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Three Questions Recruiters Ask and What They Mean?

Following a project management careers clinic the other day there were a few questions that came up – and I thought, people must get these questions all the time. It doesn’t matter what job you’re doing, the questions can be asked of anyone.

In this article we take a look at the three questions and what answers they’re really looking for – and it’s not about trying to catch you out!

1. Why do you want to leave your current job?

I think there is a tendency to think that these types of questions are designed to try to catch you out in some way. Take it from me – they’re not.

You ask a question like this because you genuinely want to know where the job seeker is in their thinking – and what might be driving or motivating them to move on to a new position.

I’m looking for an answer that focuses on the positive motivations more than anything else – so rather than saying I’ve learnt all I can in my present job – or I’ve become bored with the position – I’m looking for an answer that talks about what they’re looking forward to – is it a position with more challenge but a similar role? – is it a new position (moving from PMO Analyst to PMO Manager for example)? Is it new responsibilities you’re looking for or more authority?

The recruiter is wanting to find out the motivation reasons for wanting to move on because they know looking for a new position and taking the time to go through the recruitment process means that they want to be talking to people who have (a) really thought about making a move and that it’s not on a whim (b) someone who will stay the course in the recruitment process (no-one wants to subject anyone to potentially rounds of interviews when their heart isn’t really in it)

As a side note – is it acceptable to say you’re looking to leave because you want more money? Yes it is but be aware, if this is the only reason a recruiter will exercise caution when dealing with you. Why? Because it only takes your current employer to find out you’re leaving because you’re looking for more money and that’s when a counter offer comes in just when you’re about to sign a new contract with a new employer.

Project Management Careers Advice2. What do you want in your next job?

It stands to reason that you’ll be honest about what you’re looking for in a new position. There’s no point in hoping and wishing that a new position will bring, say, line management responsibilities for a team of 10 people when it’s clear that the new position doesn’t include this.

Recruiters are trying to understand what you’re looking for – because they know what the hirer wants (well, to a certain degree – that’s an article for another day!). It’s as simple as that – is there a match there?

With this kind of question you can approach it in two stages – the first, what the role should ideally give to you from the day you start – what you’re looking for now. The second, is more aspirational. This is where you would like your career to go in the future and you hope that this new role will bring those possibilities.

With this question – what do you want in your next job? – job seekers often think they’ve got to try to second guess what the hirer will want to hear. You might try to do that from reading the spec or reading up on the company. My advice is not to. Spend your energy understanding what it is you would ideally like in this job or the next one – and learn how to articulate that with passion and enthusiasm. If this role can’t give you that, move on, you’ll find which will.

3. Do you have any interviews lined up?

The obvious reason is the recruiter wants to know your availability for interviews and what you already have lined up. Your answer to this can work two ways.

You’re not currently interviewing elsewhere can mean (a) great, you’re available for interviews, (b) not so great, you’re not in demand (c) great, you’re new onto the market and you’ve not had the chance for interviews yet (d) not so great, you might prefer to take your time to find the right position.

You’re currently interviewing can mean (a) great, if this organisation likes the look of you they’re doing to have to move fast to interview you (b) not so great, you’re going to get an offer soon and this organisation can’t move that quick (c) great, you’re in demand (d) not so great for scheduling, you could get passed over on the shortlist for someone else who hasn’t got lots of interviews lined up.

The answer totally depends on where in the recruitment cycle you are, what the hiring organisation thinks, what the recruiter (agency) thinks and of course what you’re trying to do.

My advice – play it straight down the line, tell people what’s happening and let them make a decision. You might miss out on something because the timing just wasn’t right but on the plus side you’re in control of managing your job seeking activities and at the end of the day, that’s all what job seekers want – more control in the process rather than being a pawn in the game.

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Director of Arras People, the programme and project management recruitment specialists. You can find out more about Arras People and follow me on Twitter and Google I also write the careers column for PMI's Network magazine and other project management organisations too. Recently created the first PMO Conference and currently running the PMO Flashmob

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