“Why are you considering a new position at the moment?” I ask.
“Oh, I’m looking for a better opportunity,” they say.
Pause the script…
If I have heard this once, I’ve heard it thousands of times.
As a recruiter and career coach, I have daily conversations with candidates eagerly seeking help with their job search. I always ask this question and more often than not, I get the “Better Opportunity” answer.
You need a different answer!
The Interviewer is Partly At Fault
Could I ask this question better?
I often try to. Each alternate question I ask leads people down the path of self-reflection that they should have done before talking with me.
I can’t help you with your “better opportunity” if you are unable to provide me with more information.
You know that this question will be asked in an interview. So ensure that you prepare a well-crafted answer for when the spotlight shines on you.
Laziness Will Cost You
When I ask this question, I’m not asking to fill space in our conversation.
I’m asking because I want to understand your reasoning, motivation, and inspiration. I want to get to know you — and not just on the surface level.
“Better opportunity” is vague and non-descript. It exposes your lack of forethought, creativity, and insight… probably not the impression you want to give at an interview.
Before you speak to me — or any other interviewer or career professional — spend time reflecting and preparing to explain (in detail) what you are looking for!
We all fall victim to laziness once in a while, but the job search is a terrible time for half-assed thinking. More than anything, it is time to provide evidence and data to present yourself in the best possible light.
While easy answers are… well… easy. They are certainly not going to distinguish you from a pile of qualified candidates.
Self-Reflection is the Critical First Step to Every Job Search.
Here are some things to think about:
1. Know where you are starting from.
To begin your job search you need to critically analyze your current job.
Begin to dig below the surface by reflecting on the following questions:
- What do you enjoy about your current role?
- What is lacking in your current position?
- What would you like to do more of at work?
- What would you like to do less of?
- What do you like about your manager?
- What do you dislike about your manager?
- What do you like about the work environment?
- What do you dislike about your work environment?
- What do you like about your team?
- What do you dislike about your team?
- What do you like about your industry?
- What do you dislike about your industry?
2. Pursue improvement in your current role.
Are you ready? This one can hurt a bit!
Is your search for a new job just the “easy way out”?
Is it an avoidance strategy?
Many of my clients jump to the conclusion that they need a new job at the first sign of discomfort. Instead of attempting to enact positive changes at their current job, they give up on the job and search for something “better”.
The grass is not always greener, my friends.
If you have reflected on the questions in step 1. you should have a tangible list of items that you can work on to change your current position!
Here’s an example from one of my clients (we will call him Steve):
Steve was having some difficulties with his direct manager. She was highly irritable and had begun to lash out at her team. His first reaction was to search for a new job. He quickly came to me for help.
Before I helped Steve, I asked him to discuss the problem with his manager. I recommended that he escalate the issue up the management chain if necessary. He found out that his manager was having some serious family challenges that were impacting her stress levels. The company stepped up to support her through the rough patch and her behaviour quickly returned to normal.
She was grateful for the support and apologized to my client for her previous actions. It fostered a stronger relationship between them.
In this case, bailing on his job for a new position would not have been the right decision!
Let’s be honest… if you are avoiding challenging conversations at work, you will never find your “better opportunity”. Your avoidance tactics will follow you from job to job like a shadow.
Instead, you need to become a “better you”. One who can confront difficult situations with courage and help drive positive change.
Now I’m not saying that there will always be a resolution… sometimes there isn’t. But at the very least, you will know that you are ready to make a career change.
3. Plan your future career.
Think about your career 10 years from now.
Would you like to have retired? In a C-Suite leadership role? Working a flexible schedule? Working with the newest technologies? Running your own company? Writing full time?
Knowing your long term goal is critical to ensure you are taking steps to move you in the right direction.
An undefined goal is like getting in the car and driving without having a destination in mind… it may be fun for a while, but becomes stressful and exhausting after a few hours.
Reverse engineer your next career move, by thinking about your goal and working backward.
For example, if you want to be a CFO, you probably will have needed to be a controller, to be a controller you may want to have been a senior accountant, etc.
Continue working through the steps until you get to your current career stage.
Map out your route, and don’t settle for positions that take you in the wrong direction!
How to Answer the “Better Opportunity” Question… Better
Great answers to the question, “why are you looking for a new job?” follow this format:
- Describe your current situation and skills.
- Describe your long term goal or the aspect of work that you would like to improve.
- Describe why the position you are interviewing for is a great fit.
Examples to Help You Communicate Your Underlying Message
“I want to learn new things”
- “In my current job, I am responsible for back-end programming. It has been challenging and I have learned a lot. I would like to become a full-stack developer and would love to put my front-end development knowledge to more use. This position will be a great opportunity to leverage my back-end development skills and to gain on-the-job-experience developing the front end.”
“I want to change careers”
- “At the moment I assist the CEO with her administrative needs. This includes: booking travel, coordinating her schedule, typing meeting minutes, liaising with the different teams in our office, and organizing all the events that she hosts for our clients. I enjoy the event planning piece of the job most and would like to pursue it as a full-time career. From the job description, this role looks like an excellent opportunity to leverage my organization skills, communication skills, and work experience while learning from more tenured planners in the industry.”
“I was laid off”
- “I was laid off at the beginning of the year and used my time off to upgrade my knowledge of project estimation. Before this year, I was a carpentry foreman which was fun, but physically challenging. A new role as a Project Manager will give me the chance to leverage my carpentry skills, estimation knowledge, and customer service approach to help your company grow.”
“I don’t like my boss”
- “I have been with Company ABC for 10 years and have grown from my payroll job into the Assistant Controller. Recently, there have been changes with the upper management of the company. This has shifted the work culture substantially. I would like to start a new role with a company that values creative ideas, trusts its employees to prioritize their time, and has collaborative teams. Based on the research I did it seems like your team will be a great fit for me!”
“I want a higher salary”
- “I have enjoyed working with Company ABC a lot. I have particularly appreciated the extra tasks that I have been trusted with as my tenure has grown. Now that I am ready for a change, I would like to look for a new opportunity that provides me with the chance to continue to grow my skills and enjoy the financial rewards that come with more responsibility. From your job description, it seems like this role will be a great fit.”
“I need more time with my family”
- “My career so far has been very challenging and rewarding — I have learned valuable time management, negotiation, and communication skills. We recently started a family and my wife has returned to work. I am now looking for an opportunity that will provide flexible scheduling and a great work-life balance so that I can prioritize time with my children. This role will leverage my skills while giving me the balance that I am looking for.”
The Way You Communicate Makes All the Difference
In each example, the person is providing proof that they know what they are looking for in a new position. They allow the listener to understand who they are and what is important to them. They invite the listener into the conversation!
Hiring Managers and Recruiters will set you up for success by assessing if the position aligns with your long term goals. Sometimes it will be a great fit, and sometimes it won’t be! But by communicating your intentions clearly, it is easier to work together towards a great employer-employee match.
By providing a descriptive answer you allow the interviewer to get on the same side of the table as you and work together towards the perfect new job.
So please, I beg you… never say that you are “looking for a better opportunity” again.