How to Answer the Interview Question: "Why Do You Want to Be a…?"
Whether you are preparing for your first or your 100th job interview, one question you can almost guarantee will be asked is, "Why do you want to be a…?"
But they want to know more about who you are as a person and what attracted you to the profession.
This is an opportunity for you to showcase your interests and your personality.
The question, "Why do you want to be a…?" is different from "What interests you about this job?"
It's also different from "Why are you applying for this position?"
It's less about the employer and more about your interest in the wider sector.
- A nurse might answer "Why do you want to be a nurse?" by saying they have an innate calling to help people.
- A teacher might answer "Why do you want to be a teacher?" by explaining how their personality and life were shaped by someone inspirational.
There are no right or wrong answers to this question. After all, it's your life story. It’s your explanation for why you were attracted to a specific career path over and above other opportunities.
However, that doesn't mean there aren't ways to enhance your response and impress the recruiter.
When you are asked the question, "Why do you want to be a…?", the recruiter is looking to find out about your inspirations.
It's an opportunity to showcase your personality and your motivational drivers. In addition, it helps them to understand the person behind the credentials.
As this question is highly likely to arise in your next job interview, it's one you can prepare for in advance.
Before your interview, you should take the time to consider what an employer wants to hear and how this relates to you and your life experience.
You may wish to break down your answer into three distinct subsections:
What drew you to that specific career? This shouldn't be about money or remuneration, but your interest in the wider sector.
For example, suppose you are applying for a marketing job. You could explain how you are interested in communications, or the psychology behind working with different audiences, or the growing advances in technology.
Similarly, if you are applying for a healthcare role, you may want to talk about why you are driven to look after and support others. Perhaps there was someone hugely influential in your life who encouraged or inspired you to follow in their footsteps.
This is your opportunity to talk about your affiliation with the profession and discuss your interest in the area.
You should also show that you know what the profession expects (far beyond the remit of the individual job role).
If we use the marketing role example again, your response should show that you're well aware of how the marketing sector is rapidly changing.
It should show that you understand the different skills required within the profession, and you can then further direct your answer to show that you have these skills.
This part of your answer is about returning to how you have the necessary attributes that meet the profession's requirements.
Remember, this question is not about the specific job role – it's much broader than that.
For example, a nurse would need to have general character traits (compassion, advocacy, empathy) that would show they are a potential match for the profession.
Now you know what you should be incorporating into your answer, let's break it down so you know how to prepare your response.
This may sound obvious, but you need to be crystal clear about what the job entails and where it sits within your profession.
For example, if you are applying for a legal career, some questions you will need to know the answers to may include:
- What is the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant?
- Do you understand how the job’s required skills and character traits differ for prosecution as opposed to defense?
- Are you clear on your possible career path and how that could change depending on whether you work in-house or for an agency, in the public, private or third sector?
- Do you know the trends in your industry and how the work could change in the future?
This is where you need to think about the path that brought you to this career choice.
It could be about an interest you have in a specific area (psychology graduates make excellent marketers, for example), or it could be about a previous personal experience.
Perhaps you were hugely inspired by a teacher during your childhood. Or maybe you've seen how social workers make a massive difference to the lives of vulnerable people, and you have an innate desire to help others.
Think carefully about why you want to work in that profession. Was it something you've known since you were young, or was it an interest born out of your relevant qualifications and skills?
This is where you need to ask yourself why you would be good at this particular job.
Again, it's a time to be brutally honest with yourself about whether you have the capabilities for the profession as a whole, rather than the individual tasks set out in the job description.
This is possibly the most challenging part of preparation.
In essence, you are being asked to summarize as much as possible in as few words as possible.
Once you've prepared your thoughts based on the above points, it will help to return to the three distinct subsections referenced above in the section "What Are Employers Looking for in Your Answer?", namely:
- Your motivation
- Your understanding of the role
- What you could bring to the position
A singular sentence or two for each could be more than enough to help enhance your answer to the ultimate question, "Why Do You Want to Be a…?".
You may wish to write down your reply in advance. This isn't so you can merely read a response directly from your notes. It's so you can tweak and refine your answer to be clear about the points you are trying to make.
Once you are happy with your written answer, practice how you plan to speak.
Using the intonation of your voice, hand gestures, a smile and maintaining eye contact can help you to emphasize key points and showcase your passion and interest.
Ask family members to listen to how you speak. They can helpfully point out any verbal tics, when you may need to take a breath or if you should focus on a specific area.
Practice makes perfect.
We mentioned earlier that, although there's no right or wrong answer to this question, it's beneficial to stay as positive as possible.
It may sound obvious, but you don't want to mention any previous failures within your answer, such as, "I'm considering this career choice because I didn't get the grades to study my preferred option".
You also don't want to say, “I'm planning a midlife career change because I wasn't suited to xxx".
Instead, you want to be as positive as possible.
Even if you are primarily attracted to a specific profession or sector because it's widely known to have excellent employee benefits or a generous paid time-off allowance, you should avoid saying that you're only there for these aspects, or the money.
Although certain professions may be attractive to those solely motivated by money (investment banking or the stock market are good examples), most disciplines want more altruistic employees.
Your potential employer wants to see that you are excited and passionate about your chosen sector's job role.
Now that we've broken down exactly how to answer the question, let's look at a few examples in practice.
Nursing is a profession that is often considered a 'calling'.
Many people interested in this sector know from a very young age that they want to work in healthcare. Or, they may have experienced support from a nurse and want to pass on to others that feeling of helping and caring.
This is a profession where you should tell a personal story about your motivations and your ambitions.
Ever since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. I remember playing doctors and nurses with my teddies, and I spent hours looking after my toys.
I think that my personality is ideally suited to nursing. I love taking care of others, and I'm a good listener with strong organization and multi-tasking skills.
Because I've always been sure that nursing is right for me, I've worked hard through school to make sure I got the right grades to fulfill my ambition. The proudest moment of my life was when I graduated from nursing school.
Marketing is a thriving industry with great career progression and plenty of opportunities to expand into new areas and learn new skills.
Try to incorporate these elements into your answer, for example:
I first became interested in marketing while studying for my communications degree. I enjoy the challenge of learning how to communicate with different audiences and how this links with different areas such as psychology and human behavior.
I’m also interested in technology, and I find it fascinating to see how changes in tech can completely transform a marketing strategy. The more I studied, the more I realized that this was a profession that completely met all of my skills as well as my interests. I'm keen to continue learning more.
Similar to nursing, social work is a profession that involves helping and supporting others.
It's about working with vulnerable people and facilitating change so that they can live as independently as possible.
Social workers tend to come to the profession late in life, often as a career change.
They usually have extensive life experience and may have worked in voluntary roles or community positions to gain relevant work experience.
An example answer might be:
I've always worked closely with social workers as part of my voluntary work, and I've seen first-hand how they can make a real difference to those in need.
When I was growing up, my family regularly fostered children, and we saw how important it was for these children to have advocates.
I always wanted to do something that helped others, which was why I began working in community groups. However, I decided to change careers and train as a social worker because it was increasingly frustrating not to have the power to make changes from the outside.
Now that I'm qualified, I want to be able to help as many people as I can and show them that they can be whoever they want to be.
Whether an elementary school or high school teacher, or even a college lecturer, teachers are responsible for shaping the minds of their students.
They need to be able to inspire and excite others, and encourage a lifelong love of learning.
It's a profession that relies on excellent communication skills, good people-management capabilities and the ability to help others find their potential.
Many teachers are inspired to join the profession because they want to honor someone who made a massive difference in their lives while they were at school.
Try to incorporate these elements into your answer, for example:
When I was at school, I distinctly remember one specific teacher who had a constant smile on her face and always made every child feel special.
I remember how I felt when that teacher helped me achieve something that I had always found difficult. I want to work with kids to give them that same feeling.
I genuinely believe that every child should be able to fulfill their full potential. I know that I can't change the world, but if I can change the life of one child by helping them to improve their confidence and achieve their dreams, then that's a great place to start.
Take a look at some more common interview questions for teachers in our dedicated article.
This is slightly different from the previous examples as it's more about your leadership skills and capabilities than wanting to work in a specific industry.
However, you should tailor your answer to your profession. Highlight your leadership skills and show that you have the makings of an excellent supervisor.
Try to give examples of moments where you have established clear management skills.
I feel ready for the next step in my career. Last year I had the fortune to project-manage a team of four people, and together we were able to deliver a campaign that met all of our objectives and increased our clients' sales by 8%.
This was my first real opportunity to test my skills in a new way, and I learned that I was able to lead by example and motivate my team to work to the best of their ability.
As you can see, the question, "Why do you want to be a…?" isn't necessarily a complicated one to answer.
There is no right or wrong approach. However, it is beneficial to prepare in advance so that you can figure out the best way to maximize the impact of your answer.
Hopefully, the tips in this article and the suggested examples will help to clarify what employers are looking for. With the right preparation, you should be able to impress recruiters in your next job interview.