work to expand my knowledge. I saw that you offer many forms of professional development, and that was a big draw for me to apply to this position.”

Example #2

“It’s important to me to see the value of my work beyond just a paycheck. This position caught my eye because I’d be working directly with the populations the company serves, which I would find very rewarding. I’m also looking for a position that would allow me to take on more leadership responsibilities because that’s an area where my current position has been limiting for me.”

The perfect answer will balance your honest desires and the hiring manager’s requirements for the right candidate.