If interviews came down to just one question, this would be it.
Though it comes in a few different forms, it is easy enough to recognise.
“Why do you want to work here?”
“Why do you want this job?”
“Why do you want to work with us?”
They’re all asking the same thing, and are essentially designed to trick you.
First of all, the question should not be answered literally. It’s an invitation. By asking you this question your interviewer is handing you an opportunity to make your case for the role.
So your answer should never be brief. If you don’t have much to say in response, your potential employer will be forgiven for thinking the job is not that important to you.
Having a lot to say is a good thing – but rambling is not. Preparing what you want to say ahead of time is a must.
Here we help you stay on point by breaking this notorious catch-all question down to its essential parts, warning of the major pitfalls along the way. We’ve even included some examples to help keep you right.
How to answer “why do you want this job?”
Having already applied for the job (and made it all the way out to the interview) you might see a question like “why do you want this job?” as a simple one to kick things off.
It’s not. So it’s important not to take it too lightly.
The question is deceptively simple. On the surface, it seems easy. Delve a little deeper, and it becomes clear in just how many ways you can go wrong.
More than just “tell me about yourself”
To start off, it’s important to distinguish “why do you want this job” from similar, but crucially different, interview questions.
We are not talking about “tell me about yourself”, “what attracted you to this position”, or “why do you want to work for [this company]”. These are also very popular, but should be answered differently (find out how in our guide to common interview questions).
“Why do you want this job” is a bigger question, and contains elements of all these. Essentially, it’s an opportunity to explain why you should be given the job.
Interview questions don’t come much bigger.
The best way to tackle it is to cover the three fundamental aspects of your candidacy: motivation, suitability, and enthusiasm. Taken together, these criteria cover everything you are being assessed on.
Part 1/ State your motivation
Start by addressing the “you” part of the question.
What sets you apart from others, and what drives you to actually land this particular job, is your motivation.
Interviewers want to hear why it is you have taken the trouble to apply and to attend the interview. They also want to know why they can trust you to be fully committed to taking on the demands of the job.
- What got you into this line of work?
- What gets you out of the bed in the morning?
- What do you seek to achieve for your career by taking on the job?
Part 2/ Demonstrate your suitability
Once you’ve revealed to your interviewer what drives you, it is a good idea to explain how you have the right mix of personality, skills and experience to fit the role.
Here we’re dealing with the “this job” part of the question. (Ideally matching with the specifications laid out in the job advert.)
Arguably, this is the most important part of your answer. Interviewers are primarily concerned about finding someone who can actually do the job.
- What are the core skills required for the position?
- What experience have you gained to prepare you for the responsibility?
- What can you bring to the team, and to the company, on a personal level?
Part 3/ Show your enthusiasm
While it’s important to focus on providing accurate and appropriate answers that do your application justice, interviewers also want to see some passion.
Those who genuinely care about the opportunity and are excited to take on the challenge will always come out ahead of others with comparable skill sets.
Here you should be looking to convince your potential employer that you really “want” the job.
- What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
- What can you hope to achieve in this position?
- What might be especially rewarding about working for this company?
If you’re reading this article, you’re already taking your preparation for answering this question seriously.
Before any interview you should research, prepare, and rehearse your answer to such a common (and important) question as “why do you want this job”.
If you have already prepared an elevator pitch, this might be a good starting point. Just adapt it to suit the particular role and the potential employer.
In general, you should prepare for this question in three stages:
- Stage 1: Research. Check over the job advert again, your original application (CV and cover letter), and do some background research on the company.
- Stage 2: Prepare. Write your answer out or go over each of the three main aspects of your answer (those suggested earlier).
- Stage 3: Rehearse. Try to imagine you are at the interview and answering the question for real. Think about how long you have to make your case, and how to make it feel as natural and unscripted as possible.
How not to answer the ‘real’ question behind it
It’s probably about time to consider the consequences of not preparing your answer.
If you don’t take it seriously enough, you might be tempted to give a literal or dangerously honest response that will most likely not impress your interviewers.
Whether it is true or not, they don’t want to hear that the position they’re hiring for is as interesting to you like any other, or that you’re not even 100% sure you do want the job yet.
Answering along these lines qualifies as failing the test.
You should also avoid:
- “I’m unhappy in my current job”. Interviewers want positive reasons to hire you.
- “The commute to your office is very short”. What if you move?? Think of a stronger reason.
- “I want to take a step up in my career”. Interviewers will want to know what’s in it for them.
- “The salary is higher than my current one”. Anyone can offer a salary. You’ll need to be more specific to impress your interviewers.
- “I’m unemployed and am looking for a job”. This is your opportunity to show why you’re a good fit for the role, and why someone should hire you – take it.
- “I’m looking for a change”. Your potential employer probably wants someone they can rely on.
“Why do you want this job?” example answers
Here’s an example answer, broken up into the three fundamental themes you should be covering.
(Note: the goal is to weave each part into one complete answer – you won’t have time to lay things out in three distinct stages. Depending on the employer, you might want to make it more conversational.)
“I applied for this job because I love what I do. Ever since my first sales job I got just after I graduated, I’ve known that this is the right profession for me. As I have gained more experience and taken on more responsibility, I am even more driven to succeed…"
“I feel like [this company] and [this role] are a great fit for me, as I have good experience in this industry, and the demands of the job are a perfect match with the skills I have acquired in that time..."
“I am quite goal-oriented and I see the opportunity here to take a step up in my career while achieving great things with [the company]. And from what I can see of the culture here, this will be a really rewarding team to join – both personally and professionally.”