How Long Have You Been Looking For Another Position?

By Joe Stein

(Frequently Asked Questions in an Interview)

There are some interview questions that deal directly with assessing the candidate’s skills and experiences with the open position; while on the other hand, there are other questions that are just part of an employer’s overall strategic decision making process. With this edition of our Frequently Asked Interview Question series, we will focus on when an Interview asks, “How Long Have You Been Looking for Another Position?” 

Why Is It Asked?
 
·        Employers Are Insecure – Most Job Seekers hope that an employer would make their hiring decisions solely based on the qualifications and skills of the applicant towards the position. However, we all know much more goes into who is ultimately selected for an open job. Employers are naturally insecure and will generally question each hiring decision they need to make. This insecurity can surface when a person has been on the job market for an extended period. The concern for the employer is “why is this person still on the market” or “what am I missing that this person has not been hired already”. If you have been on the market for an extended period of time, be prepared for some additional questioning as a prospective employer seeks to be comfortable with you in the role.
 
·        Negotiating Tool – The thought on behalf of the employer being that if you have been looking for an extended period of time, you are more likely to accept their offer (i.e., reduced offer).
 
·        Gauge Interest Level – If the position has been posted for awhile, the Hiring Manager may be probing to gain a sense of how interested you are in the position. The thought being that if you were truly interested in the organization and/or the position, you would have applied and been interviewed earlier.
  
How Should It Be Answered?
 
·        Try Not To Give An Actual Time – Of course, this will be much harder to do for those who have been unemployed; however, if you are currently working try to provide a casual answer. If you have only just started your job search, then state that; an employer may get excited thinking they have a fresh on the market candidate. If it has been a little while, just state that you are not very actively looking to leave but will be open to the right position.
·        Take Emphasis Away From Time – Try not to make the discussion so time-based. Instead, focus on your skills, accomplishments, and goals. This will help you control the interview to a little higher degree.
 
·        Have a Reason for Your Absence – Do not dwell on this aspect, but if you have an extended gap then try to create a brief scenario around developing new skills or refocusing career goals. You may want to consider framing how important it is for you to join the right organization so you are not just randomly interviewing with companies. 
 
What Not To Do:
 
·        Describe Your Job Search – This is not the time to describe to the interviewer your job search details with all the excruciating trials and tribulations. This will only absorb valuable time that could be spent selling yourself to the Hiring Manager.
 
·        Get Negative – This is not the time to air your grievances regarding recruiters and employers that have done you wrong causing your search to be extended. An employer desires to select a person who appears genuinely pleased with the opportunity to discuss joining the organization.
 
·        Make Excuses – An Interviewer does not want to hear all the reasons you did not either start your search or land a position earlier. Make sure that your answer does not come across as whiny or excuse-ridden.
 
·        Lie – It is very tempting to make up a story to explain the length of your job search. Be cautious creating a story that your prospective employer can research, especially in an industry where the social network can make verification easy.
 
The beginning stages of most interviews include a review of your work history. During this work history review, you can expect any employment gaps to be questioned. Along with that inquiry, many Interviewers will question overall how long your current search has been. Be prepared for this question, so that you can answer directly and quickly. This will allow you to move on to your qualifications and skills. 
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.