How to Answer “What Are You Looking for in a Job?” (+ Example Answers)

what are you looking for in a job

By Mike Simpson

What are you looking for in a job? It seems like such a simple interview question to answer on the surface.

However, getting it right can be a tad bit tricky, and not usually for the reason you’d expect. While the fact that there isn’t a single right answer does bump up the difficulty, what really makes this question tough is ensuring you take the hiring manager’s needs into account.

So, if you want to make sure that you can answer, “What are you looking for in a job?” like a pro, here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Meaning of “What Are You Looking For”

Alright, before we take a deep dive into how to answer, “What are you looking for in a job?” let’s talk about the “what are you looking for” part of the question specifically.

Generally, “what are you looking for” is the hiring manager’s way of asking a candidate to outline their preferences in regards to their next job. That can include their ideal duties and responsibilities, as well as company culture, training opportunities, or anything else that makes a position a strong fit for their needs.

Why Does the Hiring Manager Ask This Question?

One of the main reasons the hiring manager asks this question – or variants like, “What are you looking for in a new position?” – is to figure out if what the candidate wants aligns with what the job offers. Along with assessing skills, experience, and career goals, a candidate’s answer can make it easier to find one that’s a good culture fit.

Job seekers typically discuss their preferred duties and responsibilities when answering this question. Along the way, it’s normal for them to pepper in details about their capabilities, credentials, and work history, covering both their skillsets and experience.

But what about on the culture side? How can this question help the hiring manager find candidates that match the company’s culture? Plus, why does that even matter?

When it comes to why it matters, bad culture fit turnover costs companies 50 to 60 percent of the role’s salary on average. That’s a huge chunk of change, so it makes sense that hiring managers want to find job seekers who won’t cost the organization that much money.

But how does this question help hiring managers assess culture fit? Well, when a candidate describes their ideal workplace, manager, access to growth opportunities, or similar points, it fives the hiring manager clues about the job seeker’s needs and preferences. If what’s shared doesn’t match the company’s offerings, the odds are higher that it’s a bad culture fit.

Are there other reasons the hiring manager asks this question? There certainly are.

A candidate’s answer gives the hiring manager insights into the candidate’s job search mentality and career goals. They can find out if the applicant has specific targets in mind that they’re enthusiastically pursuing or if they seem a bit lost when it comes to their career. That can be surprisingly important, allowing them to determine how self-motivated a job seeker may be, as well as whether they’ll feel they are in the right place.

Common Mistakes When Answering This Question

When you’re answering, “What are you looking for in a job?” the biggest mistake you can make is discussing anything this job clearly doesn’t offer. For example, if a job is listed as remote, saying you’re looking for a work-from-home position is fine. However, if the job ad says it’s a full-time, in-office role, mentioning remote work isn’t a smart move.

Similarly, mentioning anything that isn’t a direct reference to the role. Using the remote work example above, saying you prefer telecommuting isn’t a problem. However, mentioning that you want a job that makes it easier for you to travel might not be a great idea. That makes it seem like your priority is globetrotting, not finding a job where you can grow and advance your career or provide real value to an employer.

Another major misstep is talking about compensation. Now isn’t the time to talk about salary for several reasons. One, it’s better to have the hiring manager broach the topic of pay. Two, by introducing compensation into the equation too early, you could be at a disadvantage when trying to negotiate later. Three, if you toss out a number the hiring manager doesn’t like, that could cost you the job right then and there.

Finally, positioning any preference as a demand isn’t going to do you any favors. Don’t present your answer that way even if they are legitimately priorities – or even potential dealbreakers. Instead, be diplomatic. That way, you come across as flexible and enthusiastic instead of high-maintenance.

Tips for Answering This Question

Preparing a great answer for the “what are you looking for in a new position” question doesn’t have to be a challenge. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some tips.

Reflect on Your Goals and Relate Them to the Job

For this question, spend time reflecting on your career goals. Then, consider how this job can get you closer to them, identifying key responsibilities, skill-building opportunities, or growth potential that you can highlight.

By aligning your goals with the job, you’ll have an easier time showcasing how this position fits into your big picture. Plus, this strategy makes staying enthusiastic about the opportunity easier, which works in your favor.

Showcase Your Value to the Company

In your answer, you also want to tap on how you can bring value to the company. Mention skills and experiences that put you on your path and make this role particularly enticing. Additionally, discuss how you can use your capabilities to excel when taking on the associated responsibilities that you enjoy, ensuring your answer isn’t entirely about you.

Keep Your Answer Honest

While it may seem risky on the surface, keep your answer honest. Saying that you enjoy a particular duty might help you land the position. The problem is, if you actually despise that kind of work, you could end up in a job you hate. That’s no good.

So, don’t claim that you like something you don’t. Instead, focus on the aspects that you legitimately enjoy.

MIKE'S TIP: If you’re trying to craft your answer only to discover that there isn’t much in the job description you’d enjoy, then it’s time to take a step back. That could be a sign that the role isn’t a good fit for you or your career. And if so, that’s okay. Just consider whether attending the interview is a good use of your time and, if not, cancel your appointment with the hiring manager as soon as possible.

How to Answer the Interview Question “What Are You Looking for in a Job?”

Okay, now’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: a close look at how to answer “What are you looking for in a job?”

So, what do you need to do? Well, for starters, it’s time to get to know the Tailoring Method. The Tailoring Method is all about relevancy. It helps you create answers that align with the hiring manager’s needs, increasing the odds that they’ll be impressed with your response.

In the context of this question, that usually means talking about how aspects of the job match your broader career goals. That way, you can show that your career and the opportunity are on the same page.

Additionally, make sure to quantify the details when you can. A number here and there can take your answer up a notch. You’ll give the hiring manager context they don’t get otherwise, ensuring your answers are engaging and impactful.

Want some more insights into how you can create a standout response? Awesome! Here’s a handy step-by-step guide and some example answers that can help.

Step-by-Step Guide

When you’re preparing interview answers, putting them together one piece at a time is typically the easiest strategy. Here’s how to approach the “what are you looking for in a new position” interview question.

1. Align the Job with Your Career Goals

First, you want to figure out how your career goals and the job align. That will give you a few major talking points, making it easier to get started.

Often, the easiest way to get started is thinking about how you’d like your career to ultimately unfold. Then, explore how this specific opportunity can advance you down that path. Once you see how it fits on your roadmap, you’ll have an easier time creating an exceptional answer.

2. Reflect on Your Skills and Experience

After you have your talking points, find opportunities to discuss your skills and past experience. For example, you can mention how a particular capability makes you ready for the next step that is this position.

By using this approach, you ensure the hiring manager sees the value you bring to the table. That way, your answer isn’t all about you; it’s about the hiring manager’s needs, too.

3. Express Your Enthusiasm

During your answer, let your excitement shine through. When you’re openly enthusiastic about how the job matches what you’re after, it makes your response more compelling.

What Are You Looking For In A Job Example Answers

Alright, at this point, you probably have a good idea about how to answer the interview question, “What are you looking for in a job?” But that doesn’t mean seeing the tips in action isn’t useful.

With that in mind, here are three example answers, with each one focused on a different situation.

1. Entry-Level Individual Contributor

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“As a recent Computer Science college graduate, what I’m mainly looking for in my next job is a chance to apply my skills in a fast-paced work environment. While I’m experienced with C++, Java, JavaScript, and Python, the chance to sharpen my programming capabilities and coordinate with a highly skilled team is a perfect fit for my goals.


That’s why I found this position so enticing. Along with having an opportunity to contribute to high-value projects, I’ll be working with talented colleagues in a team-focused culture. Plus, it’s my understanding that your company priorities internal training and work-life balance, making it an exceptional fit overall.”

2. Moving into Management

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“Today, my main priority is seizing an opportunity to shift into management. Currently, I not only have five years of marketing experience, but I’ve also personally led multiple major campaigns, achieving average sales increases of 15 percent.


During those projects, I had a chance to hone critical leadership skills. Along with coordinating the efforts of a cross-departmental team, I coached others toward success. It’s those experiences that motivated me to move toward management and makes this opportunity an ideal fit.”

3. From Manager to Company Leader

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“During my career in finance, I’ve had the opportunity to rise through the ranks. After working as an individual contributor, I moved into a management position four years ago. Since then, I’ve not only become adept at supporting the growth, development, and success of my team, but I’ve also become an integral part of ensuring the success of my current company.


In my most recent position, I developed a reputation for combining big picture thinking with managing the details. As a result, company leaders requested my input when setting strategic objectives and broader financial goals.

As I became more involved in those decision-making processes, my interest in formally joining the leadership team grew. Today, my main goal is to secure the CFO position, making this opportunity a perfect match to what I’m looking for in a role.”

Putting It All Together

At this point, you should have an excellent idea of how to answer the “what are you looking for in a job” interview question. Use all of the tips, guidance, and examples above to your advantage. That way, when it comes time to discuss your goals and preferences with the hiring manager, you can position yourself as a stronger candidate, increasing the odds that you’ll get an offer.

Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.