Friday, February 5, 2010

What Are You Looking For? – Job search question of the week

On Fridays, I'm posting a job search question from one of our readers. This was a question posted in response to my posting on Linkedin Answers “Candidates - What's your most difficult job search question?”

M.M. shared that her toughest job search question was:

“What are you looking for?”
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This is a tough question, because the employer isn’t really asking what they appear to ask. The question isn’t about you…it’s about the employer, and how you will fit into their plans.

A strong answer demonstrates that the candidate and the employer are both looking for the same thing.

The worst way to answer this question is the way most candidates answer it … without preparation. Other answers that don’t work well are What’s In it For Me (WIFM) answers (See the Homer Simpson section at: Unfortunately, these are the most common answers given by candidates.

A sure sign that a candidate hasn’t prepared is “I want to work with an organization that values my contribution” … Duh, who doesn’t? Another tell is the self-serving answer “I want to work at a company that appreciates work-life balance, that is fun, that offers tuition reimbursement”, describing WIFM, not what you can give.

I saw a clear WIFM example the other day. A friend with 20 years of sales experience in her industry asked me for help with her resume, and when I asked “What are you looking for?” she answered … “I’d like to get out of my industry and find a sales job where I could work from home, flexible hours, without micromanagement. I don’t want to focus on prospecting, but instead develop repeat business. It doesn’t matter which industry … I can learn to sell the product”. Granted, this wasn’t an interview, but her mind was in WIFM mode.

The best way to answer is by researching the company (, to understand their goals, problems, and challenges. Even better, talk to people at the company before the interview, to understand the company’s, departments, and hiring manager’s hot buttons ( Answer the question to show that you are looking to solve specific problems, that the company and department happen to have – What’s In it For Them (WIFT). You might try answering “I want to work at a company with great products/services, to help them grow as a world-class provider” (if your research shows the company is trying to do just that).

Your social networks can help you discover WIFT. Twitter can be an excellent tool to monitor company conversations (, Facebook now works in a similar manner as it is becoming more searchable. Linkedin company pages and Linkedin Follow are two ways you can get some ideas about what’s currently being discussed at your target company (

Of course, one answer can’t fit all situations. Giving the help a company grow answer won’t work well for a company that is retrenching – because they have different problems to solve. It won’t work for a company that is stable and may not work for a company that is early stage (that isn’t ready to grow as a world-class provider yet).

Have you decided what you are looking for yet?

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What Can You Do When Nothing's Working in Your Job Search?

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