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Your Best Answer to “Why do you want this job?”

by THEA kelley | October 15, 2020

It’s one of the most crucial interview questions. Your answer to “Why do you want this job?” or “Why do you want to work here?” can tell the interviewer a lot, whether you realize it or not.

Why are they asking this question?

Your answer speaks to your understanding of the job, your values and motivation, the level of your interest, how well you’ll fit in and whether you’ll stay and grow within the company.

If you only want the job because the company is prestigious, how long will that keep you happy once the glamor wears off? Interviewers are looking for thoughtful reasons closely connected to the day-to-day work.

And of course, they don’t want to hear that you want the job because the commute is easy, there’s good job security and the salary is high. They’ve learned that externals like these don’t necessarily keep employees engaged and doing excellent work.

How should you prepare your answer?

  1. Read the job posting thoughtfully and carefully. If you see a term or skill mentioned that you don’t understand, research it online and/or through other means such as word of mouth.
  2. Research the organization. Don’t settle for a general impression that it’s a good company–dig a little deeper so that you know, and can explain, why it’s the right place for you.
  3. Think about the related question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” How do those goals align with this role? Be ready to talk about realistic yet ambitious goals that can be achieved within this company. Be sincere and authentic. If your plans don’t involve climbing the corporate ladder, that won’t necessarily count against you, as long as you do intend to grow, to become more valuable, and to take on additional responsibility as appropriate.
  4. Now plan and practice an answer that shows your knowledge of the company and role, expresses your enthusiasm, and shows why the job is a fit. It might sound something like this:

“My career has been all about delighting customers with cutting-edge, elegant products like Quick Query, which became our top-selling app. So, Company Z’s culture of customer-driven innovation is the perfect environment for me to do my best work. A role like this would be ideal because it’s very much like what I’ve been doing, while allowing me to scale up my coaching and team-building skills for a larger group, which will be an exciting challenge. I know I’d really grow in this role.”

What special concerns might be contained in “Why do you want this job?”

Always “listen between the lines.” Sometimes the “why this job” question implies specific concern, as if they’re actually asking “Why do you want to pivot into this different function or industry?” or “Why are you willing to take what looks like a step down?” Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes: what might they be worried about?

If you’re making a career change, they may be concerned that you don’t really have the skills, won’t be able to adapt, or may change your mind. If you’re taking a step down, they may worry that you’ll be frustrated by the lower level of responsibility and authority. Address their concerns in your answer. For example:

“I entered the event planning field right out of school, because it was appealing at the time. But even before the pandemic I realized I wanted to focus less on logistics and more on marketing, which is why I took an extension class in marketing in 2019. While I would be starting with a lower-level title, this role seems to offer plenty of opportunities to use my skills in influencer marketing and social media. And given the company’s rapid expansion, there are clearly opportunities for career growth within the next several years, once I’ve proven myself as a valuable team member.”

What if you don’t yet know whether you want the job?

That’s fine. In fact, starting your answer with “I want this job” during the first interview is probably not a good idea, as it could sound a bit desperate. Interviewing is a process of discovery for both sides. The question you’re really answering is “Why are you excited about it and seriously interested?” Start the process with optimism and enthusiasm. Sometimes a job you have doubts about, that you aren’t sure is worth applying for, can start looking a lot better by the time you reach the final interview.

When are they asking this question? 

Sometimes this question starts the interview. Since your answer to the first question–whatever that question is– makes a first impression, you may want to say more here. Of course, you will have planned an excellent “Tell me about yourself” answer, right? Segue into that after saying why you want the job, as part of your answer. A statement like “It’s a great fit for my background,” makes an excellent transition into this broader introduction.

Whenever it occurs and whatever it includes, “Why do you want this job?” doesn’t have to sound as brilliant as Einstein or as lovely as Shakespeare. It does need to be an authentic, enthusiastic statement that shows you understand what the job is about and that you’ll be very engaged, committed and successful if they hire you into it.

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