How To Answer: Why Do You Want This Job?
Do an internet search of common interview questions, and Why Do You Want This Job? (or a variation on this theme) will generally be in the list of commonly asked interview questions. It is a customary question (and one that I routinely use) because how a candidate answers this question tells a lot about how the candidate views this job in the context of their personal life and career. Answering this question well is very important, and in my experience, so many people do not. Let me show you how to provide an answer that puts you in the best light and gives you an edge over your competition.
Why would an employer ask this question?
The reality is that it is easy to apply to any position posted on the internet. With a few mouse clicks, you can apply for almost any job. Most people, though, will read through a job posting and decide if that job is of interest. The employer wants to know what the interest is. Why? Because the cost of bringing employees on board and training them is significant. In 2016, the Society for Human Resources Management reported that the average cost to hire someone was $4,129. Other costs associated with turnover include training costs, loss of productivity for the organization and lower morale. That is why employers want to get the hiring decision right from the start. They want to find a person that can do the job, wants to be doing the work and is a good fit for the culture (engagement).
Asking this question helps the hiring team understand why you would want to work in this job at this organization. It also helps them assess if what you want is a good match for the reality of the job and organization. If you want a position where you will be promoted each year into ever-increasing positions of responsibility, and the organization is smaller and does not have many organizational layers, then there might be a mismatch between your desires and the reality of the organization. If you want set work hours due to family obligations, and the company has unpredictable work hours, there may also be a mismatch. Recently, I interviewed a person and asked this question. He responded, quite genuinely, that he saw the position as a place-holder while he went to school and then would pursue a different career path. While I admired him for his goals, those goals and what I could offer were not in sync. I desired someone who really wanted to do the work of the role and wanted a career in the field. Had I not asked this basic question, I might have hired someone not really engaged in the work and therefore, not doing the best work possible (and a relatively short timer to boot!). That would have been bad for this individual as well as for the company.
So what is a good answer to the question?
I have a simple methodology for answering this question.
(what I enjoy/am good at doing that the job offers) + (why I would fit the company culture) + (what does the company offer that is unique) = Great Answer
So let’s break this down. First, you need to be honest with yourself about what you want to do and why. Knowing your “why” is really important. I wrote a blog post that details this important step in your job search. I feel knowing your “why” is foundational to being able to answer this question, as it allows you to speak clearly about your strengths and interests. The employer wants to know that you will find the work interesting, and it plays to your strengths. You need to tell the hiring team what that is. They may have an idea of what this is from your resume, but this is your opportunity to bring context to what might be gleaned from a resume. So, here is what you might say with regard to a sales position.
I have always had a passion for sales. Ever since selling Girl Scout cookies in elementary school (and winning many prizes for myself and my troop), I have enjoyed the process of finding the unique selling features of a product or service, looking for the audience and marrying the two. When I close a sale, it is better than two scoops of chocolate chip ice cream on a hot day.
You are telling the interviewer that I love sales and that this is a sales job. This equals in the mind of the interviewer a good match.
Next, the employer wants to hear why you would be a good fit for the company. Just because you have the skills for the position and interest, doesn’t mean that the company is the right one for you. Here is where you really need to do your homework. Go to Glassdoor or Indeed and see what current and former employees are saying about the company. You should be able to get an idea of the type of work environment it possesses. Also, see if you can contact current or former employees yourself through LinkedIn to get more information. LinkedIn allows you to search for a company and find those working there. Getting intelligence about the work environment, both the pros and cons are helpful to know if the organization would be a good fit for you as well as how to answer how you would fit in the corporate culture. Let’s say you do your research and find the company has very few processes and gives staff great autonomy. Obviously, someone successful in the organization would need to be able to embrace that and thrive in what others might think of as chaos. You need to let the hiring team know you are just that person.
I know that this organization puts a great emphasis on being creative as well as individual effort. Initially, I might need a bit of direction and then you can let me go. I am known as a self-starter. I use to talk to my last boss maybe once every two weeks just to check in and sometimes to bounce off ideas. I am okay with not having clear steps in from of me. In fact, I kind of like it. Each prospect is unique and often a unique approach is needed. I landed a big account at my previous company that several salespeople tried to close. Our sales process did not work with this organization, and I tried something different. I went to their manufacturing facility and talked with the Head of Operations. I found out about several pain points and showed her a prototype designed based on her feedback. Guess what She was so impressed she sold us to the President and CFO.
With this statement you have demonstrated that you know that you won’t have your hand held in this company’s culture but you are okay with this and can even thrive. You will just figure things out on your own. This will be good for the interviewer to hear.
Lastly, every employer wants to feel like they are unique and special. There may be many companies in this space so why are you interested in this one. This is the time to use some flattery on them. Maybe they are located in a vibrant part of the city. Maybe they do great philanthropy work. Maybe they have won prestigious awards. Whatever it might be, comment on it and why it is attractive to you.
I am also interested in the position not only because of the type of work but also because I really admire the dedication of the employees to the mission. I read about all the patents that the company has gained from the great research done by the R&D group. That is really impressive, and just another reason I would be proud to work here.
With this statement you have demonstrated that you have done your homework (always something good to highlight), and you would feel good about working there because of the focus on the excellence and inventiveness of what they do. By stating this out loud, you make your interviewer also feel good about their choice to work there as well.
Notice there is no mention of a shorter commute, work-life balance or promotion opportunities. That is because when you get into those things, it becomes all about you. The interviewer only superficially cares if the commute is shorter for you. It is nice to hear but that is not going to be the reason that s/he would hire you. Same with work-life balance. The company may offer a better work-life balance than others, but at the end of the day the work needs to get done. Are you the best person to do this? That is what the interviewer wants to hear with this question.
The interview is not all about you...which seems counter intuitive. This is a mistake that many job seekers make. It is really about you in the context of whether the hiring team can bring you on board and have you make a positive impact on the organization. They have a need and are looking for someone to fill it. When you make the answer to the question, Why do you want this job? about what you want and not about what you can do and how you would be a fit, you put yourself at a disadvantage to those that know how to properly answer this question.