This is not a trick question, yet you would be surprised on how difficult some people find it to respond and just how many jobs have been won or lost on its answer. I first wrote this post for Innovate CV’s blog, it received quite a few comments. This is something that concerns many jobseekers.
Some typical problem replies include:
The Generic Response:
“A role in a large company which will develop me further”
“A new challenge in which I can progress”
That’s what they all say and so ultimately says nothing about you.
The Take Over The World Response:
“I want a role in which I can progress quickly, develop my career, manage others and ultimately gain the necessary skills to make Director or own my own company in the next five years”
Ok, it doesn’t sound so bad? You want to show ambition and drive? Yet what if this is the answer given in an interview for an entry-level administration role?
As a recruiter we want to see passion, drive and determination but also a healthy dose of common sense and a down to earth approach. We are largely functionalist, we are recruiting for this role right now and we don’t want to be recruiting for it in less than six months as you’ve moved on to pastures new.
The Get Me Out Of Here Response:
“My current company is making redundancies and I want something with more stability”
“I’m under paid / I have a difficult boss / The Company is going through a difficult time.”
In other words you’ll be off when something better comes along? The main issue here is that you are looking to escape your current job / situation rather than moving forward to another opportunity.
Another one to watch out for is “I’m bored in my current role.”
Are you a job hopper? Can we keep their interest in this role? Is this a repeated behavioural pattern? What responsibility have you taken to develop yourself further, pro-actively seek new skills sets, responsibilities and opportunities in your current post?
So what can I say?
Well none of the answers above are wrong, they just need further clarification, focussing on specifics and where relevant, tying back to the role you have applied for.
So let’s have another go:
“I am looking for a new challenge which will broaden my experience; I believe this change of Industry will do just that. I hope it will use my existing skill set, draw from my x strengths and yet offer the chance to build new working relationships and get to learn another business.”
“I am looking to expand upon my managerial skills. I believe this role has a flatter structure and will offer more responsibility. I currently successfully line manage three staff members which I really enjoy, due to the size and structure of my current organisation there unfortunately isn’t the opportunity that I hope this role will give me.”
“I am looking for a role which will allow me to learn from the ground up, I would like to build a career in x but understand I need to get the basics right and get to know the organisation.”
“I really like the sound of the culture here. I’m a strong team player who loves to contribute and would really relish a coaching management style under which I could develop.”
“My current company is making redundancies and although I love my job, the reduction in volume has had an impact on my role. I really enjoy the x element of my current job which I believe is a large part of this position.”
As you can see the clarification handles potential objections but more importantly focuses on why the job you are applying for is right for you. It shows the research you have done, and / or the attention you have paid when they have discussed the role with you.
Or not, and that’s not really a problem. The fact is you have to be honest here.
Sometimes candidates focus so hard on winning the job that they forget to assess if they actually want it.
If you really need variety in your next job and truly won’t be happy without then say so! Alarm bells will ring with the Recruiter if the position is actually very narrow.
You wouldn’t have lost a job, but made a lucky escape!
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Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her tweets @approachmarket