When recruiters or hiring managers ask you what you're looking for in your next employer or position, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond. Venturing out into the job market now is a risky business. On the one hand, you want to show you're a good candidate for the job. On the other hand, you don't want to overstate your ambition and knock yourself out of the running.
If you're asked about what you want from your next job move, here's how to respond.
Growth. Challenge. An opportunity to learn more and do more. A chance to manage or make positive change. Passion and confidence are two of the most positive traits in job-seekers, according to Janet Raiffa, an investment banking career coach, the former head of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs and a former associate director in the Career Management Center at Columbia Business School.
More compensation is a primary reason for moving, but it isn't something to cite as a motivating factor.
“I'd also steer clear of talking about the types of people you want to work within the next employer or position, since it might be construed as a negative comment about former colleagues,” says Raiffa.
That said, you should be ready when recruiters bring up compensation – they will ask about your salary history. They will want to know that your salary expectations are in line with your desired position and what you’ve been earning, according to Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.
“If the number you say sounds high, recruiters will want to hear that you can easily explain why you want and expect a certain number, which they will ask you for,” he said.
Recruiters want to make sure that you have all of the skills and qualifications to for the job, Cohen said. They want to ensure that it’s not too big of a leap from where you are currently, that is, your current level of experience, compared to where you want to be.
“They want assurances that the role is an obvious and logical next step for you, that everything you’ve done up to this point in time prepares you for what you’re looking to do next,” Cohen said. “They are being paid to find a candidate who matches the job specs item for item."
If you claim an important role in a transaction but can’t talk through the strategy or many specifics, then you will be found out in the phone screening or in-person interview, that is, if you do eventually make it that far. Recruiters serious about hiring a candidate will always do a thorough background check that will expose any egregious truth-stretching.
Recruiters want you to be specific about what you are looking for and why you are looking, according to Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, career coach and partner at SixFigureStart. Being specific is important because recruiters and hiring managers want to fill the role with someone who has done specifically what they are looking for.
“Include specific results you’ve achieved and things you’ve accomplished and make sure you state the value to the company,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said. “When asked why you are looking, you can say that you want to increase your responsibilities because you have mastered your level and even done parts of your boss’s job."
Make it clear you want to do.
You should be able to articulate your top interests, key motivators, skills you want to employ, ways you want to contribute to the organization and find your purpose, your top strengths and talents, your best qualities, your best work environment, activities you get the most enjoyment from and your expectations for salary and benefits.
Recruiters also want to know that there is zero B.S. in what you want, Cohen said.
“When you go into an interview or when you’re talking to a recruiter and you’re telling them ‘I’m open to anything’ and express no preferences, then you’ll come across as not forthcoming or not well-informed, he said. “Recruiters expect transparency.”
Recruiters hate unpleasant surprises, because it usually ends up making them look bad.
On the other hand, if you're upfront with them and disclose a past indiscretion, misstep or issue, then they are more likely to process it the fuller context of your candidacy, rather than see it as a deal-breaker.
“They want to know that the skeletons in your closet are explainable and not a potential embarrassment,” Cohen said. “Once a recruiter reached out to my client who neglected to explain an embarrassing situation that could’ve been identified in a Google search, and it was.
“The recruiter emailed my client in the middle of the night, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?!’” he said. “It’s better to disclose information that is potentially inflammatory so it doesn’t eliminate you from the search.”
Many recruiters will make more than 50 calls a day and be on the phone for north of four hours. If you’re just checking in to get interview feedback or to stay on their radar and cement your relationship with them, shoot them an email.
That is your opportunity to drive home the point of what you're really looking for in your next move, what you really feel framed in a way that they will want to hear, demonstrating a strong commitment to – and impressive experience in – the area you're applying to.
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