A candidate’s motivation and suitability for the role lies at the heart of every interview, so the question "why are you interested in this position?" allows for an initial role-specific exploration of their individual fit. Oh, to get inside a candidate's head.
Any interviewer will be awaiting your answer with a curious smile.
As this is often one of the early interview questions, it is not one that demands a niche or particularly “clever” answer. Go with your big guns, state the key reasons why you think that the job has your name on it, and allow the interviewer to move on to the more subtle aspects of your candidature at a later point. You should also not forget to construct an answer that fits with the needs of the role. You are there for a reason, after all.
An interview needs to be constructed piece by piece. This is one of the foundational questions.
But how do you come up with a compelling answer? In this blog we explore:
- Why do employers ask this question?
- How to answer: “Why do you want this job?”
- Examples of good responses to “Why do you want this position?”
- Common mistakes when answering
As with every interview question, put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. What would they think of your answer? What follow up questions would they have? You can steer the direction of the interview with your answers to questions such as this one. Consider your response carefully – influencing the interviewer is easier than you might think.
Why do you want this position? vs. Why do you want to work here? Hopefully the differences between these questions are obvious. The first one is about the role, the second is about the company. You can include aspects of the company culture in your answer about the position and vice versa, but ideally keep your replies specific to the question.
Why do employers ask this question?
Employers often ask this general question early in the interview for three reasons:
- They need to ascertain your level of understanding of the role.
- They are interested in your assessment of the potential fit.
- They want the interview to be centered around their needs.
An effective interviewer does not wish to explore the obvious aspects of a candidate’s suitability for too long. That will become clear through the course of the interview. While understanding core motivations is important, it is around the margins of a candidate’s experience that decisions will be made.
Strong interviewers typically take this question and explore what hasn’t yet been said.
A great answer to this question should therefore include the “home-run” reasons why you are a fantastic candidate. This allows the interviewer to mentally move on and ask about the subtler aspects. You can refer to your answer to this question, and your value should be crystal clear from your resume.
There is an alternative of getting niche and detailed with your answer, but as this question is often early in the chat you run the risk of missing the mark. Keep it general. Ask a few questions to understand the scope of the role better before you explore the detail of your value. You can always go back and give an additional answer to this question at a later point in the interview.
How to answer: “Why do you think you are the best candidate for this position?” This is a trick question. You cannot possibly know the strengths of the other candidates, so rather than repeating your stock “why are you interested in this position?” answer, share an aspect of your candidature that you feel is particularly unique in the marketplace. Don’t waste time attempting to compare yourself to others – leave that for the hiring manager.
How to answer “Why do you want this job?”
There are many ways to answer the question, and everyone will have their own intrinsic motivations, so go with what feels authentic for you. Share the highlights of your application and make sure that you are addressing the core requirements of the role. If you are not saying it leaning slightly forward with a smile on your face, it is not the job for you (or you haven't quite explored your motivations enough).
If you need some guidance around how to structure your answer, here are a few ideas:
Explain something specific that you want in a job.
While you should resist giving a machine-gun rendition of everything that you can contribute, share at least one specific reason why it is a fit for your experience and developmental needs. Ensure that this fits with one of the job’s core requirements. You have to say something that makes the hiring manager feel that you belong in the room.
Show that the role is a natural career progression.
Any career is a journey of development and achievement. It is natural that your next job will be a step up from the previous one. You cannot base your answer solely on your past achievements. Tell them how the role could become the next chapter in your career and depict it as an upward step if possible. You want to seem ambitious.
Connect your career story to the job description.
There will be a few opportunities during the interview to connect your experience with the role in a specific way. Your answer to this question needs to include both why you want it and why you deserve it. Marry your experience and potential to the duties of the job. If there is a link between your past and your future, here is a chance to explain it.
Share at least one unique and company-centric reason.
While the question is specifically about the role, it wouldn’t hurt to use part of your answer to hint at why the employer is the one for you. If you can manage to hit on the same workplace motivations as the interviewer, you will automatically build rapport with them. Maybe you might remind them of themselves at a younger age?
Answer with a hint of passion in your voice.
How you answer this question is about more than words. Expect it to come. The moment that it leaves the interviewer’s lips, sit up that little bit straighter and answer with a glint in your eye and a hopeful smile. The tone of your response should be unmistakably passionate. Make them think that you would give your all if you get the job.
“As one of the leading marketers in the gaming industry, the marketing manager role will give me the opportunity to launch next generation games to my social audience of 450,000. I thrive on creating industry-acclaimed content around exciting releases. The scope of the position to explore the role of virtual reality gaming is particularly interesting. I am a data-driven marketing professional, so the role’s focus on data science seems to be way ahead of your competitors. Following the acquisition of Howson Games, this is my natural next step.”
Common mistakes when answering
Hopefully, most candidates will have thought through why they wish to apply for each specific role. However, for those that haven’t prepared or have not had time to do enough research, this question is a landmine. Don’t let it blow up your chances.
- Keep it positive – what you could gain rather than what you are escaping from.
- Talk about the company in the answer – they need to picture you as an employee.
- Ensure all points are relevant – research the position, company, and the interviewer.
- Struggle to answer. Don’t say “I don’t know.” They need to feel that you care.
- Fail to do your research – make your answer as role-specific as possible.
- Don’t make it about your personal needs – it should be career related.
There are far trickier interview questions, so keep this answer simple and powerful. Ideally you should be ready to answer this one without too much of a pause for thought. This answer should be on the tip of your tongue, so attack it with the relish that it deserves.
The whole interview should be an expansion on this answer, so don't cloud a compelling answer with too many fluffy examples or justifications. Think about the first thing that comes to your mind - then make it fit with the role.
End your answer with a question.
Any interview is a two-way conversation, so this question is an ideal opportunity to pose a query of your own. What makes you curious about the role? What else would you like to know about it? Even…. why are they interested in you?
Every sentence in the answer to this question should have the potential to lead onto another strand of the interview. Make each reason count and include quantifiable context wherever possible. If possible, include at least a few reasons that will be unique enough from your competition, but don’t make the answer too niche.
- Match the scope of the role with the value that you can bring.
- Offer only the “home run” reasons behind your motivation.
- Make sure that you include your research in your answer.
- Respond in an enthusiastic and positive manner.
- Try to move the conversation on with your own question.
This is a gift of a question. If you prepare a suitable answer, you will offer an experienced interviewer many new avenues to explore. Craft your answer carefully.