A hiring manager inquiring about your preferential work situation is, in reality, trying to evaluate your level of commitment. Job-seekers often accept work that is not their ideal position, type of work, or distance from their home.
Employee turnover costs companies time and money, so retention is a crucial aspect of most hiring processes. When asking about your ideal type of work and job proximity, what they're really trying to determine is whether you can handle the commute and the position long-term.
Points to Emphasize
Answer honestly, but be strategic in your response. Make sure you're providing the information the interviewer is truly looking to obtain.
- Describe your ideal company with positive, general language; think advancement opportunities, tight-knit family-style work atmosphere, etc.
- Emphasizing your flexibility and access to transportation to illustrate that commuting is a non-issue.
- If the job you're applying for isn't your exact ideal, explain how it still relates to your interests and fits into your career plan.
- Focus on your job skills and why you'd excel in the position to reaffirm your commitment.
Don't patronize hiring managers; they don't expect that their company is every candidate's absolute ideal. Just be realistic and keep it positive.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
While it is important to display honesty, make sure your filter is in place. Say as much as is important, and make sure to keep the conversation upbeat.
- Unless it's completely true, don't tell employers that their company and location represent your ideals. It's easy to sound disingenuous without good reasoning.
- Citing a specific previous employer as your ideal company can be risky; it suggests you might have difficulty adapting to new standards.
- Be realistic—committing to a commute that will make you miserable is setting yourself up for failure.
- Give the question genuine thought and make sure not to brush it off with vague answers.
Your job is not to find out how to tie the answer back to the company you're applying to—just be honest and try to find common threads without forcing the issue.
It can be tricky to strike a balance, but this example response might help you formulate your own:
I might eventually prefer to work in a larger city, but my ideal job is one that will allow me to work with the public in order to improve community health. The specific location is less important; what I value most is working for a company that is honest and frequently promotes from within.
Focusing on the most positive aspects of a multi-part response can be a good way to steer the conversation without disregarding any one aspect of the original question.