What's the best answer for this interview question?

Prepping for an interview may lead you to one of the top job interview questions: “Why do you want this job?” Most employers ask this question (even if not using those exact words), so you'd be wise to prepare for it. Especially as the question is not what it seems. 

While it's partly designed to uncover what you want from the role, its primary purpose is to assess what you know about the company and why you're a good fit for the vacancy.

Read on to find out exactly what this question means, how to answer it, mistakes to watch out for, and an example response of “why do you want this job?” and alternative questions.

What the interviewer wants to know

The interviewer can ask you the question “why do you want this job?” in a variety of ways, including “why are you applying for this position?” and “why are you interested in this role?”. Regardless of the way the question is posed, the interviewer is looking for a very specific response.

Initially, you may believe that the interviewer wants to learn more about your career motivations and what you're looking for in your next job. This is true to some extent. The prospective employer is checking to see if your career ambitions align with the company's needs and vision.  

However, the main purpose of this interview question is to gauge how much you know about the company. In many ways, they are actually asking “why do you want to work here?”. The interviewer wants to know what prompted you to apply for the position, why this position is the right fit for you, and in turn, why you are the right fit for the company.

How to answer “why do you want this job?”

Answering the question effectively is simple when you know the correct structure. Here's a framework to follow: 

1. Highlight what you know and what excites you about the company

Having a few surface-level details to explain why you're passionate about working for the company, such as you're excited to join a specialist team, won't cut it when answering this interview question. You need to conduct in-depth research into the company - and this means gleaning more than just the basics listed on the website.

Look over the company website, specifically the services, about page, press pages, and blog to identify the company's values, how it makes money, key personnel, and any topics or stories the business cares about right now. 

You could also take to LinkedIn, find out if you have any first or second-level connections associated with the company, and speak with them about the role and company to learn some insights.

To really impress, research the industry and competitors, to get a feel for the landscape and how the company fits into the bigger picture.

2. Relate your skills, experience, and achievements to the job description

Once you've shown off what you know about the company and why it appeals to you, it's time to sell why you are the right match for the job. There are two ways you can approach this.

You can focus on the skills that you bring to the table, which can be helpful if you are sliding into a similar industry or changing careers. Alternatively, you can focus on the relevant experiences and achievements that have brought you to this point in your career and are of value to the company. 

Ensure this section of your response is tailored to the key requirements listed in the job description. And remember, this question only requires a career highlights reel of one or two examples. You will have plenty of opportunities to dive into more detail about your abilities during the interview.

3. Mention how this role aligns with your career path

Lastly, highlight why a move to this job makes sense for your career path. While employers appreciate that staff move on from jobs, the interviewer wants to make sure that you've considered why the job makes sense for you right now and how it will continue to make sense for the foreseeable future.

Ultimately, the interviewer will feel more comfortable investing in you if they feel that you will be along for the long haul, rather than using the role as a stepping stone on your career path. 

Tips for giving the best answer

Here are a few tips and tricks for giving the best response to “why do you want this job?”:

Research the company in advance

Conducting research about the company's history, purpose, and strengths prior to the interview is essential. We advise you to do this as early as possible in your preparation, so that you have time to let the information sink in. The majority of your work history, skills, and achievements will already be committed to memory, but facts about the company will be fresh and require time to digest.

Be specific about why you're a good match

Study the job description meticulously while preparing your response, to get a feel for the employer's requirements and needs. Scan the job description and highlight the requirements that align with your skills. Often, those listed first in the description are the most important. 

Reference a couple of the most important and standout qualities that you possess and that the employer needs to see in your response. If you can mimic the language used in the job description, even better, as you'll verbally draw parallels between yourself and the requirements.

Reiterate the value you have to offer

Companies hire because they have a specific skills gap that needs to be filled, to enable business growth and financial success. While many companies are proud to discuss perks and opportunities for staff, during an interview process, the interviewer is primarily focused on assessing whether a candidate can plug the gap.

As a result, remember to emphasize what you can contribute rather than what you're looking to gain.

Practice your answer

Rehearsing for a job interview is a preparation must and, like all job interview questions, practicing your responses is essential. However, it's even more crucial for the question “why do you want this job?”, because you have facts about the company to remember too.

Start by writing down your response to “why do you want this job?” in full, to build a picture of what the response looks like in its entirety. This is particularly useful if you're cross-referencing your resume and the job spec along the way.

Once you're happy with your response, convert it to bullet points to use as prompts, and practice speaking your answer aloud. You don't need to learn your documented response by heart in its entirety. If you forget some of the words during the interview, this can cause panic. Instead, use the prompts to guide you and lean into the creativity of the spoken word. It'll allow you to be more reactive to the interviewer's question on the day.

What not to say in your response

Watch out for the most fatal mistakes when answering the question “why do you want this job?”:

The answer is all about you

Focusing your response on yourself and the gains you'll make from the job is a huge no-no. There are two common ways this can play out in an interview:

Firstly, you may speak only of the value the company would give you. Unfortunately, this is quite selfish in the eyes of the employer and they are looking to impart their prestige and wisdom in return for talent and results. 

Secondly, you may over-share some real or underlying reasons for wanting the job that may raise red flags with the interviewer. For example, stating that you need more money, you want a bigger job title and promotion, or you don't like your current boss or company.

The answer includes a spun version of your resume

Your response should allude to your experience and the value you bring to the table, but you do not need to go through every detail in this answer. The prime focus of this question should be what you know about the company and what you can contribute.

Don't spend the majority of your response regurgitating your employment history. Be selective of the skills, experiences, and achievements referenced, and keep them concise. 

“Why do you want this job?” example answer

If you're not sure how best to answer “why do you want this job?”, here's an example response that you can customize:

“The biggest priorities in my career and job search are to continue leveraging my niche industry experience and leadership skills. 

“Since the job description mentions developing and leading a cross-functional team and I have been doing this on a large scale in the same industry in my current role for the last three years, it seems like a great fit. This is especially as you are at the early stages of growing this department and I know how to build out the organizational structure and ways of working. 

“I believe I have the skillset and the experience to make a real difference with you, and that's why I want this position and why I believe it makes sense as my next career move.”

Possible follow-up questions

“Why do you want this job?” is one of the most common interview questions. As a result, there is a popular suite of questions that could come afterward that you ought to prepare for, including:

Preparing an answer to “why do you want this job?” is straightforward when you know how. If you're unsure whether your response is showcasing your enthusiasm for the position, or whether you are conveying the right amount of detail to answer the question effectively, our TopInterview coaches can help you to find the right balance. 

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