How to Answer “What Are You Looking For?” In a Job Interview

Job seekers are often asked… “What are you looking for?” or “What is most important to you in your next position?”

Those sound like legitimate questions… and they are.

However, the reality is that a potential employer is not really all that concerned about what you want!

The Real Question:
“What Does the Employer Want?”

Employers know what they want and need for a particular position.

When they ask you what you want, they are trying to determine if you’re the person who can best do the job for them.

Sure, they would ideally like to get someone who loves their work, and feels fulfilled in their job. However, those concerns are secondary to getting those tasks accomplished.

For many job seekers, the idea that their employer doesn’t really care what they want sounds cold, and they never thought of their job search from that perspective. Time for a mindset adjustment!

How Should You Answer “What Are You Looking For in Your Next Job?”

When networking, or in an interview, most job seekers respond to the “What do you want” question with answers usually focused on their own interests, ambitions, and desires… whether – or not – those interests match the opportunity.

Should you give up pursuing the things you really want? Of course not!

Carefully targeting the kinds of companies, teams, and positions that interest you is a key part of creating a fulfilling career and an effective job search.

So, does that mean it’s best to be disingenuous, or make something up? Not at all!

You should think about which of your interests, desires, strengths, and abilities best match the opportunity at hand, and then help the employer connect those dots!

When you prepare your “elevator speech,” craft your interview answers, or have casual conversations with networking contacts in your job search, always think in terms of… What qualifications, experience, and desires do I have in a job that would potentially be of interest to the person I’m talking with?

You can be sure that when they ask the question, employers are thinking

Is this person interested in anything I need, want, or know about?

If their conclusion from your answer is “No”, then it’s unlikely the networking discussion or the interview process will go much further.

Bottom Line on Answering “What Are You Looking For?”

A job search mindset is really about adopting an employers’ mindset! It is the difference between having an “Objective” at the top of your resume, or having a professional “Summary.”

The resume Objective is all about what you want; the resume Summary is about what you have that satisfies what the employer wants. Which one do you think will generate greater interest?

So, in your job search, the next time you’re asked “What do you want?” …be prepared with an answer that will show that you are who they want!

More About Job Interview Tips:

Answering Common Job Interview Questions:

Questions About You:

Handling Special Career Situations:

Interview Questions About The Employer:

Questions for You to Ask The Employer:

How to Prepare for an Interview:

More About Different Types of Job Interviews:

About the author…

Harry Urschel has over 25 years experience as an independent recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @HarryUrschel and on LinkedIn.

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