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What are the best ways to answer “Why do you want this job?”

October 11, 2022 - 15 min read

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The secret meaning of “Why do you want to work here?”

When to expect the question

Use a Career Matrix to craft the perfect answer

Further developing your answer

“Why do you want this job” best answer examples

What not to say

Knocking it out of the park

A job search can be a harsh experience — especially if you’re coming out of unemployment. 

After what feels like the thousandth application, you’ll become less and less picky about what you’re applying to. Soon, any position that offers a decent paycheck feels like the “dream job.” You need an income, after all.

But when you reach the first or second interview, your recruiter will likely ask, “Why do you want this job?” This is one of the most common interview questions.

And when this happens, “I want money in exchange for my work” isn’t a good enough answer.

Hopefully, you have the freedom to be more selective in your job hunt. When you fill out your applications while still employed, it’s easier to apply for the right reasons.

But, no matter your situation, you need to craft a great answer to this question. Let’s take a look at why interviewers ask it in the first place and how you can prepare a great response.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to answer “Why do you want this job?”

The secret meaning of “Why do you want to work here?”

When a hiring manager asks you this common question, they’re looking for a few things:

  1. How much you know about the company. They want to make sure you’ve read the company website and job description and that your work values match the company’s values. Something specific about the company’s mission statement should appeal to you.
  2. Where this new role fits in your career development. The hiring manager wants to know whether this position is the right job at the right time. If you’re overqualified, you’ll probably be bored at work. If you’re underqualified, you might be prone to making common mistakes.

    This role should be a good fit for your current skills and help you progress to the next level.
  3. What value you’ll bring to the team. Whether you mean to or not, your answer will say a lot about who you are, what you value, and what transferable skills you bring to the table. They want to know you’ll be a reliable contributor to the team.

Keep these points in mind as you craft your answer. A great response will tell a story about your career choice and where this company fits in it. This will help the interviewer better understand you. And, with any luck, you’ll progress to the next stage of the hiring process.

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When to expect the question

During a job interview, your hiring manager will likely ask the question early in the interview process. It often shows up alongside “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why should we hire you?”

If you’re caught off guard, circle back to the topic later. Linking your other answers to the company and previous questions can help you insert anything you forgot to mention.

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For example, you can say this after highlighting one of your accomplishments: “This position is a great opportunity to build on my previous successes. I’m really hoping to learn from your team and sharpen my skills.”

You should also keep an eye out for alternate phrasings of the question, such as:

  • “Why did you apply for the role?”
  • “Why are you interested in this company?”
  • “What excites you about this job?”

Use a Career Matrix to craft the perfect answer

You shouldn’t have to think hard when preparing your answer. Ideally, you would have worked out your reasons before you clicked “apply” on the LinkedIn job posting.

But if you’re still unsure about why you want a certain position, it’s worth taking a step back to develop a Career Matrix. This job hunting tool will help you be more intentional with your applications. 

With this technique, every application you complete will have a clear purpose. You’ll always know what to say when asked why you want the job because you wouldn’t have applied if it didn’t meet your rigid criteria.

Two-businesswomen-talking-on-couch-why-do-you-want-this-job

Here’s how to create your own Matrix.

1. Write down 4–6 reasons to apply for a job

Open up your journal and create a wish list for your ideal job. You can include items such as:

  • Your preferred salary range
  • Desired team structure
  • Proximity to customers/clients
  • Access to training opportunities
  • Potential for advancement in the company
  • Commute time or hybrid work opportunity 
  • Ethics that align with your own
  • Strong company culture 
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Challenging projects
  • Anything else important to you

You don’t have to include “good benefits” or “a good boss” on the list — these should be expected from any job. Instead, focus on things that make a position stand out to you.

These items are for your insight. They can help you develop your answer for an interview, but you should be mindful about which items you share with a prospective employer.

Maybe “I’m interested in this job because it offers $100,000 per year” sounds like a great reason to you, but not necessarily to your employer. They want to know you’re interested in more than the money. 

If you’re having trouble rounding out your list, try working with a coach. At BetterUp, we can help you identify what you want from your dream job. Our coaches will help you dissect your strengths and weaknesses to chase down the opportunities best suited to you.

2. Organize your list into priorities

Now that you have a general idea of your preferences, sort your list by order of priority. Not every job will tick every box, so you need to know your dealbreakers.

If a higher salary is your top priority, prioritize job applications or positions that accommodate that. Looking for greater financial security or acquiring new financial goals — like a college fund for your kid or a new mortgage — are valid reasons to change roles.

Or if you value work-life balance above all else, consider making that your #1. You may have to take a pay cut for this one to work out or give up the thrill of working at a startup.

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3. Rank your most recent job and your prospective job based on your list

For each item on the list, rank your most recent job and the job you’re interviewing for on a scale of 1-10. Comparing your results will show why you don’t like your current/former job and why your new job would be better.

Let’s look at an example. Here are three scores for Job #1 (the job you have), organized by order of priority:

  1. Work-life balance: 5
  2. Training opportunities: 6
  3. Flexible work schedule: 3

Here are the same categories for Job #2 (the job you’re interviewing for):

  1. Work-life balance: 7
  2. Training opportunities: 3
  3. Flexible work schedule: 6

In this example, your next job will improve your #1 priority of work-life balance. But you’ll have to sacrifice your second priority of training opportunities. You’ll have to decide whether you’re okay with this compromise.

This ranking system will give you a clear idea of why you’re applying for a job in the first place. When an interviewer asks you about it, you can work some of these insights into your answer. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to a company’s human resources or recruitment team to ask about opportunities to help you create an accurate matrix.

Further developing your answer

Now that you understand your own job preferences, you somehow have to link them to the company. A good answer will set you apart from the other job seekers.

First and foremost, speak to the strengths of the organization. Describe which ones appeal to you the most and why you think you can benefit from them.

Now you can transition into what you add to the position. Remember, every question is an opportunity to sell yourself to an employer. “Why do you want this job?” is no different. If you can zero in on something they can improve on, mention how you can help them rectify this issue. Identify this as a reason you want to work there.

“Why do you want this job” best answer examples

Let’s look at these elements in action. Here are some sample answers that tie everything together.

Example 1: a customer service position at a telecom company

“Your company has a fantastic track record for customer service. I love making people happy, and I want to learn from the best how to optimize the client experience. 

Plus, your focus on client relations really appeals to my skillset. I’m a people person, and I always do my best to meet my customers' needs. At my previous job, I received five-star ratings from almost everyone I worked with.”

Why it works: This answer demonstrates a clear understanding of the company’s strength (customer service) and what you hope to gain from it. Plus, you highlight one of your Career Matrix priorities of working with customers while emphasizing one of the soft skills that will help you succeed in the role.

Example 2: a writer at a content creation agency

“I want to work at your company because you’re the best at long-form content. I’ve written long articles before, but most of my previous experience focused on shorter social media posts. I want to expand my writing skills, and this is the best place to do that.

You also mentioned you needed someone who can understand and synthesize complex information in the job description. In my last job, I worked closely with health researchers to produce digestible web content. I read academic papers and entertainingly presented information daily. I’ll bring that experience to this role to help me excel.”

Why it works: Here, you’re demonstrating a deep knowledge about the company’s core business, an honest assessment of your skills, and how this job will help you improve. You also describe what you’ll bring to the role and offer a specific example to support your expertise.

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What not to say

It’s just as easy to give the wrong answer as it is to give the right one. Here are some less-than-ideal example answers to “Why do you want this job?”

  • “I would love a pay raise.” Employers already know you want a salary. Mentioning it in an interview shows that money is all you care about. You’ll have a chance to discuss your salary further down the line.
  • “This is a great stepping stone to my next career move.” This sounds like you want to quit before you’ve even begun. You can say this job will help you toward your career goals, but avoid saying you want to job hop within a year or two.
  • “Because I’m qualified for the role.” Show, don’t tell. This kind of claim means nothing if you don’t back it up with real-life examples. Make sure you give descriptive answers to “Tell me about a time when…” questions to help demonstrate your skills in action.

Knocking it out of the park

The question “Why do you want this job?” is intimidating. But now you know: the key is to be intentional with your job hunt with a carefully curated list of preferences and dealbreakers.

A Career Matrix will help you apply to jobs that serve you as much as you can serve them. As long as you thoroughly research the company and position, you’ll not only know why you want the job — you’ll convince them they should offer you the job.

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Published October 11, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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