What's the best response for "why do you want this job?" We break it down. [TWEET]

Prepping for an interview may lead you to consider your responses to questions like:

  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “Why are you thinking about leaving your job” or “Why did you leave your last job?”
  • “Why would you excel at this job?”
  • “What do you know about our company so far?”
  • “Tell me about a time when…”
  • “What would you do in your first 90 days in this position?”

One is a particularly challenging question: “Why do you want this job?” Many employers ask, and candidates, in preparing, spend a lot of time planning for the right answer. The difficulty, however, is that is there truly a correct response? Is a canned answer demonstrative of what you want to convey in the interview? Employers know you have likely planned for the most common job interview questions, but planning for something that should be an organic response presents its own unique issues.

For starters, you may have applied to the position realistically because you need a job. With that in mind, you can’t say that in response to the “why do you want this job” question. On the other hand, a generic reply won’t be any more advantageous than telling the full truth. So what to do?

First and foremost, RESEARCH. You perhaps sent in your resume as part of a series of applications during one of your search days, but now that the interview is set up, and you know the common job interview questions are coming, it’s time to know more about the company you will be visiting and the role you will play. The truth is that job seekers, unless already employed, don’t always have time to research every company to which they apply, and it can be discouraging to do so if you don’t land an interview. However, once the interview is a sure thing, it’s time to take that step. This means more than simply reading the website. Did you get names of the people you’ll be meeting? Who are they? Do they have profiles on the company site? LinkedIn profiles? What can you learn about the company’s annual reports – and also their mission and community activities? How does this tie into your idea of a great company culture? What does the position entail and how will it fit your existing skill set, while also challenging you to grow as a professional?

Thinking brain

Now, use that information to think about what you can add and what would appeal to you. Is this an organization that focuses on giving back? Do they have a strong employee base that contributes to process improvements? Will you have opportunities to grow professionally through training or coaching, as well as collaborate and learn from people you admire and respect? While you’re looking for work, it can be hard to remember that salary, and even benefits like insurance, aren’t going to be the only factors in your long-term satisfaction. Paying the bills is obviously important, but getting up and feeling enthusiastic about what you do is equally valuable. How can this position – and this company – contribute to that? How can you add value to the company in return?

Tie your response back to value for the company. How does your wanting the job add value to the company in return? Everything you say in an interview – whether an answer to “why do you want this job” or something else – should ultimately tell the employer what’s in it for them. They should be able to take away the value they’ll receive from hiring you because you want the job and because of what you’ll bring to the table if hired.

When developing a response, be honest. Have some ideas for answering this common job interview question ready based on your research and personal reflection, but also listen during the interview. What stands out based on the interview environment? Did you feel welcomed upon arriving? Do the hiring committee members have a great rapport, and do you feel as if you would fit in quickly? Fold this into your response to show that you aren’t answering from rote, but naturally as part of a conversation.

Remember that the interview is for both you and the hiring committee. You’ve considered why you want to work there, and why you want this position in particular. Be fair and honest, but also show them why you’re the best candidate in your reply. A great deal of the hiring process is an art rather than a science. If you ask hiring managers for their feedback, there’s often an intangible element involved in the finalists for the role and eventually who gets the job. This “why do you want this job” question can touch on that piece. It’s an opportunity to show them why you will be excited about working with them, and how that enthusiasm can carry into what you give back to the organization.

Finally, don’t get too attached to the preparation you’ve done. You want to answer this question honestly and have reasons you would be happy with this organization, but remember – the dream job is rarely 100% ideal. If you, for any reason, don’t get the job, reiterate your enthusiasm for the team and company mission in a thank you for the response, and then move on. Your preparation and reflection will only benefit you in the future – and you’ll have more information to drive your responses to the common job interview questions at the next interview!

Resources on other common job interview questions

Need more interview help? Check out these articles addressing how to properly answer other common job interview questions:

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