‘What are You Looking For in Your Next Role?’ – Three Answers that Fail a Candidate

By Sarah Cooper

You would be shocked how many candidates stumble when recruiters ask this seemingly simple question. Let’s looks at some typical replies that will almost ensure that you won’t be considered for the position. We’ll then explore some ideal responses that will be of assistance when you’re planning your own answer.

Problem Responses

1. The generic response:

“A role in a large company that will develop me further.”

Very nice. But that’s also what all the other candidates said. You’ve lost this opportunity to say something unique about yourself and what you can offer.  You’ve also demonstrates that you haven’t really given the question any real thought.

2. The ‘take over the world’ response:

“I want a role in which I can progress quickly, develop my career, manage others and ultimately make it to Director, or own my own company in the next five years”

Recruiters want to see a dose of determination; however, they also want a healthy measure of common sense. Additionally, this role is available now. Recruiters don’t want to have to worry how they’re going to fill the role once you’ve moved onto bigger and better things – where ever you find it.

[RELATED POST: Top Nine CV Bloopers Ever (And How to Avoid Making Them)]

3. 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.”

This ‘tactic’ is problematic, as it merely demonstrates that you’re looking to escape your current position. A candidate is looking to move forward is far more impressive than one who is trying to run away.

“I’m bored in my current role.”

This dangerous answer also suggests you’re desperately looking for an escape route. When a recruiter hear’s this, alarm bells start ringing. “Is the candidate a job hopper? Does he have a short attention span? Could this be a behavioural pattern? Why didn’t he take any pro-active steps to develop himself further, such as seek new skills sets, responsibilities and opportunities in his current post?”

4. The flexible ‘I’ll do anything’ response:

Besides being blatantly untrue, this common response smacks of desperation.

Portrait of a businesswoman in a meeting

Developed Responses

Good responses are as specific as possible and directly relate to the role that you have applied for. So let’s have another go, using the same common lines-of-thought:

1. The developed ‘generic’ response:

“I am looking for a new challenge. I’m sure it will use my existing skill set, draw from my ________ strengths. I’d also like to build new working relationships and learn another business.”

[RELATED POST: Job Candidates – Five Things Every Recruiter REALLY Wants to KNow About You.]

2. The developed ‘take over the world’ response:

“I am looking to develop my managerial skills. I believe this role has a flatter structure and will offer more responsibility. I currently manage three staff members successfully, but due to the size and structure of my current organisation, opportunity is limited. I feel this role will provide that experience I’m looking for, because __________. ”

“I am looking for a role which will allow me to learn from the ground up.  I would like to build a career in __________ but understand I need to get the basics right within a developed organisation such as yours.”

“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 that would encourage my development.”

3. The developed ‘get me out of here’ response:

“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 ________ element of my current job which I understand is fundamental to this position.”

As you can see, these responses take into account potential objections and focus on why the job is right for you. Don’t make a mistake that has already claimed so many victims. Give the question some thought, and prepare a unique answer that is specific, honest and relative.

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

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27 Comments on “‘What are You Looking For in Your Next Role?’ – Three Answers that Fail a Candidate”

  1. Debbi Cain
    September 29, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    These are good answers to a common question that you hear all the time from recruiters.

  2. Catherine Rezabeck
    October 3, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    ah ha! This is really helpful, I can honestly say, I am in the right direction, just not developed enough. Good info to have!

  3. Rick Saia
    October 4, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    The job not only has to be right for the job seeker. The job seeker must be able to make a strong connection between what he or she wants and what the employer is looking for. Make that connection by addressing the employer’s “pain points” and there’s a good chance they’ll give you more serious consideration.

    • Kevin
      November 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

      I completely agree with Rick. I am working with my candidates to develop these “pain points.” Researching the company and the role before the interview obviously help. Candidates have to keep in mind that the person who was in the role before them (whether they left on their own or were terminated) were good at certain roles, and needed development in others. Actively listen to the questions the interviewer asks and, a lot of times, you will be able to develop these pain points more effectively.

  4. October 4, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Thanks Debbi and Catherine I’m glad the post is useful:)

    I completely agree Rick, many candidates do not connect their skills back to the employer and how they can solve a problem / add to and benefit the organisation. Those that do certainly stand out from the crowd.

    • Henry Massey
      November 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

      Sarah, totally agree unfortunately I have made this schoolboy error recently but hopefully the epiphany moment I am having (right now) will ensure I don’t trip up again

      • November 9, 2010 at 8:29 am #

        Sorry to hear that, hope the article helps for next time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. These responses are really common though and so with a bit more effort, your next answer could really stand you out from the competition. Good Luck.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    I Hear a lot of advise given to candidateds attending interviews to show how they can solve a problem the company has are we to understand that most job openings are the result of companies having a problem
    I dont think so
    Surely most vacancies are not there to employ a troubleshooter but to employ a good fit for the requirement

    • October 6, 2010 at 9:32 am #

      Hi Vincent,

      I agree Recruitment is functionalist. The company has a need for an accountant and so they go about assessing individuals against the competencies required for that function. However, during the course of any function, bumps in the road may occur. Problems will always arise and therefore most companies are looking for individuals who can do the job as well identify / cope with and sometimes just bring to attention, any issues that may arise along the way.
      KR Sarah

  6. Atta
    October 21, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Pretty helpful. Great work. Thanks for sharing.

  7. November 12, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Hi, great post … am on the right track but I learned some too. Keep it up :-).

  8. Tony
    November 13, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    Good advice! As a candidate, try and imagine what it must be like for the interviewer, who may already have seen quite a few people before you – and make it a little more refreshing when they listen to what you have to say.

  9. Mario
    November 14, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    This is an article to read and to share, not like all the other rubbish you find around!

    I like the psycology interpretation behind the answer. What is important is the way one builds the answer because even with the best intention, you can express yourself badly or maybe misunderstood altogether.

    There isn’t a guide of a correct answers. You find lots of those useless topics around telling you what is a correct or wrong answer. You have to think for yourself not learning by heart the answer, a question asked in different way and you are doomed.

    Thank you for sharing it.

  10. Lucinda DeVries
    November 15, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    I’d like to hear more about the #4 mistake of sounding desperate. I’ve had multiple interviews and have been reading articles on how to present better. No one talks about this issue. The fact is, I will do whatever it is they need of me if they give me the position. I only apply for positions that fit my skills and experience. Look forward to hearing from you.

  11. November 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Hi Lucinda

    The easiest way to approach this issue is through role reversal.

    Imagine you are the recruiter. You have a role and a list of criteria you are trying to match against. You understand the market is tough and you have a volume of applications.

    If you select the wrong person you will end up recruiting all over again which is very costly in time, money and impact on the business.

    You are looking for someone who can demonstrate that not only can they do, but want / desire and are motivated by this particular opportunity in this particular company.

    If they say they want anything / anywhere / completely flexible you can’t match and therefore may have concerns that once the market changes they will be off looking for a role they really want.

    In order to overcome this you must therefore be specific. You must talk with some passion, and again, the best way to do this is to be genuine. Really think on what you want and how this role can provide that for you.

    Put another way when you respond “I just want a job / money, I will do anything I don’t care what “( I’m completely flexible) its like saying “I just want to get married I don’t care what my partner is like”

    Let’s face it, no future spouse or employer wants to hear that do they?

    I have some more posts that may help, one here on “Job Candidates Five Things A Recruiter Really Wants To Know”
    and one on approachthemarket.com called “One More With Feeling”

    • Lucinda DeVries
      November 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

      Thanks. I’ll check these out.

  12. vito
    November 25, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    well they just want to know one thing.

    will the company make more money when they hire you our not :p

  13. November 29, 2010 at 6:55 am #

    Definitely, very useful points for candidates. Giving a response that is usually given by all other candidates doesn’t make the response unique and the recruiter won’t have any reason to hire a candidate who doesn’t think over the question..

    We meet a lot of recruiters in Corp-corp.com who are very choosy in short listing the candidates. They give importance to the responses that carry the candidate’s finger prints, not the responses that were scanned from ‘common interview questions’ articles from the internet and thrown up without changing a single word!

  14. EMG
    November 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi Sarah, Great advice and I have a request: I want some help on what to tell employers about my last job which only lasted 3 months cos the org and I had different expectations of the role ( a new area for them) and the boss was new and very panicky. So far I have said that we had a difference of expectation in the role and situations changed over the time I was with them.. does that sound ok? I would really like to speak to someone bout this and haven’t found any one to give me proper support to figuring an answer

  15. Rashmi
    November 30, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    Hey good one, as a HR i often hear these types of answers….very well written…training these candidates was always a task.

  16. December 1, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for the replies and comments very much appreciated.

    EMG if you want some specific help then email me your contact details to sarah@approachthemarket.com

    Oherwise I would stick to the facts: It was a new job for which it became apparent very quickly that the requirements of the role turned out to be different than the inital thoughts of the company. Subsequently it wasn’t a match for me and I left on mutal terms.

    I would certainly not give opinion on the ability of the manager and where possible, demonstrate how the role I am applying for differs from the last and therefore fits my requirements.


  17. EMG
    December 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    i thanks for sending ur email addy. i sent u an email. no i didnt ever mention anyting about the boss..was only explaining situ here.

    • Marci Cantor
      December 14, 2010 at 12:03 am #

      I, too, could use some advice on how to explain that I have been out of the workforce for a number of years and why I switched careers from being an education administrator and then going back to school and getting an M.S. in human resources. I think how I answer these questions is going to make it or break it for me and both of my issues are not things you discuss in a job interview.

      I just ordered a book someone had suggested on answering tough questions and I an hoping this may help me as well, but I always find that people who have either been in sticky situations before or supervisors/executives who hear these have more to offer.

      I also have unfortunately, a very expressive face and so I am going to need to present nyself in the best possible light. I already know enough not to bad mouth people or events that have occurred, but it is hard to put a positive spin on what I have been through and it is extremely personal and something I would never ever share. There isn’t even a watered down version of the truth. Any suggestions would be helpful and I do not mean to hijack your post!

      • December 15, 2010 at 10:23 am #

        Hi Marci,

        Again feel free to email me at sarah@approachthemarket.com, otherwise instead of focusing on the past and putting a ‘spin’ on it, answer with your plans for the future where possible.

        Why did you decide on HR? What draws you to the profession? If too personal broaden out or choose motivations further down your list, you should be able to speak with passion and the retraining will be a show of your commitment to your choice.
        Again instead of the past talk about why now is the right time and what you can give the organisation at this point.

        Direct questions must be answered. If you have no other option that you are comfortable with use the broadest of terms “I have been out of the workforce due to a change in personal circumstances and and I am now in a position to commit to…” Due to family circumstances I have been unable or not needed to work, however now I am able to / or ready to commit to, or excited to jin a company to…”

        As for facial expressions – I’m with your there – I personally have eyebrows that have a will of their own. Practice answering questions in front of the mirror will help.

        It is of course difficult to give general guidance here. I would add that if you – or anyone who has had difficulty with a past situation, if you haven’t already, I strongly recommend seeking professional counselling , NLP or CBT to assist you.

        Good Luck !

  18. January 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Hi Sarah,

    thank you for all the invaluable advice. This comes from an American born and raised in Germany who has never worked for an US employer before. I plan on moving to CA with my family in 2012 and this helps me to reduce the insecurity as what to expect in a job interview – should I get invited for one, of course 😉

    [LION] http://www.linkedin.com/in/stefanmeggl

  19. August 22, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for mega bus coupon codes


  1. What Are You Looking For From Your Next Role? | Approach The Market - April 1, 2013

    […] 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 […]

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