Let’s Get Down to Motives!

The interviewer asks the inevitable:  “Why are you looking for a new job?” and, for good measure, why you left your previous posts.  Before immediately revealing that you just want a shorter commute, let’s think about this carefully.

Obviously, if everything were perfect, you wouldn’t be on the market.  So why do they even ask?  Even if you are being recruited – just like “wandering eye” syndrome – you wouldn’t waste your time entertaining the opportunity unless something was missing from your current relationship with your job.  There are lots of legitimate reasons for looking.  Let’s be honest:  sometimes we just want a higher salary, or management didn’t deliver on a promise, or the workload makes even workaholics look lazy.  Should these reasons be disclosed to a recruiter or hiring manager?

Yes and no.  An applicant once told me he was tired of driving an hour, subject to traffic and the fancies of inclement winter weather.  The job he applied for, which matched his skills perfectly, was in his hometown.  But he wanted to make more than my client had budgeted for.  In this case, besides showcasing the employee’s talents and qualifications, I was able to convince my client that the close distance was advantageous:  no worrying about the employee being able to stay late, or being late because of snow.  The candidate got the job, and at his desired salary!  On the other hand, in most cases, we never want to make it sound as if this is the sole reason want to leave.  Many valid reasons for leaving a job, except for those out of our control such as companies closing or moving, can sound very petty and self-serving.  Managers want to know that there is genuine interest in their company, and in how you can apply your experience to helping fulfill their vision for the position.  They want to feel that the enthusiasm for the job and company is sincere, not borne of a desire to drive fewer miles.  Motives should always be positive, emphasizing how the company will be helped by investing in you.

Which brings us to salary.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting an increase, and if your current employer is unable or unwilling to oblige, it’s perfectly fair to see what’s out in the market for your position and skill set.  But again, you don’t want to emphasize that the only reason you are looking is for money.  Like it or not, it comes across a bit selfish and one-sided.  There will be plenty of time to discuss compensation if and when both parties like each other after the initial interview.

And if you end up getting that new job, there will be lots of reasons to be enthusiastic:  a fresh start, new ways to contribute and make an impact, new colleagues – and the shortened commute/new boss/bigger paycheck will be the icing on the cake no one has to know about!