Interview Q&A | “What Are You Looking for in a New Position?” was originally published on Idealist Careers.
This question allows an interviewer to put you—the interviewee—in the driver’s seat for a bit. This is your opportunity to speak to what you need and what you’re looking for, and let your interviewer know (in a professional way) what they need to be able to offer you in terms of role and responsibilities.
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll want to be sure to include in your response to this common interview question:
What excites you most about the role?
If this role is a fit for you, this part should be easy! What was it that initially caught your eye when you saw the job description? Perhaps it was a connection to the mission of the organization, a particular challenge that needs solving, or the opportunity to manage a team.
Whatever it is that excites you most about the role, the key here is to include details to show that you have more than a surface-level understanding of what is required (and desired).
A word of caution here: if it’s the organization itself that excites you most, that’s great! Just be sure to draw a clear connection between your enthusiasm about the organization and the specifics of the particular role. You don’t want to leave any room for an interviewer to mistake you for an applicant who wants the job “just to give back” and has only a surface-level understanding of the role or how it will drive the greater mission.
What was missing in your most recent role?
If you plan to include any details about what you felt was missing in your last job (or perhaps even why you left), tread lightly here! There is a fine line between relaying information and badmouthing a former employer.
You’ll also want to do your best to steer clear of any specific criticisms of your former employer, and instead focus on what responsibilities or opportunities may have been missing. For example:
- “In my most recent role, there wasn’t a lot of space for professional development. I’m looking for an organization where I’m encouraged to pursue opportunities to develop my skills and knowledge.”
- “In my most recent role, there wasn’t much opportunity to take on management responsibilities, and I’d really like to manage a small team someday. I’d welcome any chance to develop that strength.”
This is where you can dig into some potentially critical feedback of your current (or most recent) employer without getting too specific. If your most recent workplace culture felt incredibly competitive and unsupportive, you could mention that you’re looking for a collaborative and supportive work environment. If you never received any feedback from your manager, you could say that you’d love to have a manager who is willing to offer positive as well as constructive feedback.
Your comprehensive knowledge of the hiring organization
While you want to be honest (both with your interviewer as well as with yourself) about what you’re looking for, this question is also a great opportunity to highlight your understanding of the hiring organization.
Start with a simple review of the job description, marking each aspect of the role that genuinely excites you. These are the things you’re looking for in a new position. Whether it’s a chance to work with data, lead a team, or speak at conferences, the right answer is whatever gets you going! Including some specifics (though not word for word) from the job description shows that you have a thorough understanding of the role.
Once you’ve taken a careful look at the job description, you can move on to researching the hiring organization via their website, social media presence, press releases, newsletters, etc. This is where you’re likely to find more of the “big picture” information, like things relating to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and culture. Again, including anything from your research on the organization in a response to this interview question shows that you know what the organization is about and what would be expected of you should you land the job.
One thing to keep in mind: if any of the things you note you’re looking for in your next role happen to be things that you already have in your current role, prepare to explain why you’re looking for a new job.
This question offers you a great opportunity to be honest about what you want and what you need. What interview question stumps you every time? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll do our best to walk you through the perfect format for a killer response!
Get more tips from our Interview Q&A series.