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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

How to answer “Why do you want to work here?”

10 min read
How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”
Artwork by:Pablo Cammello
So, they asked the question: Why do you want to work here? Take a deep breath. Now, it is time to explain it in a way that impresses your interviewer.

How does the role fit into your journey? 

That is what employers want to know when they ask “Why do you want to work here?” 

You might come up with any number of motivations, but if they do not fit in with where you have been and where you are going, they may not seem credible. Are you being realistic with your goals? Are they grounded in the evidence of your accomplishments?

The second step in an employer’s thought process is then to work out whether those motivations can be satisfied within their company. Is there a culture fit? Will the nature of the work satisfy these ambitions? Do they really know what the job entails?

We consider how to answer this vital question in detail. The following blog explores:

  • How to answer “Why do you want to work here?”
  • Great answers that may get you hired
  • Terrible answers that may get you binned

Take your time with this question. And if you can’t find an easy answer — well, maybe the job isn’t for you. Break your preparation down into several stages.

How to answer “Why do you want to work here?”

This is one of those questions that gets to the very core of your motivation. Every recruitment process with each employer will take up a significant amount of time, so it is something that you should be thinking about in detail anyway.

Here are some tips to consider when you think about “why do you want to work here?”

Research in advance

You know that this question is coming. It will certainly be one of the most anticipated answers. Maybe even an answer that the hiring manager will think about long before you have left the interview room. So, prepare for it with care.

Read the employer brand content on their website. Follow some employees on socials to understand more about the workplace culture. Maybe even drop a current contact a message with a couple of pertinent questions. 

Work out what resonates

Now, this is a tricky one. It is one thing to come up with a great answer that will impress an employer, but if you are not being honest with yourself then what is the point?

If you cannot come up with an easy answer to this question that trips off the tongue, alarm bells should ring. Give yourself time to think. Go away and do something else for the day. Then come back to “Why do you want to work here” and look deep within.

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Seek logical arguments

Think through your previous accomplishments and the skills that you have developed over your career. How will they contribute to your “why?” Will they make a difference to this particular employer? Your answer to the question needs to make sense.

The response can form part of your sales pitch. You should expect the question, so make sure that you hit the answer out of the park.

Include interpersonal skills

Not every question will give you the opportunity to include soft skills, so make the most of it. If you imagine the more human aspects of the workplace, you can easily include how you enjoy using your influencing skills or how you deploy your emotional intelligence.

Tell the employer why you feel that you could be your best self at work if you join them.

Excellent answers to “Why do you want to work here?”

Sure, you could say that you admire the company and want to work there, but anyone can say that. You can say that your values align, and you think you would enjoy working there, but again, it hardly sets you apart.

A solid answer to this question both leads with positivity and offers an idea of your impact.

  1. I think that I will be able to change *this*
  2. The company culture is a great fit for me because of *this*
  3. I know that you are doing *this* and think I can help

I think that I will be able to change *this*

Being specific about a problem that an employer is facing and sharing how you may be part of the solution is an ideal answer to the question of why you want to join the company. Hiring you will help you along your journey and help the employer at the same time.

Excellent answer: “I know that you are looking at M&A activity over the next year. In my previous role, I enjoyed the HR challenge of integrating two teams to pull in one direction, and I hope to help you make the most of the new people opportunities.”

The company culture is a great fit because of *this*

Company culture is what binds people together at work and it is one of the most important reasons why people stay with their employers. Retention is at the front of any hiring manager’s mind. They want to find someone who really wants to be there.

Excellent answer: “I love that the flat hierarchy allows everyone an equal input into the strategy of the company. This is rare in an industry where start-ups are typically driven by strong founders. I hope that I have much to contribute to your growth.”

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I know that you are doing *this* and think I can help

A candidate who is plugged in enough to the company strategy to predict their role in a future project is worth listening to. Few candidates will put so much thought into an application. Act like you already see yourself as part of the team.

Excellent answer: “Your imminent entry into the European market made me remember my happy seven years in Paris, Berlin, and Rome. Being part of the market entry team needs an experienced operator. My international logistics experience is unrivalled.”

Terrible answers to “Why do you want to work here?”

If you are not expecting this question, there is a real risk of blurting out something inappropriate that you may regret. 

Every interview answer should be carefully considered, but a poor answer to this question will ensure that your chances go up in smoke.

Here are three terrible answers to “What do you want to work here?”

  1. I really need a job at the moment
  2. It is an ideal stepping-stone
  3. Something entirely irrelevant

I really need a job right now

No matter how desperate you are, don’t let on to a potential employer that you would take any job going. If they feel that you are not being discerning in your job search, what will stop you from leaving at the first sign of trouble in an equally non-discerning manner?

Terrible example: “I have been looking for a while now and I am at the point where I really need to get a job. I will work so hard for you because I really need the money. You won’t find someone more motivated to get a job than I am right now.”

It is just a stepping-stone

While some employers may realise that certain lower-level positions are a stepping-stone to something greater (often elsewhere), there is no need for a candidate to be so honest about their reasons. Your future boss won’t want to invest in someone that they are going to lose.

Terrible example: “I see this role as an ideal opportunity to learn *this* which will help me to move to the next level. I will give my all for the time I am with you, but I need to be honest about the fact that I want to be working *here* after three years.”

Something pitifully irrelevant

The worst possible answer to this question is something that demonstrates that you don’t have a clue what the job entails. If your answer is entirely at odds with the job specification, you are guaranteeing an early end to the interview.

Terrible example: “I like the fact that the office is just around the corner from the greatest sushi bar in the city. I have my best thoughts when I am eating sushi. There is something about it that makes my mind kick into another gear.”

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Key takeaways

While you might think that the answer should be simple (you are going for an interview, after all), the complexity of motivation often means that this requires some serious thought.

Try to create a story that will set you apart from the other candidates. Make sure that it contains the following aspects:

  1. Appraisal of the logical fit between your motivations and the role.
  2. Elements of passion — conveying that the role is one-of-a-kind.
  3. Mirroring why the person opposite you might want to hire you.

This is an answer that you can prepare in advance to a certain extent, but if you learn of some new information during the interview, don’t be scared to adapt it. 

You only get one opportunity to say “I really want this job!”

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