Answering "Describe What You Are Looking For In Your Next Job" In An Interview

describe what you are looking for in your next job

When a future employer asks you the question, “What are the most important things you are looking for in a new job?” it can be kind of confusing. Sometimes you’ll have employers ask you a question like, “Describe the three things that are most important for you in your next position?” This is also a common interview question that is similar to the first. In reality, what an employer or hiring manager is doing with this question is trying to gauge whether or not the chemistry of Company you are applying for is the right fit for you. Because of this, it makes it a somewhat difficult question to answer. You may feel a little stress while trying to answer it.

Why employers ask this question

The goal of the question is to try and understand if the role you are applying for fits with your answers to question. Often times someone may answer the question with a list of qualities that aren’t exactly a right fit for the job position they just applied for. Let me give you an example, say you answered with something along the lines of “I’m looking autonomy and the ability to have leadership.” Well, in certain job functions, you might not have the ability to lead or have autonomy. And because of that answer, the hiring manager may examine whether or not you’d be a good fit for that role. Try to think of it from their perspective. The last thing they want is to hire someone and then realize it’s not a good fit and have to terminate them. It’s both not great for the company and it’s not great for you, either.

What you shouldn’t answer with

Try to avoid answers that may make you seem unprofessional. Keep your answers straight forward, agnostic to the job function and motivational. You don’t want to answer with something that makes it appear as though you are bringing emotional baggage along with you from your previous job. For instance, don’t say something like, “Well, in my last job I wasn’t given any freedom and that really stunk, so I want freedom.” That type of answer doesn’t come across well for a number of reasons. Try to keep it focused on the future opportunity.

A good versus a bad answer

Here’s what a good answer looks like:

“Three qualities that really stand out to me are growth potential within the workplace, a collaborative work environment and the idea that respect of our peers is something we should strive for.”

Here’s what a bad answer looks like:

“I want to work somewhere that doesn’t give me problems. I need a relaxed working situation where I don’t have to commit a lot of hours.”

You’d be surprised how many people would answer with the bad one. It’s really important that you don’t bring along your personal needs to the interview process, especially when answering this question. Be authentic to your true self and answer in a way that isn’t going to come across arrogant or difficult.

Some other example answers to use

“I’m looking for a job that has these three main qualities, it is stimulating, challenging and may push me to learn new things.”

“I’m looking for a job that allows me to measure and achieve results, feel authentic to myself, valued as an employee and respected by my peers.”

“I’d love to work for a company that has the characteristics of a collaborative work environment, allows for opportunities to see employees grow and encourages a healthy work/life balance.”

The most important factors for you

It’s imperative that you think about how the company or your hiring manager is going to interpret your answers. Try to think about it from an empathetic point of view. I would not encourage you to lie to the hiring manager and say answers that you know they will appreciate. Write down a list of the qualities you want out of a job and go through the exercise of trying to articulate it in such a way that it’s simple and relatable to almost anyone. Be sure that you are removing any emotional component that may be prevalent in the answer as well. That means if, for example, you were fired from your last position; don’t go into the answer saying that you want 6-months severance. You need to be sure that you are thinking about the qualities of the environment in a way that’s true to their environment as well as yourself. And where those two area’s mesh and blend are the perfect places for you to give your answer.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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