Two studies (n = 273 and 254) used self-determination theory (SDT) to examine unemployed people's motivation both to search and not to search for a job. The self-regulation questionnaire format (Ryan & Connell, 1989) was used to assess participants' autonomous and controlled job-search motivation (the ‘why’ of job search) as well as their amotivation for searching. Additionally, both autonomous and controlled motivation for not searching (the ‘why not’ of job search) was assessed. Results provide validity for these five motivational constructs and indicate, in line with SDT, that the constructs predicted reports of search behaviour, affective experiences, and well-being. The addition of autonomous and controlled motivation for not searching contributed additional predictive power beyond the motivational constructs that focused only on searching. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.