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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

Why do you want to work here? Bad & good answers to this tough interview question

14 min read
Why do you want to work here? 5 good answers to a tough interview question
Artwork by:Antonina Kasyanikova
“Why do you want to work here?” This is a question often asked in job interviews — and if you’re not prepared for it, finding a good answer can be harder than you think.

Other ways of asking the question include: “Why do you want to work here?” “Why do you want to join our company?” “Why do you want this job?” So, as you prepare for that make-or-break interview, it’s a good idea to actually ask yourself: “Why DO I want this job?”

First of all, let’s consider some unhelpful answers to this question in the chapter below.

3 bad answers to ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ 

Here are some bad answers to the almost inevitable  “Why do you want to work for us?” interview question that are likely to send you straight back to the unemployment line: 

  1. I could really use the money.
  2. I just need a job right now.
  3. I think this job would be a good stepping stone.

Let’s analyze each of them in turn.

1. “I could really use the money.” 

If you admit up front that you’re desperate for the money, employers might conclude that you’re applying for this job out of sheer necessity, not because it’s a good fit for you, and not because you’re a good fit for them. A money-driven decision might mean you will change your mind in a month or two… or that you don’t align with the company culture. The result is likely to make all involved parties unhappy.

The worst answers to the “Why do you want to join our company?” question will focus on YOUR needs and wants. This might seem unfair, because the question was, after all, about what YOU want. And yet, employers who ask this question are really seeking answers that address what THEY want.

Expert tip

What’s wrong with being honest? If you are out of work, you do need the money! But answering “I could really use the money” says that you need any job. You should be answering why you want this job.

2. “I just need a job right now.”

This answer implies you don’t really care WHICH job you apply to, as long as it will support you in the moment. It also implies a serious degree of indifference. Many employers will assume that attitude will transfer to your job duties.

Again, this answer focuses on your needs. And presumably this bad answer is closely related to the first bad answer — that you could really use the money. But companies don’t make hiring decisions out of charity, pity or altruism. Employers are looking to hire people who will help solve problems and be productive.

3. “I think this job would be a great stepping stone in my career.”

Some employers are justifiably afraid of this very thing — that job candidates are looking for a short-term gig that will add needed experience to their resumes and allow them to jump ship to a bigger, better company before long. But the process of hiring, on-boarding and training a new person is difficult, time-consuming and costly. 

The company is looking for long-term payoff, stability and retention that will enable it to reap the rewards of its investment in a new hire. It’s not looking for workers who are going to quit as soon as they can find a better job. A company whose staff is in a constant state of flux and churn will find it hard to accomplish anything.

Always remember that companies are looking for new employees who will make them more efficient and competitive, ultimately improving their bottom line. Employers are looking for new hires who will make them more money than they will cost them. If you provide any of the answers above, it suggests that you’ll do just the opposite.

Expert tip

Instead of saying you see the job as a “stepping stone,” try answering this interview question by telling your prospective employer that you like the opportunities for growth that the company offers. Remember, the question is "Why do you want this job?" not "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

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5 good answers to ‘Why do you want to work here?’

Here are some far more promising ways to answer the “Why do you want to work here?” interview question:

  1. I’ve known about your company for a long time and really admire it.
  2. I believe I can make a positive impact here.
  3. The company’s values align with my own.
  4. I love what I’ve heard/read about the company culture.
  5. I admire the company’s work ethic and collaborative spirit.

1. “I’ve known the company for a while and really admire its style / achievements / industry role.”

Instead of putting the emphasis on your needs, focus instead on the company and how it has captured your attention and earned your respect. 

This potential employer may be an industry leader that you’ve been watching for years from afar. Or you might have heard of it for the first time when you saw its help-wanted ad a week ago.If you can’t demonstrate that you know anything about the company, or that you have concrete reasons for liking and admiring it, it’s going to look like you just wandered in off the street looking for any company that would hire you.

Expert tip

Check out this video for information on what the company is trying to figure out about you when they ask “Why do you want to work here?”

If the latter is true, hopefully you’ve done your homework to learn everything you can about the company through Google research and media. You’ve studied its website and its social media presence. You’ve researched its business model and its competitiveness in the market. And you’re prepared to speak knowledgeably about the company, why you believe in its mission, and why you would be honored to join its ranks. 

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer:

“I’ve been aware of Bridgemore ever since I was a grad student. The company’s projects were a real inspiration to me as an architecture major. I actually even incorporated some of your designs as examples of modern architectural experiments in my graduate thesis. When I was put in charge of my first urban project, I always referenced the design principles laid by your founder since he was such a big influence on modern building engineering. I really respect that you guys have been keeping true to those for over 30 years now.”

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2. “I believe I can make a positive impact on this company because….”

Going a step beyond a mere familiarity with the company, try to identify specific problems and competitive challenges it faces. Ideally, you can make a convincing case that you have the experience and skills to help solve these problems.

So this answer would suggest that you want to work at this company because you know that you could make a real difference there. Your skill set offers specific solutions that would make the company stronger, better and more profitable. You know that you wouldn’t just be a clock-puncher at this firm, or a tiny fish in a big pond, but you would be a valued team member whose ideas and actions would position the company to do bigger and better things in the marketplace. 

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer:

“I’ve been involved in digital marketing for the past seven years and I’ve always looked up to Squandrix as an industry leader. But I also think that the strength of this company is the diversity of skill sets it invites into its fold. I truly believe I have some unique experience in the b2b sector that could transfer into your partnership and affiliate programs and strengthen them as one of the company’s developing directions.”

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3. “I was struck by how the company’s values align with my own….”

A company’s “values” represent the sum total of what it believes in and what it’s striving for. If the company has a mission statement, study it closely and be prepared to explain why you support this mission. 

Google used to espouse the motto “Don’t be evil,” though as part of its reorganization under Alphabet, it revised the motto to “Do the right thing.” Another tech titan, Apple, adopted the slogan “Think different.” Nike’s “Just do it” is another example of an unforgettable trademark. All of these are good ideas, and all are focused on laudable aims.

Beliefs, values and a sense of mission are powerful concepts that lift a company — and a potential new hire — above the commonplace objective of just trying to make as much money as possible. Downplay your personal motives and highlight your agreement with the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, diversity in hiring, support for the local community, fair business practices or other selfless pursuits.

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer:

“I first heard about Eco-Logic three years ago when your PR department launched the Earth Day awareness campaign that dealt with cleaning up beaches along the Pacific Coast. I’ve been volunteering with eco organizations for years now and I really loved the impact you guys made. So, I think I would really be in the right place if I could apply my engineering skills to cleaning up the environment.”

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4. “I love what I’ve heard about the company culture because….”

“Company culture” is an idea that was probably foreign to your grandparents in their day, but it’s become a key measure of how companies operate, both as a workplace and as a global citizen. Casual work attire, free snacks in the break room, Ping-Pong tables in the office, flexible work schedules and generous family leave policies are some of the “company culture” innovations that can improve worker morale and retention.

In a broader sense, a company’s culture reflects all of its values and priorities, as discussed above. Obviously, you shouldn’t tell an interviewer that you want to work at the company because it offers free soft drinks. But don’t hesitate to say that you like everything you’ve heard about the company culture, both within its walls and in its approach to the outside world. This speaks to your genuine interest in working for a company that cares about people.

“Why do you want to work here?” example answer:

“Something that I feel the game development industry could really improve upon is the crunch culture. And while I realize the necessity of hard work (and sometimes even overtime), I really loved what your CEO said recently in her interview about how one of the core values of the company is maintaining the mental health and creativity of its employees as its main source of productivity. I admire that approach and think combining that with a good work ethic is truly awesome.”

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5. “I’m impressed by the collaboration that drives your work ethic, and I want to belong to that kind of team.”

This answer suggests that you’re not a lone wolf looking out for No. 1 who just wants to sit in a cubicle all day and be left alone. You’re seeking a sense of belonging, a team to work with, a community where each member brings out the best in each other. 

This answer hits all the notes mentioned above: 

  • You’re focused on the company, not on your own personal needs.
  • You want to make a positive impact on the employer.
  • The company’s values align with your own.
  • You admire a company culture that cares about people.
  • You want to be part of a winning team.

Corollary question

When you finish answering this interview question, you may get this follow-up: What brands do you admire? You have just stated that you admire the company at which you are interviewing. OK, you had that prepared because you knew that question was coming.

The follow- up gives your interviewer more insight into what attracts you to businesses and their culture in general. It also allows you to exhibit your personality a bit.

“What brands do you admire: example answer:

I admire Trendy Company X because of its innovative strategy. They saw a need and filled it with an affordable, fashionable product and then expanded from etailing to brick-and-mortar shops. On top of that, they have marketed their charity efforts and have encouraged consumers to engage in charitable activities as well.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you answer the interview question: “Why do you want to work here?” (or “Why are you interested in this position?” or “Why do you want this job and why should we hire you?” or “Why do you want to work for this company?” or anything similar) make sure you are telling your future employer how you will help them and not the other way around. 

Place your emphasis on company values, culture and achievements and how you will not only fit in, but make a contribution. Let the company know you are eager to work for them.

As John Fogerty said, “Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play — today!”

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