As a job seeker, you might have heard this question asked in various ways: “Why are you looking?” or “Tell me why we’re talking right now?” No matter how this question is asked, we simply want to know who you are and if there are any corporate-wide shake-ups we should be aware of as recruiters. By no means is this a trick question intended to “get you.” However, depending on your answer, you could put yourself at a disadvantage.
Below are some sample answers that could place you at a disadvantage:
Some candidates feel that they are so good at what they are doing that the company is able to automate their department’s tasks and let go of the entire department. While restructuring or dismissing an entire department does sometimes happen, no one in their right mind would choose to let go of someone generating exponentially more revenue than they cost. Whenever I hear this response, I hear, “I’ve been too busy with work that I’m not looking around and learning about the market trends,” or “I’ve been too busy to see that the company’s direction has changed, and I haven’t been contributing to the new direction.” It is attractive to a potential employer that you are introspective. It is even more attractive if you vet the opportunity based on what you’ve learned in your previous jobs.
2.) It is not a culture fit
It is not always possible to be an agent of change within an already toxic work environment. I have worked for companies that are so toxic that it corrupted the way I interacted with the people around me, and I was truly unhappy. After two of those jobs back to back (one I stayed at for 1.5 years and the other for about six months), I learned that I was someone who was too eager to please. Instead of taking the time to look around and gauge the environment, meet with my future coworkers, or meet with the teams with which I would be closely working, I would just accept the first offer I was given.
“Not a culture fit” alone isn’t a poor answer, but if you have been jumping from job to job each year and have gone through four or five jobs, it does beg the question if it’s really a culture fit issue or if you are not learning from your decisions.
3.) There’s no growth opportunity
There are companies out there with very limited growth opportunities, but similar to my point above, if I see someone who jumps from job to job each year and has gone through four or five jobs, I wonder if it’s really the company or the candidate.
Opportunities, more often than not, are cultivated and not given. I have heard of candidates who, despite working for unsupportive managers, have kept their eyes wide open for an internal opportunity while doing their best at their job. As soon as an opportunity opens up, they transition to another role and blossom from there.
If you are someone with a spotty tenure and an itch to look for another job, my advice to you is, “Stake it out.” While it may be true that circumstances exist at your company that limits your growth, it is also time to invest emotionally and uncover what those circumstances are and if there’s anything you can do to remove them. If you are not being given projects that are high potential, find out why they’re not being offered or why you’re not being considered. Is it just a matter of asking, or are you lacking specific skills? Does the notion of zero opportunities for growth come solely from workplace gossip? If it’s based on personal experience, have you sought help from HR or an HR business partner?