Updated 15 February 2019
If you’ve been invited to an interview, you can expect to be asked some variation of the question, "Why do you want to work here?". People often dismiss this as a trick question, or assume that your interviewer is only looking to hear how great the company is. Yet it is arguably the most significant question an interviewer can ask you.
It is also extremely difficult to answer well. This article will outline exactly what your interviewer is looking for, typical mistakes candidates make, how to prepare your answer and similar versions of the question.
When you are faced with the question ‘Why do you want to work here?’ you may feel overwhelmed. However, your interviewer isn't going to ask you to recite all of their industry awards from memory. Nor do they want you to feed them empty compliments.
The interview is about you. Your interviewer wants to know:
You need to structure your answer in two parts:
We will unpick these questions below.
Before delving into how you answer the ‘Why do you want to work here?’ question, here is some advice on how not to approach it.
Most interviewers will not appreciate a humorous answer. It makes you appear insincere or suggests that you don’t know how to answer the question.
“I’m only here for the money.”
“You look like you could use my help.”
The interviewer doesn’t want to hear vague compliments about how their company “looks really cool”. Ambiguous answers will indicate that you haven’t done any research on the organisation or thought about why you want the job at all.
“I just think the work looks fun.”
It is surprisingly how often candidates to forget to mention the job they are applying for altogether.
“I liked your website.”
“You have bean-bag chairs in the break area, which is a nice touch.”
Even if you’re just here for the money, don’t confess this to your interviewer. Never lie, but keep your answer focused on the job role and why you would be a great addition to the company.
“I need to pay the rent somehow.”
“This isn’t my dream job, but it seems tolerable.”
If you cannot come up with a single reason why the company should hire you, they probably won’t.
Now you know how not to answer, it's time to prepare your best response to ‘Why do you want to work here?’. Here are some tips:
For example, some of these may apply:
A short-term career goal might be to gain more experience in customer service. Whereas a long-term goal might be to aspire to a management position. Make sure your career goal is relevant to the job role.
Here are some examples of how you can link your career goals with the company’s objectives:
Make sure you read the company’s website and any news articles you can find. A company’s blog can also be useful, since it will list important projects the company has worked on and focus on topics which are of value to the company.
Some other ideas to think about when undertaking your research are:
Use the below examples to help you pull together your own answer. Remember to structure your answer in two parts, and bear the above points in mind.
“I applied for the position of E-commerce Marketing Assistant because I am looking to kick-start my career in digital marketing. As a graduate specialising in digital marketing, I have expertise in promoting online brand awareness.
"Whilst at university, I volunteered for a charity by promoting regular bake sales. I used social media to garner attention and boost sales. In fact, our Students’ Initiative raised the highest amount for the charity in four years. I want to work for [company] because I am interested in your product, a meal plan subscription service. As a keen foodie who is always too busy to cook, I have an in-depth understanding of your target audience.”
Why this answer is good:
“Two years ago I spent six weeks volunteering with disabled children in Vietnam. This inspired me to train as a teacher because I firmly believe that education is a right every child deserves.
"I want to start my Post-Qualification Employment at this school because it has an excellent reputation for ensuring no child is left behind. You have an outstanding Special Educational Needs policy and the teachers here are passionate about encouraging every student to reach their individual potential. This is all reflected in your annual performance scores.”
Why this answer is good:
“I am drawn to this position of Media Sales Assistant because I am interested in the marketing side of medicine. My degree is in medical biochemistry, so I am knowledgeable about the medical industry and the principles of ethics that are relevant to medical advertising.
"I want to work here because [company] has an impressive reputation for working with the major medical journals, and you offer an excellent opportunity to develop expertise within the medical advertising sector. I understand [company] is looking to grow its client base. I am a very sociable person so I would love communicating daily with clients and building new client relationships.”
Why this answer is good:
There are many variations of the ‘Why do you want to work here?’ question that you may be asked at interview. Here are some examples of similar questions which ask the same thing:
However, make sure you listen carefully to the question you are being asked; some will require a different answer than you first expect. Never repeat a pre-prepared response without listening carefully to the question. For example:
This question differs because it focuses less on what you personally think about the role. Instead, talk about your specific achievements and how you can apply your skills to the job.
“As well as my ability to manage and administer pension claims, I have a unique background in data management and analysis. For example, in my previous role, I was part of a project recording and analysing the causes of delayed pension payments. This led to the implementation of improved payment administration policies. I will be looking for opportunities to use my skills within this role.”
This answer is good because the candidate has specified a unique skill which will set them apart from the other candidates and backed it up with an example.
This question is used to single out the very best of the qualified candidates. We have a whole article about this one question.
The interviewer wants to know:
It differs from the ‘Why do you want to work here?’ question because it is less about your personal interest in the job and more about what you can do for the company.
Come up with at least three reasons you stand out from the crowd. For example:
“I have over 8 years experience working with clients to deliver successful projects. As part of this, I have developed great relationships with my clients and other team members. This contributes to my ability to manage teams and get results. Last year I lead a team that won an industry award for a national project.”
This question differs because it focuses on your understanding of the company’s culture and what skills you can contribute.
Ensure you research the company and its values. Think about how your own goals and values coincide. Then answer the question by:
Here are some ideas to think about when interpreting the company’s culture:
“I love that [company] promotes supportive attitudes in its employees. At my current job, we also have a culture of support, especially when a tight deadline is coming up. For example, I recently worked two weeks’ overtime to help a colleague compile the civil disclosure for a massive fraud case. I love how stimulating and exciting that kind of work can be. Therefore, I think I will fit in well within your team where everyone comes together to work to similar tight deadlines.”
Preparing to answer interview questions can be daunting, but follow the advice in this article and you will arrive at your interview prepared to impress. Remember:
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