Today’s post is your guide to answering yet another one of the most common (and most critical) job interview questions: Why do you want to work here?
Actually, we want to cover this question from two important angles.
- Why are you interested in the company?
- Why are you interested in the job?
You must be able to answer both of these questions to ace your interview.
Answering the Question — Why Do You Want to Work Here?
The interviewer is looking for similar things whether asking about company or position. The hiring manager wants to:
- Learn about your career goals and how this position fits into your plan
- Make sure that you are sincerely interested in the job and will be motivated to perform if hired
- Find out what you know about the company, industry, position (and if you took the time to research)
- Understand your priorities and preferences — which aspects of the company and/or job are appealing to you and why?
However, you must approach each part of the question differently.
I. What do you like about this company?
The hiring manager is looking for someone who will fit in at the company and enjoy working there.
A good answer will demonstrate a knowledge of the company and industry. That means you must do your homework so that you can identify specific reasons for wanting to work for the firm.
These reasons could include one or several of the following:
- Company general reputation
- Reputation of key leaders
- Admiration of products/services
- Admiration of other company initiatives (marketing campaign, community involvement, training programs)
- Company awards
- Company management philosophy
- Company values
- Company positioning in market
- Company growth/success
You can probably think of other reasons that would also work. Please note: “It’s close to my house” is not a good reason.
Common Mistakes: What Do You Like About This Company?
- A too-general answer that could apply to any company. Most of my interview coaching clients make this mistake. They say something like,“It’s a great company and I’d love to work there.” That’s nice, but it’s also not very memorable or believable.
- An uninformed answer that shows you haven’t done any research. The worst thing you can do is demonstrate that you don’t even know what the company does — or that you only have a vague idea and expect the interviewer to fill you in.
- An unenthusiastic answer that makes the interviewer wonder if you really want the job. You want to convince the interviewer that you are excited about the idea of working for his company. Avoid an answer like, “I heard there were some open positions, so here I am.”
Sample Answer 1: What Do You Like About This Company?
“Well, the JP Morgan reputation is certainly a factor. I would be proud to work for a company with such a long history of leadership in the industry.
Also, a good friend of the family has been working in corporate finance at JP Morgan for the last two years and he told me that the culture supports learning and development on the job – and really rewards hard work.”
Why We Like It: In this case, the candidate is interviewing for a very well-known firm. In a situation like this, the tendency for many candidates is to basically answer, “Well, it’s JP Morgan. Duh.” In today’s job market, that’s not going to be enough to set you apart from other candidates, even if your resume is stellar.
This sample answer addresses the company’s brand and history, but also demonstrates that the candidate took the time to do some additional research through his network (read on for some tips on how to research companies before you interview). The answer goes on to emphasize the candidate’s interest in working hard and developing on the job.
Sample Answer 2: What Do You Like About This Company?
“I saw an article in Business Week about your new CEO John Jacobs and the firm’s renewed focus on technology innovation.
I consider myself an innovator and I would love to work for an organization that’s leading the future of the industry.”
Why We Like It: It’s smart to seek out recent press on any company that interviews you. In this case, the candidate found an article about the firm’s new CEO and quoting it makes her sound smart, prepared, and interested.
She also singles out the bit from the article about innovation and articulates that this is a shared value. It doesn’t hurt that she compliments the firm as a leader in the industry. A little flattery can be effective — just be careful not to cross the line into pathetic kissing up.
II. Why are you interested in the job?
So you love the company and you can prove it. Think you’re all set? Not so fast. You must also be prepared to speak about the position. You must prove that you are the perfect fit for THIS JOB at THIS COMPANY.
So ask yourself: What is appealing about this job? Why did you respond to this job description?
You must be able to discuss what excites you about the work. After all, every manager wants to hire someone who will love the work required and be committed to doing a great job.
A great answer will also allow you to sneak in information about how good you are at the work required (after all, it’s much easier to love your work when you’re good at it). While the interviewer wants to know why you are attracted to the job, he’ll be even more interested in hearing about why your experience has prepared you to excel in the position.
Bottom line: Companies like to hire people who will be good at the job – and enjoy what they do. Clearly communicate both your interest and ability.
Common Mistakes: Why Are You Interested in This Job?
- A too-general answer that could apply to any position. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re only interested in this job because it’s available. I often compare job interviewing to dating (hopefully, dating is at least a little bit more fun for you). No date wants to hear, “You were the only one who would go out with me.” It’s the same with job interviewing. You have to woo the company and talk about why the position was made for you.
- An uninformed answer that shows you don’t understand the job. If you don’t comprehend every word on that job description, take some time to research.
- An unenthusiastic answer that makes the interviewer wonder if you really want the job. If you can’t provide details about why you’re into the job, the interviewer will likely assume that you’re NOT.
Sample Answer: Why Are You Interested in This Job?
“I feel that my proven track record leading multi-functional teams makes me an excellent match for the job requirements. Also, the role excites me because I love the idea of helping to develop cutting-edge software products and I know I could start delivering results from Day 1.”
Why We Like It: This answer manages to sell the candidate while addressing what she likes about the job. She leads with the fact that her experience makes her a great fit for the job requirements. She continues by stating that the role excites her. This is good. Don’t be coy about whether you want the job or not. Show some enthusiasm. And finally, our candidate wraps by promising that she can deliver results immediately.
Sample Answer: Putting It All Together — Company + Role
“Well, I have great respect for your company’s software products and I would welcome the opportunity to work with the best in the business. At the same time, I have friends in the industry who have told me about your company’s respect for employees and how you create a great environment for rewarding innovation. I think my proactive style would fit in really well here — especially in this particular role.”
Why We Like It: This sample answer addresses both the organization and the role. He compliments the products, the employees, and the work environment (companies do love to say they are innovative, don’t they?). He then talks about how his style would fit in well. If this were my client, I would advise him to add one last line about WHY his style would benefit this role in particular.
How to Research the Company
Now you know the best practices for answering, “Why do you want to work here?” To apply them to your own next job interview, you’ll probably need to do a bit of research.
If you already know all about the company and why it’s a good match for you, you can skip this part and go practice your answer. For everyone else, here are some tips for researching any company.
The Company Web Site
Start with the company web site. This may seem like an obvious approach, but you have to take the time to actually do it.
A good company web site covers everything from firm history to mission statement to product lines to latest awards and accomplishments. Read all of the About Us stuff and spend some time in the Press Room, where you’ll usually find the latest press releases and media mentions.
Read the company blog if they have one. Next, sign up for any newsletter offered and check out the company’s social media presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.)
You’ll also want to spend some time in the site’s Careers section. Some firms provide extensive information about the hiring process on their sites — including job profiles and sample interview questions in some cases.
Depending on the size of the company and whether it’s public or private, you may even be able to access financial statements, annual reports, and executive biographies.
Although company web sites can tell you a lot, you can learn even more with a broader Google search.
Look for recent articles about the company in the mainstream press and industry publications. These articles can also provide useful information about the latest trends in the industry and how the company compares with competitors. If you are aware of an influential publication that covers the industry, go to the publication web site and conduct a search.
Your network may be your most valuable research source. Reach out to trusted contacts in your network for information. A search on LinkedIn can quickly reveal who you know at the hiring company (or who you know that knows somebody). Look for those currently at the firm and those who worked there in the past.
An “inside contact” can provide priceless data and can even serve as an advocate (if you’re lucky and have been nurturing your relationships).
Don’t just rely on LinkedIn. You can also ask around to determine if any trusted contacts (former colleagues, professors, etc.) have a connection to the firm.
Just be careful about name-dropping in the interview if you don’t know your contact’s internal reputation.
Main Photo Credit: Paul Bica