One of those simple, early-in-the interview questions you’ll often hear is “Why are you in the job market?”  Variations include, “Why are you looking for a new job?” or “Why do you want to leave your current position?”

While this seems like a straightforward, icebreaker-type question along the lines of “Tell Me About Yourself,”  your answer can reveal a lot more than you think to a potential employer and needs a well-thought-out response.

First, consider your situation.

If you weren’t looking…

Maybe a recruiter called you, you came recommended by a contact inside the company, or an online job posting piqued your curiosity. In any of these scenarios, your response is easy.

“Well, Ms. Garcia, I’ve been steadily promoted in my current company, and actually I wasn’t looking for a new job. But I’ve heard great things about this company, I’m energized by what I know about this position, and I want to continue to grow and develop professionally, so I’d really like to learn more and discuss how my skills can be a fit for the role.”

Notice how, even though the candidate wasn’t looking, he still took the opportunity to sell himself, mentioning his steady promotions and interest in learning more.

Keep it positive and don’t be flip. A Portland-based SaaS company director who hires consultants related a time when her CEO swung by an interview to say hello to a candidate. “When she asked him why he was leaving his current position, he said, ‘Well, I’m not leaving it so far!’ It wasn’t funny, it was rude.”

If you’re unhappy at your current job…

According to the Gallup organization, 70% of the US workforce isn’t happy at their current job, so at any given time, millions of disgruntled employees are looking for greener pastures. No matter how miserable you may be, do not project this in the interview. Stay upbeat or neutral about your employer and switch the focus to the job at hand. Similar to my earlier example:

“I’ve been with my company for 10 years and have achieved a lot, however, I’ve ascended as far as I can in my position and want to continue to grow.” Or “I’ve always been interested in your company and like this job’s emphasis on staff development, which is one of my key strengths.”

If you were laid off or downsized…

It’s widely understood that businesses can substantially cut costs by reducing staff, and most often, it isn’t personal. Keep your answer brief, separate yourself from the business decision that was made, and bring back the focus to this job.

For example, “After a great seven-year run at my company, when our main competitor acquired us, there was overlap in the sales organization, so my position was eliminated. That said, I was always ranked in the top two out of 50 team members. Now I’m excited to discuss how I can bring my strengths to your company.”

Notice how the candidate held at arm’s length the situation itself, and then used her response as a way to mention her status as a top-performing employee.

In all cases, stay positive, stay brief, and keep the focus on this opportunity and how you’re excited to discussHow will you answer “Why are you in the job market” the next time you’re asked?


dalena bradley job interview career coach

I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!

Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.

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