How to Answer the Interview Question “Why Are You Looking for a New Job?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

At some point during an interview process, you may be asked why you're looking for a new job. Learn how to frame your answer and why interviewers ask this question in the first place.

[Featured image] Smiling interviewee meets with two prospective employers.

When you’re interviewing for a new job, a recruiter or hiring manager may ask why you’re looking. They may want to learn more about what you hope to achieve by leaving your current role and pursuing a new one.

If you get the question “Why are you looking for a new job?” during a job interview, answer it by discussing your larger career goals, focusing on the growth you want to accomplish. In this article, we’ll go over why interviewers ask questions about changing jobs, when you can expect it during an interview phase, and how to best answer the question. 

Why interviewers ask, “Why are you looking for a new job?”

The question “Why are you looking for a new job?” can arise for a few different reasons during an interview. Employers may want to understand your career goals, assess whether you’d be a good fit at the company, or make sure your interest in the role aligns with the company’s larger mission. For example, they may be looking for someone who has a passion for their industry, and it could be a potential mismatch if you emphasize that you want to change jobs to make more money. 

Sometimes, they may be trying to glean why you’re interested in leaving your current company. Logistically speaking, companies spend a lot of money hiring and training talent, so they may ask you about why you’re looking to determine whether you’ll be a strong and long-lasting fit for the role. 

When you might get this interview question 

You may be asked, “Why are you looking for a new job?” or variations like “Why are you interested in changing jobs?” at various stages, and you may get asked the question during more than one interview with a company. Here are three times when you may come across this interview question: 

  • Recruiter: When you complete an initial phone screen or interview screen with a recruiter, they may ask why you’re looking to change jobs.

  • Hiring manager: Typically, meeting with a hiring manager is a longer and more involved process than your screen with a recruiter. They may want to assess your reasons for pursuing a new role. Learn more about 15 insightful questions to ask a hiring manager when you meet with one. 

  • A team member: When you meet individually or in a group with different team members, you may be asked why you’re looking for a new job.  

Learn more: 12 Types of Interviews You May Find in a Job Search

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How to answer “Why are you looking for a new job?”

Whatever your reasons for looking for a new position, it can be beneficial to focus on your goals in making such a move. You can address other factors, such as pursuing a higher salary or greater work-life balance, in other phases of an interview. 

When it comes to this question, it’s a good idea to focus on what you hope to accomplish—and what you may help the company achieve—in changing jobs. 

Focus on your goals.

Your career is an arc through which you ideally gain more experience, acquire new skills, and keep growing. Frame your answer by touching on your long-term career goals, such as taking on a higher-level role or finding a position with greater growth potential, and how the role you’re applying for will help you achieve those goals.  

Learn more: 6 Common Career Goals + Examples

Touch on the company’s mission.

As you discuss your goals, try to integrate the company’s mission—and your interest in it. Interviewers want to know you’re a good fit for the position and the company, so showing that you’ve thought in a meaningful way about the work itself can augment your answer. 

For example, you might explain that you enjoy a more structured approach to problem solving and appreciate the thought and consideration the company puts into its product design. Or you might explain that you haven’t had as many opportunities to be creative in your past work, and you’re excited by the innovative way the company handles social media.  

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Tell a story.

Interviewing may seem like a back-and-forth exchange of questions and answers, but when you approach it as a larger story you get to tell, you can take control of your narrative. As you think through your goals and how they feed into the company’s work, try to craft a story that you enjoy telling. 

Many stories follow a straightforward beginning, middle, and end structure. In your case, the beginning can be your career goal, the middle is what excites you about the company, and the end is how working at the company is a step toward achieving your goal. 

Learn more: Practice Interview Questions: How to Tell Your Story

Be positive.

In speaking about your goals, you may need to address what isn’t working in your current position. For example, when you say you’re looking for more growth opportunities, the implication is that you may have hit a wall in your job. If that is the case, avoid speaking negatively about your role and company. Instead, reframe any potential negativity into what you want to accomplish out of your next move. 

We’ve compiled a list of reasons for leaving a job and ways to discuss those reasons, which may also help you frame how you answer, “Why are you looking for a new job?” 

Next steps 

Prepare for your next interview with the University of Maryland’s Successful Interview course. You’ll learn how to research a company, prepare for the first 3-5 minutes of an interview, and answer questions where your storytelling skills may be important. Enroll today for a free, 7-day trial.  

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

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