Answering interview questions is an invaluable skill you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life. Some are great at it naturally, while others have to work on it. Even if you’re a natural in a job interview setting, there are some questions that have tendency to trip you up. That’s why practice and preparation are so important for job interviews.

One common interview question you’ll most likely get asked is ‘why do you want this job?’ or another variations such as:

  • what drew you to this job?
  • why do you want to work here?
  • why are you interested in this company?

How you answer this important interview question can have a big impact on your chances of getting a job offer. Here are some insights into why employees ask this question, what to focus on in your answer, and some things you should avoid talking about.

why employers ask ‘why do you want this job?’

There’s always a rationale behind why employers ask certain interview questions. When they ask why you want this job, they’re probably looking for a combination of a few things. They want to find out:

  • your career goals
  • what motivates you
  • how this position fits in your career plans
  • if you have sincere interest in the job
  • how you differentiate yourself from other candidates

what to focus on when answering the question

Getting asked why you want a job is your opportunity to show your level of interest and explain what drew you to apply to the role. Here are some areas to focus on:

the team or projects

You’re interested in working with the team and the type of projects offered by the organization. Be as specific as possible. Maybe there’s someone well-regarded in your industry that you’re looking forward to working with. Maybe the company has announced a big initiative you’re excited about participating in. Include details to show your understanding of the role and the people you’ll be working with.

your skill match

You believe your skillset and experience are a great match for the role – or at least, you should, since you applied! Explain what you will bring to the role and how your skills can benefit the company. Again be specific. What skills and traits do you see making a difference in this role?

the job description

What parts of the job description drew you in? Is there a certain task or part of the role you’re excited about? Once again, specifics rule. Recounting parts of the job description and how you see yourself in the role shows that you did your homework and care about the job you’ll be doing. If you can use this to tie in your own skills and experience and how they relate to these responsibilities, even better.

advancement and growth

Explain how you see opportunities for long-term advancement in this role. This will show you are interested in staying with the company long term. Just be careful not to make it sound like you’re only interested in this role as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Emphasize you’re excited about the current role and that potential for growth down the road is something you’re looking forward to earning in the future.

new challenge

You’re excited for a new challenge in your career. For example: you’re interested in managing people for the first time when taking the step into a management role. Just make sure to highlight the ways that you’re prepared to take this new responsibility in stride.

you’re an advocate

Being a fan or advocate for a company can be a big selling point. Employers love employees who believe in what they do. Corporate ambassadors are good for company morale and motivation. There are many ways to explain why you admire the company. You might use their products or services as a consumer. Or maybe you admire how they have a great reputation and you’re looking forward to working under the company’s leadership and being part of their culture.

With almost all of these answers, the key is to be as specific and detailed as possible when answering the question. The goal is to show that you did your homework and have a genuine interest and the capabilities to do the job.

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what not to say

There are right and wrong ways to answer a question. In this instance, there are a few things you should avoid saying when answering questions about why you want a job:

i really need the job

Even if it’s true, this response makes you seem desperate. It may cause your potential employer to question why you applied for the job. They may wonder if you were recently fired, about to be let go, or suspect something is awry with your application. It’s never a good idea to plant that seed of doubt, and put yourself in the position of having to defend your candidacy.

the money’s great

Yes, of course money is a factor when you apply for a job. That said, it’s not the kind of thing you should say aloud in the interview. Your potential employer certainly shouldn’t think money is your primary motivation for wanting the job. They may question whether you really want (or have the capability) to do the role, or if you’re just seeing dollar signs.

a generic answer that applies to any company

Always make sure your answers are relevant to the company and job you’re applying for – this is why it’s a good idea to reference something from the job description. Generic answers will not help your case, and can actually have the opposite effect. If you give a bland answer it might come across as disinterested or like you haven’t done any research about the company.

i’m not sure

Always be prepared for this question. Having no answer or saying you aren’t sure is a wasted opportunity. If you can’t express why you want the job, an employer isn’t likely to hire you. If you’re blanking and need a moment to collect your thoughts, you’re better off using a stall tactic than admitting you have no answer. Pause and say ‘that’s a great question.’ That will give you a few precious seconds to gather yourself and hopefully come across as thoughtful rather than unprepared.

Always be ready to answer why you want the job. Use your answer to show employers your excitement, motivations, and reaffirm why you’re the best candidate for the job. The answer may be obvious to you, but it’s not always apparent to hiring managers. It’s also a good idea to practice exactly what you want to say. You might know your reasons, but it may not be as easy to articulate them as you think! Practicing beforehand allows you to see how your answer will sound aloud.

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