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“So why do you want to work for us?” Chances are, you’ve been asked a variation of this question in a job interview. It is typically asked at the beginning of the interview, to set the tone (or, less often, in the end, to confirm your interest in the role).
While it appears to be an innocuous question, interviewers expect you to provide a sophisticated, layered response.
I’m here to show you what interviewers and hiring managers want to know between the lines of that question, and how to structure a response that helps you ace the interview and win the job.
But first, why do interviewers ask you a question like “why do you want to work for us?” or “why do you want to work here?”
Look at it from the employer’s perspective. Any new recruit represents a significant investment; to maximise ROI, employers seek not only the most competent candidate, but one who is intrinsically motivated to perform and stay with the business.
Beyond skills and experience, interviewers look for these three key factors:
1. Cultural Fit And Values Alignment.
Culture is a key driver of business success. Employees whose values align with that of the company experience greater job satisfaction, communicate more effectively, are more committed and are more likely to stay with an organisation.
2. Genuine Interest In The Role.
Over and above skills and experience, interviewers want candidates who are fully invested in the opportunity. A key indicator is whether or not a candidate has researched the company and understands its mission.
3. Key Motivations.
Getting a read on your motivations provides the employer with critical insights into how to get the most out of you and whether or not you are likely to stay in the role.
The ideal candidate is, therefore, the one who can perform the role with aplomb, who sincerely believes in the company mission and who is driven to make a positive impact on the organisation and its customers.
(By the way, if you want to supercharge your job interview skills prior to your big interview, consider using our executive interview coaching services or our interview coaching services for mid-career professionals).
There are many ways to answer the ‘why do you want to work for us?’ conundrum.
But before I go into how to prepare a response that’s right for you – here are some guidelines as to what interviewers don’t want to hear:
1. The Overly Generic, Uninformed Response.
Answers such as, “I’ve heard it’s a great company and I’d like to be a part of its success” are more common than you would think. It’s agreeable enough, but vague.
Not only does it suggest that you haven’t taken the time to research the company, it won’t help you stand out in a crowded pool of candidates.
2. The Apathetic Response.
One of the biggest turn-offs for an interviewer is a lack of enthusiasm. No matter how experienced or qualified, a candidate who can’t demonstrate a genuine interest in the role will only get so far in the interview process.
3. The Money-Focused Response.
Answers that lead with references to remuneration and benefits suggest that you are primarily motivated by money.
Again, this raises doubts over your interest in the role outside of pay and indicates that you may not stay if offered a bigger package elsewhere.
4. The Overly Candid Response.
Interview questions are rarely about your personal circumstances. They are nearly always about what you can offer the employer.
This means you should avoid responses such as, “I’ve just relocated from interstate and saw there was a job opening”.
5. The Career Trajectory Response.
Although interviewers are interested in your professional goals, responses that lead with “I see this role as a great stepping-stone in my career” are problematic.
Firstly, it focuses on what a company can do for you, as opposed to the other way round. In addition, it suggests that you are already looking elsewhere to progress your career.
How To Structure An Answer.
The key to answering the ‘why do you want to work for us?’ question is in understanding that you are actually answering not one, but two questions.
- “Why do you want this role?”
- “Why do you want to work for this organisation?”
Your responses must always be tailored to the company.
Good answers focus on how your unique skills, experience and values can contribute to the company’s success through role performance.
Great answers demonstrate that you understand current company (or industry) challenges, and that you possess the capabilities required to overcome them.
With This In Mind, Let’s Get Started.
Your answer doesn’t have to include all the below points. However, actioning these steps will help build an answer that works best for you.
1. Research The Company.
Being well-informed helps interviewers see how serious you are about the role. Start with the company website, paying particular attention to the ‘About Us’, ‘Careers’ and ‘Press Releases’ pages.
The ‘About Us’ page should provide valuable information about the company’s history, organisational structure and mission statement.
Crucially, it typically includes a listing of the company’s leadership team, which is particularly useful if a member will be conducting or sitting in on your interview. Familiarise yourself with faces, career histories and personal interests.
Also, be on the lookout for any references to corporate social responsibility to see how the company acts on its values and engages with the community.
The ‘Careers’ page may contain further information about core values, culture and desired employee qualities.
The ‘Press Release’ section can offer recent information around product releases, recent acquisitions, new corporate initiatives, awards and accomplishments.
2. Research The Industry.
Every industry will have its own unique set of challenges.
Perform an online search about the sector to see if you can learn about the company’s likely current key issues.
Be on the lookout for news articles, whitepapers, government trade websites and market research reports.
By gaining a strategic understanding of the company and the sector it operates in, you will equip yourself with the material necessary to answer the “why do you want to work for us?” question.
3. Be Clear About Your Core Values.
Before aligning your values with the company’s, take some time to define what your core values actually are.
Most of us have a vague idea of what these are, however, it can be difficult to articulate unless we think consciously about them.
Ask yourself some questions, ‘What cultures do I enjoy working in?’, ‘Who are my role models?’, ‘What does integrity look like to me?’, ‘What are the kinds of relationships I treasure?’, ‘What corporate social initiatives have resonated with me?’
Clarifying your values enables you to make sure that they align with those of the company.
4. Study The Job Description.
Highlight the parts of the role that appeal the most to you, and the parts that will force you to grow the most.
Ask yourself, ‘Why do I prefer some responsibilities over others?’, ‘What excites me about the work?’, ‘What does this reveal about my passions?’ and ‘In what areas do I want to develop more skills?’.
This exercise will help you become conscious of what you love to do, what attracts you to the role and where you want to progress. This, in turn, will help demonstrate your interest and capability in the role to the interviewer.
5. Bring It All Together.
You’re about to identify where you – and the company’s mission, culture and values – collide.
Consider how you would complement and enrich the company’s culture. Keep track of the values that you share. Take note of any corporate or social initiatives that you admire.
Where possible, think of specific examples of past career successes that demonstrate how you can create value for the company and help meet its objectives.
6. Be Prepared For Video.
Did you get the memo? Video interviewing has been on the rise since 2012. It’s not unlikely that at least a part of your recruitment journey will involve a video interview. Read my video interview tips to ensure that you know how to prepare and what to expect.
7. Practice Your Answer.
Remember, the key here is to be authentic and establish an emotional connection.
Avoid a scripted response – this tends to sound rehearsed and disingenuous. Focus instead on having key talking points and practice with family and friends.
Sample Responses For ‘Why Do You Want To Work For Us?’
Well, as a Head of Engineering with public and private sector experience, I love solving complex problems as part of a team. I read recently that the company is looking to partner with some charities to build housing for the homeless. I’ve always found working for the public sector a more personally rewarding space, and I bring extensive experience in social housing construction to contribute meaningfully to this key social issue.”
“As a CIO, I am obsessed with keeping up with the latest in emerging technology. I understand that your new CEO has just announced a 5-year technology investment program, and I believe I have the skills and experience to really optimise the value of that initiative and push the boundaries in terms of innovation.”
Remember – the best answers to “why do you want to work here”, as well as similar versions of that question – e.g., “why should I hire you?”, “why are you a fit for this company?” – create a vision of a shared future between you and your potential employer.
You’ll find it easier to be confident in your answer if you focus on issues and values you genuinely passionate about.
That being said, avoid making your response too personal; there is such a thing as ‘oversharing’. Always remain professional.