What's the best answer for this phone interview question?

Prepping for an interview should include practicing how to answer one of the top phone interview questions: “why do you want this job?” Most employers ask some variation of this question, so you'd be wise to prepare for it - especially if you're unsure about what the interviewer might be trying to learn from your answer.

In this post, we'll provide some basic facts about phone interviews, explain why interviewers ask this type of question, offer some tips to help you learn how to answer it, and provide some example answers that you can use to respond during a phone interview.

Basic information about phone interviews

Below are some basic facts about phone interviews that can help you to mentally prepare for this part of the hiring process. It includes key details about why employers may use this process, how long an interview usually lasts, and some simple etiquette that you can use as you formulate your answers to phone interview questions.

1.     Why do employers conduct phone interviews?

In a competitive labor market, many companies are inundated with dozens or even hundreds of resumes from qualified job seekers. Employers who want to streamline their hiring process may employ phone interviews to help screen applicants and narrow the list of candidates who receive in-person interviews. While this type of interview may not be as useful for identifying the ideal job candidate, employers can use them to assess each applicant's basic skill levels, personality, experience, and general suitability for employment.

2.     How long should this interview take?

As a rule, most phone interviews last somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes. So, if you're preparing for this type of interview, make sure that you have a quiet place where you can speak for up to half an hour without interruptions or distractions.

3.     How brief should your answers be?

When you're answering phone interview questions, it's always important to remember that you're engaged in a conversation. If your answer is too long, you may frustrate the interviewer or cause them to lose interest in the conversation. To maintain a healthy and productive back-and-forth, try to prepare answers that are no more than two minutes in length.

What the interviewer wants to know

Interviewers can ask this type of phone interview question in a variety of ways, including:

  • Why are you applying for this position?

  • Why are you interested in this role?

  • Why does this job appeal to you?

Regardless of the way the question is posed, the interviewer is looking for a response that tells them more about the type of value you can provide for their organization.

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. Of course, this is true to some extent. The prospective employer is often 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 determine whether you can be a valuable addition to the company's team. The interviewer wants to know what prompted you to apply for the position, why this position is the right fit for you, and - most importantly - why you're the right fit for the company.

Knowing this, your main goal in formulating an answer to any of these specific phone interview questions should be to effectively highlight your knowledge about the company and how you can add value as an employee.

How to answer these types of phone interview questions

It's easy to answer this type of phone interview question when you know the correct response structure. Here's a framework to follow: 

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

When you're trying to explain why you're passionate about working for the company, you need more than surface-level details to create a compelling response. You need to conduct in-depth research into the company - and that requires something more than just reciting basic details from the firm's website.

Spend some time researching the company website, reviewing its services, information page, press release pages, and company blog to identify the organization's values, its revenue model, key personnel, and any topics or stories the business cares about right now. 

You could also use LinkedIn to find out if you have any first or second-level connections associated with the company and speak with them about the role and business to gain additional insight.

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're 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're 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 can provide real value to the company. 

Make sure that this section of your response is tailored to the key requirements listed in the job description. And remember, this question only requires a career highlight 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

Finally, 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 in the future.

Ultimately, the interviewer will feel more comfortable investing in you if they feel that you will be there for the long haul, rather than using the role as a stepping stone to some other job. 

Tips for giving the best answer

Here are a few tips and tricks for giving the best response to these types of phone interview questions:

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. Most of your work history, skills, and achievements will already be committed to memory, but facts about the company will be fresh and may require time to fully 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 connections between your qualifications 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. Companies are usually proud to discuss benefits and opportunities for staff. However, during an interview process, the interviewer is primarily focused on assessing whether a candidate can plug the gap.

In short, remember to emphasize what you can contribute rather than what you're looking to gain.

Practice your answer

Rehearsing for a phone interview is essential and, like all job interview questions, practicing your responses is critically important. However, that practice is even more important if you want to be prepared for the question “why does this position appeal to you?” because you'll need to remember facts about the company, too.

Start by writing down your response to the question in full, to build a picture of what the answer looks like in its entirety. This is particularly useful if you're cross-referencing your resume and the job specifications 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 prepared response by heart in its entirety - if you forget some of the words during the interview, you may panic. To avoid that, you can use the bullet point prompts to guide you as you provide a more natural answer that doesn't need to be memorized. That approach can also allow you to be more reactive to the interviewer's question in case they ask it in an unusual way.

What not to say in your response

Obviously, there are some things that you don't want to do as you answer these types of phone interview questions. 

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:

  • One example is if you speak only of the value the company can give you. That could make you appear self-centered and focused only on your own career advancement - rather than on what you can provide for the employer.

  • The second mistake might involve providing too many red flag reasons for wanting the job. For example, stating that you need more money, you want a better job title and promotion, or you don't like your current boss or company. Including any of that type of information could be a deal-breaker for your interview.

In addition to those two common errors, there's a third major mistake that you want to avoid in your answer: focusing too much on details that the employer can read in your resume.

Your response should allude to your experience and the value you bring to the table, but you don't 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 much of your response regurgitating your employment history. Be selective of the skills, experiences, and achievements you mention, and try to be as concise as possible. 

“Why does this position appeal to you?” phone interview question and example answer

If you're not sure how best to answer the question, “why does this position appeal to you?” 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. As I've learned more about this company, I've discovered that this department is still in the initial stages of its development. My experience in building out organizational structure should help me to add real value as a member of this team. 

“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.”

Last thoughts

Preparing an answer to “why does this job appeal to you?” is straightforward when you know how. The key is to take the time to organize an effective response to this and other phone interview questions prior to the interview, so that you're properly prepared to handle any queries that come your way.

If you're unsure whether your response is highlighting your enthusiasm for the position and conveying the right amount of detail to answer the question effectively, our TopInterview coaches can help you to find the right balance. 

This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Ken Chase.

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