Sometimes the toughest job interview questions are also the simplest and most direct. One you should always expect to hear and definitely prepare for:
“Why do you want to work here?”
Like a similarly problematic interview question — “Tell me about yourself” — “Why do you want to work here?” requires you to focus on a specific answer without any clues, contexts, or prompting from the interviewer. It’s a blank space — but that doesn’t mean you can wing it and fill it with just anything.
How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”
Drawing from my 16 years of experience as a communications coach as well as someone who’s sat on both sides of the interview table many times, I recommend three basic approaches:
- Express your personal passion for the employer’s product/service/mission.
- Explain why you would enjoy the responsibilities of the role.
- Describe how you can see yourself succeeding in the role, given your skills and experience.
You can use any combination of these three approaches so long as you keep your answer concise. Here’s how to tackle each approach effectively along with sample answers to use as a guide.
1. Express your personal passion for the employer’s product/service/mission.
Employers want to know you’re passionate about what they do, whether it takes the shape of a product, a service, a mission, or a brand. You can also connect your passion to the company’s core values, which can often be found on their website. Showing you’re passionate about the position is particularly important if you’re applying for a role at a nonprofit where the mission matches your personal values.
But how do you convey this enthusiasm? CEO consultant Sabina Nawaz offers useful tips in her HBR piece, “How to Show You’re Passionate in an Interview.” As she writes, “When you’re passionate about something, it tends to spill over into other aspects of your life.” Identify those examples in your own life and share them during your interview. Expressing enthusiasm is not about “display[ing] the kind of full-throated, table-thumping behaviours companies tend to equate with passion,” Sabina explains. It’s about conveying “what matters most to you.”
And remember to be clear about why you are passionate, not just that you are passionate. Simon Sinek has schooled us all on the importance of “why,” and it’s no less important in a job interview than it is in a sales call or CEO keynote.
2. Explain why you would enjoy the responsibilities of the role.
It’s no secret that we work harder, better, and longer when we enjoy the work, and what employer wouldn’t want that dedication from their staff? But it’s your responsibility to make that connection between job and joy clear. That connection can be as simple as “X is something I enjoy,” but expressing how or why you enjoy it makes that point even more valuable and memorable.
3. Describe how you can see yourself succeeding in the role, given your skills and experience.
While the interviewer is hiring you for who you are and what you can do now, they’re also interested in what you can achieve in the future. After all, they’re not just hiring you; they’re investing in you.
Express confidence about your ability to succeed and grow in the role. Use phrases like “Given my experience in X, I can see myself succeeding…,” “I look forward to using my skills to…,” and “I think I will contribute by….” The key is to describe how your previous experience has prepared you to hit the ground running.
Before your next interview, practice your response to “Why do you want to work here?” out loud, not just in your head. And keep in mind that the best answer is less about why you want them and more about why they should want you. If you convey passion, enthusiasm, and optimism with specificity, you’ll connect to the interviewer’s wish list in a way that will leave them thinking, “This is why we want you to work here.”
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