Interview Question: "Why Do You Want This Job?"

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2010

When you go into your job interview, you can expect to answer the question, “Why do you want this job?” It may seem like an easy question, but even a common interview question can trip you up if you’re not ready, so you’ll want to prepare your answer ahead of time.

When answering this question, you want to show that you have researched the company and can prove that you are a good fit for the job.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

Upon first hearing this question (especially if you are unprepared for it), you might think that the hiring manager wants to learn more about what you want in your next job. To some extent, this is true; the employer definitely has to ascertain whether your career goals are aligned with the organization’s needs.

However, this question is actually more about gauging how much you know about the company, its mission, and its operations. It’s basically just a different way of asking, “Why do you want to work here?” The interviewer wants to know if you have taken the initiative to learn about the company and to think about what attracts you to working for them.

How to Answer, "Why Do You Want This Job?”

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Use this question as an opportunity to “sell” yourself to the employer. In thinking about your answer, first focus upon and list the employer’s strengths (which you will know if you have researched the company): what training and growth opportunities do they provide for someone in your career field? Why do other candidates want to work for them instead of for their competitors? How has the employer contributed to their industry or to their community?

After establishing the context for your answer – the desirability of the employer – you should then highlight what you can bring to the table that will fulfill their needs.

A good way to brainstorm this question is to fill in the following blanks: “Working for you would give me the opportunity to build upon my experience and skills in ___, ___, and ___ as part of what I know would be a really inspiring and rewarding environment, based upon what I’ve heard about your company.”

Once you’ve customized your answer to this question, be sure to practice saying it out loud. It may help to have a friend or family member pretend to be the interviewer who asks you the question. In fact, this is a great way to prepare for a variety of interview questions.

Examples of the Best Answers

Not sure how to answer this important question? Below are some of the best job interview answers for when the interviewer asks why you want the job. Customize these answers to fit your particular circumstances and the job you are applying for.

Sample Answer: I want this job because it emphasizes sales and marketing, two of my greatest skill sets. In my previous job, I increased sales by 15 percent in what was at the time considered a flat industry. I know I could bring my ten years of sales and marketing experience to this company, and help you continue your years of growth.

Why It Works: This answer is extremely effective because it uses a quantifiable example of the candidate’s previous achievement in sales and marketing, as well as reminding the interviewer that he or she can offer a decade of professional, industry-specific experience to the company.

I understand that this is a company on the rise. As I’ve read on your website and in various press releases, you’re planning to launch several new products in the coming months. I want to be a part of this business as it grows, and I know my experience in product development would help your company as you roll out these products.

Why It Works: This answer proves that the candidate has done their homework in researching the company online, as well as considering how they could practically contribute to current business and production initiatives.

I have worked as a dental hygienist in a children’s dental office for the past six years. Not only am I experienced working with kids, but I also greatly enjoy it. Being able to work for your office, which caters to children and young adults, would allow me to continue to put my skills to use with a population I love. This is the kind of work environment I would look forward to coming to every day.

Why It Works: This answer demonstrates the candidate's passion and enthusiasm for her work – always a winning trait in a job candidate. It also subtly mentions her years of relevant experience. 

This job is a good fit for what I've been doing and enjoying throughout my career. It offers a mix of short-term projects and long-term goals. My organizational skills allow me to successfully multitask and complete both kinds of projects.

Why It Works: This answer is solid because it lists the soft skills that the candidate can contribute to the employer’s project initiatives, including versatility in being able to work on simultaneous projects.

I want this retail job at your store because I know I would be terrific at it. I love engaging with people and providing them with assistance. I also have two years of experience working cash registers at other stores. I am a regular customer of this store, so I would love to apply my skills to a store I believe in and support.

Why It Works: Here the candidate demonstrates personal familiarity with and admiration for the employer, in addition to briefly describing the “selling points” of her work experience and customer service skills.

I have admired this company’s successful strategies and mission for years. Your emphasis on creating a relationship between your company and the surrounding community have brought you success everywhere you have opened an office. There are values I greatly admire.

Why It Works: This clearly shows that the candidate has researched the company’s mission statement and track record of community involvement, as well as providing him with the chance to state how his own values align with the employer’s.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Research the company ahead of time. Interviewers will be listening for a response that shows you've done research on the company. Make sure you know some basic information about both the company and the job. You might want to read some recent articles on the company to get a sense of their current goals and projects. Also, be sure to reread the job posting. This way, when you answer the question, you can mention specific aspects of the company and position that appeal to you.

Be specific about why you’re a good fit. Be specific about what makes you a good fit for this role. To prepare your answer, make a list of the requirements of the job (as explained in the job listing), and then note which requirements fit your skills and experience. In your answer, highlight a few of the abilities that qualify you for the job and include successful examples from your previous jobs.

Emphasize what you can contribute. Your answer should also emphasize what you can contribute to the company – what will you bring to the position? Mention any skills or work experience that makes you a unique, strong candidate for the job. If possible, use numbers to express how you can add value to the business. For example, if you saved your previous company a certain amount of money, mention this, and say that you want to do the same for this company.

What Not to Say 

Avoid reasons that focus on you. Even if it's true, do not mention salary, hours, or commute as the primary reasons you want the job. Remember that you want to focus on how you can benefit the company, not how the company or job can benefit you.

Don't rehash your resume at length. Although the sample answers here allude to the candidates’ experience, they do so merely to demonstrate how the interviewees have the number of years of experience listed in the “minimum qualifications” section of the job listing. Providing a lengthy work history places too much emphasis upon you; again, your primary focus should be upon the employing company and the value you can bring to them. Be selective and concise in the elements of your work history you choose to share.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

Key Takeaways

RESEARCH THE COMPANY AND THE POSITION: Express an informed opinion of what you think the job will entail and why you are interested in it.

REVIEW THE SAMPLE ANSWERS: They’re good examples to model your own answer upon.

KEEP THE FOCUS ON THE COMPANY: Ask not what the position can do for you, but what you can do for the position.