In this post, we’ll give you the full Big Interview guide to answering yet another one of the most common (and most critical) job interview questions: Why do you want to work here?
We frequently hear from candidates who tell us that they find this question frustrating or seemingly useless (one commenter on this post even went so far as to deem it the “dumbest question ever”).
Actually, the “Why do you want to work here?” question is important to hiring managers for a number of reasons. It’s not about inflating their egos, either. Hiring managers may ask this question to help figure out how you would fit in with the culture at their company, or to understand your motivations in applying for the job and whether you’re likely to stay in the role for a while.
We’ll cover even more reasons in just a moment.
The bottom line is that because many candidates skip over preparing for this question out of frustration, you can use this question (and your answer) to give you an advantage and an edge over the competition.
With that in mind, 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, and in order to do so you’ll need to do some research (we have entire video lessons on this inside Big Interview)
Why Do Interviewers Ask “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, and you’ll need to build the foundation for your answers by researching the company.
Step 1. How to Research the Company
Besides sharing more about your own career goals and motivations, your answer to this question will need to show that you’re familiar with the company you’re interviewing with. 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. (If you’re interested, we also have a more in-depth article called the Job-Seeker’s Guide to Company Research here).
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 the About Us page 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 check out the Careers section. Some firms provide extensive information about the hiring process on their sites — including job profiles and sample interview questions.
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.
Your network (or LinkedIn account) 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 who 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.
Step 2. Answering “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 culture and values
- 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.
Don’t overlook the importance of cultural fit. You can find out a lot about the culture of a company before the interview. Many firms are proud to advertise the kind of culture they’re trying to create. If you feel the culture aligns well with your own preferences and abilities, make it clear in the interview.
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.
Step 3. Answering “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?
Again, we see similar mistakes when answering this second part of “Why do you want to work here?”:
- 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 unenthusiastic answer that makes the interviewer wonder if you really want the job. Don’t play it too cool. You want to give some detail about why you would enjoy the work and how the job fits into your goals. This is particularly important if the job represents even a slight career shift or a step up to more responsibility.
Sample Answer: Why Are You Interested in This Job?
Let’s take a look at some sample answer videos from inside Big Interview, which is our full training curriculum and practice system for job interviews.
You should also click here to read about everything inside the training program– you don’t want to walk into your next interview without taking a look at this!
“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.
Again, there are plenty more sample answers and video lessons inside the full Big Interview training system. Get prepared for your next job interview with our full lesson curriculum and interactive mock interview practice tool!
On the surface, “Why do you want to work here?” may seem like a simple question. Why would you be subjecting yourself to the interview if you didn’t want the job?
However, many job seekers have lost offers based on how they answered this question. The interviewer just didn’t feel they were as motivated as their competition.
This topic is guaranteed to come up in every interview, so use our advice to make the most of your answer and close the deal on the job.
Main Photo Credit: Paul Bica