If there’s one job interview question that’s the biggest PITA, that most people dread being asked, it’s this one. For most of us, the honest reply would be “I need money” — but that’s usually not the answer the interviewer wants to hear (though some people say honesty like that can work for lower-end positions). So how should you answer this question?
To help job-seekers out, we’ve compiled the best responses and/or advice people have sent us regarding this question. Have a read through them and I’m confident you’ll find one or two things worth hearing.
To summarize, most responses fall into one of these categories:
- Talk about how your values align with those of the company
- Talk about how the job will allow you to grow
And BTW, if you have your own answer to this question that you’ve found to be effective, you’re welcome to make your own submission and I’ll add it to this article.
From both personal experience as the interviewee, and formally as an interviewer, the best way to answer why do you want this job in an interview is to be as genuine as possible, without being materialistic. Avoid saying anything about the pay, status, or image.
Instead, think about what this job will help you learn, and what areas it will grow you personally. Start with what you want to become, followed by what skills you want to grow that would get you to that position, and then explain how the job will help you develop those necessary skills.
I was going for an entry-level leadership role at a commercial bank and my answer was I want to become a great people leader. To become a great leader I believe you need to be resilient, empathetic, as well as be confident and well-spoken. This job will expose me to an environment where I can practice and develop my ability to lead a team, with exposure to risk management, and responsibility which will help me develop my leadership abilities.
I would recommend thinking about what the core skills are that the job itself requires, and which of those skills you think you would like to work on to develop yourself. Don't be afraid to show vulnerability in which skills you want to develop, just be prepared and confident.
--Blake Dan, grillsimply.com
This interview question is designed to see if you, the interviewee, are the best fit for the position. The employer doesn't want to know why you want to work for their organization, they want to check if your values, work ethic and passion are inline with what they deem important
Companies are building a culture around their values and they want to recruit people who can fit into, and embrace this company culture
Apple as an example, value above anything else the user experience. if you talk about being motivated by profit, brand awareness or doing what works best, you will unlikely get offered a position. Instead the job will go to someone who is motivated by the user experience (as this is what Apple values above all else)
3 steps to give the perfect interview answer:
Step 1 - read the company vision, mission and values
Step 2 - check if the vision and values are aligned with what motivates you in the workplace
Step 3 - discuss the values that you and the company share
--Chris Delaney, Employment King
Describe your skills and achievements and how they will help the company achieve its goals. Be specific on what impact they had on your prior companies or clients. Give real-life examples.
Avoid general statements such as “working with talented people” or “global impact.” For that you need to get the facts about the organization and prepare to discuss the company’s vision, culture, and financial performance.
Example: “I noticed that ABC company focuses on charity and giving back to the community. My goal is to be a part of an organization that makes our world better. Based on what your employees say on social media, I see that you treat them with as much care as your customers.
Working for a company that puts its employees first will give me many opportunities to learn and grow.
I noticed that your company is focusing on expansion and increasing profits. I have excellent knowledge of cost optimization methodologies. In my previous role I was working with the company leadership to optimize costs without sacrificing quality. We achieved a 5% increase in profits through streamlining processes We introduced agile methods and eliminated bottlenecks in production”.
--David Morneau, inBeat
We know that the most deeply motivated people are those that hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves. This is why most business leaders are realizing that the best performing companies stand for something and contribute to the world. The answer to why you are seeking a particular job should not be centered around you, but rather on the greater purpose of what the company is trying to accomplish and how you can be a part of that. This kind of response also shows that you are intrinsically (as opposed to extrinsically) motivated, which all the research into human performance shows is imperative for job performance and satisfaction.
--Elina Teboul, The LightUp Lab
I always felt the only correct answer to Why do you want this job? is: Just like you're not sure yet whether I'm the best candidate for this job, I'm not sure yet whether this job is the best one for me. I'm not just here to sell myself. I'm here to learn about the company, whom I'd be working for and with, what I'd be doing, what I'd be learning, what I can contribute and the opportunities for advancement. That's why we're speaking with each other. So yes, I have a lot of questions for you too...
--Shaun Eli Breidbart, BrainChampagne.com
It's a great sign when a hiring manager asks this question because it demonstrates that they are interested in not just understanding if the candidate is a fit for the job, but, also if the role and their company is a good fit for the candidate. Exploring whether the role and company is a good situation for the candidate answers half the fit question and relying on just the candidate to determine that fit is often a mistake companies make as this needs to be a joint discovery process in the dialogue. However, by asking this question the hiring manager can also gauge a number of other things about the candidate including their diligence in preparing for the interview, their career ambition, along with fit and likelihood to be happy in the role. The most effective strategy to answer this question is to describe how this role and working for the organization is a natural progression in their career. Tell a short chronological story about your career progression concluding with how this role is a natural progression in your career growth. Add to this by enthusiastically and with passion describing what you like about the role and the organization. This dialogue should include the reason why their current or previous role was not an ideal fit for the candidate’s career progression. It’s critical in the dialogue that you avoid describing the role and company accurately or the hiring manager will perceive that you didn’t do your homework and either are not diligent or aren’t really that interested in the job.
--David Magnani, M&A Executive Search
The way I have most often answered this question is:
"The reason I applied for this job, besides the obvious reason to provide for myself and my family, is because this position would allow me to learn and grow my personal skills so that I can ultimately help others (insert specific way here depending on the position). At a company such as yours I see the culture you guys provide to your employees, and this is something I could really see benefit from. I want to be a part of a company that supports me, so that it's easy for me to support them."
--Joseph Gibbons, Gibbons Solutions
How to answer the question:
During your preparation for the interview you have researched about the company (if not, you need to do this). Now is the time to show off the knowledge you have gained.
Tell the interviewer what it is about them that really intrigues you. What gets you excited.
Next, show them how your skills and experiences align with their needs by referencing to a specific task that applies.
“The first thing that got me excited was the fact that the position was here at company XYZ. I know that you have a great reputation both regarding the quality of your services and your customer relations. The best part about the position was that I would be able to combine both my previous experiences as a sales manager with my passion for customer service and people contact.”
This answer is great because it combines a fact about the company and it specifically relates to the role in question.
--Karin Lykke Nielsen, Jofibo
The way to answer this question is to state how you’ll be able to use a specific strength to help the company meet its objectives and what excites or motivates you about the job itself such as what you’ll learn or how you’d be able to add value on the job. (Absolutely do not say anything about compensation, benefits or vacation.)
Here’s how I answered the question in a job interview to get the job as marketing director for an investment bank: I want this job because it allows me to leverage the ten years of bank marketing experience I have while also presenting an opportunity to learn a new area of banking. In my current job it was fulfilling to work on the company-wide rebranding project and see it launch successfully. I’d welcome the chance to bring what I learned there to help your rebranding project be a success.
--Terry McDougall, Terry B. McDougall Coaching
Tailor your answer to the employer's needs and organizational culture, linking those to your motivation for the role. When I was interviewing for a San Francisco-based non-profit, I emphasized how excited I was about the mission, and that I wanted to be part of something greater than myself. Several years earlier, when I interviewed for a leading hedge fund in Greenwich, CT, I answered that I wanted to test my mettle against the markets, and as they say in the hedge world, eat what I kill.
The key is to know your audience.
--Marisa Palmer, Tangible Assets
Think about how the job fits with your career goals or personal purpose. Do you see the job as an opportunity to grow with the company into more leadership roles? Will the job help you actualize a personal purpose? For example, if part of your personal purpose is to help people understand and make smart financial choices and you're applying for a job with a finance company, talk about that in your response.
Don't make the mistake of not preparing for this question before the interview because you may end up being caught off-guard and not give a thoughtful answer.
--Alice Stevens, Best Company
As an employer, I just wish candidates would be honest. It's okay to tell me you want it because it's a paycheck. It's okay to tell me it's the only position that meets your schedule requirements.
No one is fooled when a candidate says that they think performing data entry work for $10 an hour is going to make a difference in this world! It's better to be straightforward, rather than telling your interviewers what you think they want to hear.
--Bret Bonnet, Quality Logo Products
Often job seekers take my courses to learn exactly how to answer the question you posed, and the complementary question of “Tell me about yourself”. The best answer for “why do you want this job” is to lead up to the answer by telling the interviewer about WHO YOU AR, ie, your brand. That will allow them to really “get” why you want a particular job. If you just launch in and answer with something like, “because I’m good at xyz” or “I really want to work here”, it all sounds canned at worst and at best, unmemorable because there’s no context for your answer.
So before you go into an interview, stop and consider why do you really want that job? What does it have to do with your story and who you are as a human? How will your unique selling proposition make you shine in that particular job?
--Katy Goshtasbi, Puris Consulting
An employer will be happy if you state how you can benefit from the job they offer you, but he even prefers when you state how you can help him improve his business. Think about what else you can offer the employer, and what goes beyond the job description he stated in the ad.
For example, being self-sufficient in doing business is one of the most valued qualities. If you can brag about it, be sure to point out to your employer how little it took you to ‘catch the strings’ on your former jobs and how your colleagues viewed your independence.
In any event, don't be self-concious. Don't be modest. If you know how much you are worth, say it loud and clear. In doing so, do not be arrogant but self-confident. If your employer asks you additional questions or expresses suspicion in your statement, be prepared to stand up for yourself and back up your qualities with facts, but keep a confident and calm tone.
It is good to substantiate each of the above statements with a short concrete example. This can be an example from your everyday life, a situation you found yourself in during school or while pursuing a hobby.
--Bryan Stoddard, Homewares Insider
When answering this question I would first discuss my career goals and how they align to the job I am applying to. I would then discuss the positive aspects of the company I am interviewing for. For example, I would mention any awards the company has won (Top Employers, Top Employers for Women, Top Employers for Mental Wellness, etc.) and how I would like to be affiliated with that type of company. Next, I would state what has the company done for the environment (i.e. how they are reducing their carbon footprint) or discuss any charities the company has contributed to and how this aligns with my personal values.
--Ross O'Neill, worknearyou.com
Hi Dental Recruiter Here!
I hate asking that question, but sometimes the doctors require it.
THE BEST answer I ever got was from a dental assistant. Her answer was
I want this job to be able to support myself and my family. I also want to work in a place where my everyday duties make a difference in someone's life. I think your practice will allow just that.
I loved the honesty followed up with the altruistic finish! She has been with that practice for 3 years!
--Holli Perez, DirectDental.com
When I was interviewed to be a salesperson at a retail clothing store, this question hit me like a bag of clothes. When the manager asked me this, I had a slight pause - but I feel like my response was adequate. I wanted this job as a way to pay for my college degree but also as a way to grow as a person. I told her that “This job will be the factor in my life that would make me a better, more responsible, and more patient person. By working here, I believe I can become that person and more.” If you have worked in retail at any level - you overhear the horror stories of dealing with horrible customers, and by working at these places - you grow more compassion towards workers in the service and retail industry, which makes you a nicer, and more patient person.
--Eugene Romberg, We Buy Houses In Bay Area
This is an easy answer that so many people mess up! It is not about the employee directly because the employer is making the hiring decision. You should answer honestly as to why being a part of this company matters to you versus the other company however with an answer your employer wants to hear. For Example,
- Core Values (if listed) resonate with me.
- Company Mission is something I want to contribute to
- My skills will increase revenue for this company (employers love to hear you care about making them money)
- Any other answer that is about how you will help the company
Don't answer with things that do not help the employer. For Example,
- one of the worst answers is This place is close to my house. The employer hears that this candidate doesn't want to be here.
- Just Looking for Experience for something better. You don't need to say you are going to stay for 30 years but don't plan your last day before you even start
- Need a job (employer hears that you will leave as soon as something better comes along)
--Brian Reidy, Reidy Law Office
Answering this question, you have a great opportunity not only to show some of your relevant skills but also to demonstrate your enthusiasm for this company. So you should learn as much as possible about your future employer and choose a few key factors to incorporate into your pitch to prove why you’re a good fit. It would be impressive to show that you’ve been following that company for a while. You can build the answer this way:
I respect businesses that (make breakthrough innovations, value their employees, adhere to the principles of corporate responsibility, etc.).
I heard about you before (that you launched some products, read the success story of your employee, etc.).
Based on what I’ve heard about your company, I thought it would be great to be part of a team that shares my values.
But the part that spoke to me about this position was that I really like what I will be doing and that it matches my skills and aspirations.
--Tim Denman, ServGrow
I actually love this question, because it's the perfect opportunity to turn the tables and get the interviewer to understand why THEY should want YOU. Often times people answer this question and naturally make the answer about them. I think I would be great addition, I think I would do well in this role, I think I would be an excellent member of the team, While this is natural, this is a nightmare way to answer.
Turn the tables and show the interviewer why THEY should want you in the job.
I want this job because I believe it's the perfect opportunity to bring my X years experience and XYZ unique skills to the position and immediately make an impact. Even better if you can specify the impact you will make. You pretty much just told them why to hire you. I use this every time, and every time I nail the question.
Remember, it's about THEM not YOU.
--Nancy Medoff, AthenaWise
This question is one of the more difficult for candidates to answer, I think, because many people aren’t sure what companies are looking for in the response. It can be especially difficult to answer for entry-level positions, where the work you’re doing isn’t necessarily what you want to do long-term.
My best advice when it comes to a response is to do your research on the company in advance and find something specific they do that appeals to you. This could be the company’s workplace culture, its position in the industry, its policies regarding environmental sustainability, etc. In my experience, an answer that focuses on the company rather than how the job will help your career makes it clear to the interviewer that you want this job specifically, rather than any job that will help you reach your ultimate career goals.
--Jon Hill, The Energists