Whenever you get asked this question during an interview, it’s impossible to not feel like it’s a trap. What other answer can you possibly give for, “What are you looking for in a new position?” other than, “Everything this one offers?”
Well, it depends on the humor of the hiring manager, but in general, that’s probably not your best option. To play it a little safer and to be thorough, follow these four steps. Remember, you want to be honest, but diplomatic.
1. Start With Your Skills
The question is about you, but you need to think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective. Sure, you’d love for your new position to pay extremely well, have an effortless commute, and ensure access to nap rooms during all work hours, but that’s not going to impress anyone. Instead, dive into your skills—an area the hiring manager is sure to care about—and talk about how you’re looking for a place where you can use them.
I’ve been honing my data analysis skills for a few years now and, first and foremost, I’m looking for a position where I can continue to exercise those skills.
2. Explain Your Motivation
Most hiring managers hope that the person he or she hires will be motivated by more than just a paycheck. Assuage this concern by addressing it openly. Describe what motivates you and how you can see that playing out in this position or company.
Another thing that’s important to me is that the position allows me to not only play with data, but also present my findings and suggestions directly to clients. That would be really refreshing! I’m always very motivated by being able to see the impact of my work on other people.
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3. Connect With Your Long-Term Goals
Hiring people means investing in them, and no one likes to see his or her investment walk out the door. If it works with the flow of your answer, it might be good to mention how you see growing or building your career at a company that’s the right fit. Anything that signals you’re in it for the long haul is a good thing (unless, of course, you’re specifically applying to a short-term position).
And, I’m definitely looking for a position where I can grow—professional development is something that’s really important to me since I hope to take on managerial responsibilities in the future.
4. Wrap Up With Something About the Company
Bring the focus back to the company as you’re wrapping up your response. Depending on how long your answer is, it may make sense to sum up everything you’ve talked about, and then end on how excited you are about the company and why.
To sum it up, I’d love a position where I can use my skills to make an impact that I can see with my own eyes. Of course, the position is only part of the equation. Being at a company where I can grow and work toward something I care about matters, too. DNF’s goal of being the intersection between data and education inspires me, and I’m really excited about this opportunity.
Your answer will change depending on the position. You might emphasize more than one skill or skip over the part where you talk about your long-term goals, but the overall structure will probably remain the same. The key thing to remember with this question is to, of course, answer honestly, but with the hiring manager’s perspective in mind.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author