No matter where you are in your job search, hearing the question, “Why do you want this job?” can be panic-inducing.

It’s one of the most common interview questions, but it’s also one of the most challenging questions to answer.

In a perfect world, you’ve landed an interview for your dream job, and your response comes naturally. To say the least, this isn’t always the case.

Salary, insurance, and job security are on every applicant’s mind, but these items are rarely satisfying answers to the question. You need a nuanced, personalized answer that distinguishes you from other applicants.

Let’s look at why hiring managers ask, “Why do you want this job?” in the first place and how to prepare a great response.

Understanding the meaning behind “Why do you want this job?”

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Why do hiring managers ask this question?

When hiring managers pose this question, they’re trying to understand a few things:

  • How much do you know about the company? Hiring managers and recruiters are curious if you researched their company before applying. They want to know you’ve read the job description, company values, and its history.
  • Where does this new role fit into your career development? The hiring manager wants to know if the role’s responsibilities fit within your qualifications. If you’re overqualified, you might get bored. If you’re underqualified, you might be prone to making mistakes. Ideally, your next role helps you develop skills that will further your career in the direction you want it to go.
  • What value will you bring to the team? Your answer to this question gives the hiring manager insight into who you are. Will your personality mesh well with the existing team and be a good cultural fit? They want to know you’re someone the current team can effectively work with.

You’ll most likely get this question early in the interview process. Remember that it might not always be “Why do you want this job?” or “Why do you want to work here?”

You might also hear one of the questions below:

With each question, the hiring manager wants to gain an understanding of what drew you to the company, your goals, and your experience. While they may not be phrased the same, slight tweaks to your practiced answer for “Why do you want this job?” is a good response.

Try to get as specific as possible without offering a long-winded answer. Mention a few details about the company to show you’ve done your research and highlight your personal achievements.

Job interviews go both ways. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about company culture, work environment, the role, or any other aspects of the organization or opportunity you’re curious about. Ideally, you’re able to both confidently answer the hiring manager’s questions and pose several of your own that relay your standards, values, and boundaries.

Asking questions helps you stand out as an applicant. It also shows that you’re inquisitive and thoughtful, which could ultimately make you an asset to the company.

 

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6 common mistakes when answering “Why do you want this job?”

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Before diving into how to create the perfect answer, let’s cover some common errors. Avoid these common pitfalls as you mull over your response:

  1. Being unable to speak about the company and what it does because you haven’t adequately researched it or the industry
  2. Only discussing the benefits to you. Likewise, only listing the job’s salary, insurance, or other benefits as your reason for wanting the job
  3. Irrelevant details that dodge telling the hiring manager what they want to know
  4. Vague or long-winded answers
  5. Unrealistic goals
  6. Saying the role will be a great “stepping stone” in your career

You’ve probably heard that when first meeting a hiring manager, you should turn your resume into an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-second speech that captures who you are, why you applied, and why you’re qualified.

Pro tip: If layoffs impacted you, it’s okay to be honest. They’re a reality of every industry. Keep your answer simple. If it’s been a while since your layoff, discuss what you’ve done to improve your skills or learn about yourself in the time leading up to the interview.

When answering “Why do you want this job?”, you’re providing the hiring manager with a snapshot of your interests, goals, and experience. From there, the hiring manager can hone in on parts of your answer to learn more.

Of course, any hiccups are easily avoided when you’ve spent time practicing for interview questions. Understanding why interviews might be challenging to you is a good starting point toward improving your skills.

Luckily, the steps below will help you create a stand-out answer that’s both concise and effective.

4 steps to craft the perfect answer to “Why do you want this job?”

1. List what’s important to you and prioritize

Sit down with a pen and paper to create your ideal job wish list. Focus on the parts of your ideal job that stand out to you. What makes a particular role a better fit for you than another that’s similar?

Here are some areas of interest you might write down:

Use this list for your reference. It can help orient your approach to which jobs you apply for and how you frame your answers to interview questions.

With your final wish list in hand, rank them based on priority. Not every job will tick every box, so you need to know your deal breakers. For example, if work-life balance is most important, you might need to give up the thrill of working at a startup or be comfortable taking a slight pay cut.

2. Align your passions with the company and role

Step two includes taking your list of priorities and linking them to the company. Diligently research the company’s values and read up on its mission statement. Read employee reviews to get an idea of what working there is really like. Glassdoor and Indeed are two of the most popular places to read reviews.

Match your values and priorities with the characteristics of a company or role to quickly assess if it’s a good fit for you. Connecting your passions with a company’s mission proves to the hiring manager that you would be an excellent fit for the role.

Let’s say opportunities to learn and grow in the company are your priority. If the company lists “always be learning” as a core value, that’s a clear alignment you should mention when answering the question.

If you’re applying for a customer service role, explain how you’re a people person and love helping customers solve problems. Show enthusiasm for the role and company and familiarize yourself with what the company aims to achieve.

3. Make your answer stand out

The average job receives over 100 applicants. That’s a lot of people to compete with for the hiring manager’s attention. Getting an interview is one thing, but it’s another beast entirely to stand out during early-stage conversations. You need an answer to “Why do you want this job?” that highlights you over other interviewees.

Here are a few ways you can set yourself apart from other applicants:

  • Quantify your accomplishments with data and numbers
  • Share a professional story that demonstrates why you’re qualified
  • Express your passion for continuous learning
  • Convey a passion for the company’s goals
  • Talk about more than work during the conversation

Infuse your interview answers with personal anecdotes, whether through your interests, unique experiences, or impressive accomplishments. This helps build a character around your application.

Sometimes, the most memorable interviews for hiring managers are the ones that make them feel like they’re genuinely getting to know you.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Practicing your answers to interview questions is the easiest way to boost your confidence.

Ask your friends or family members to act as interviewers, posing common interview questions to conduct a mock interview. See if they have any feedback on your delivery, word choice, or demeanor.

If no one is available for a practice interview, you can read through your list of questions and respond aloud with your answers. Doing so will help you get used to delivering your responses with confidence and enthusiasm. Make sure you’re not speaking too fast or too slowly.

Pro tip: Based on your practiced answers, try to anticipate follow-up questions. For example, if you talk about your passion for grammar as a copy editor, have answers ready for questions like “What is your greatest accomplishment as a copy editor?” or “What’s your greatest weakness?

If you’d like to take your interview preparation to the next level, BetterUp can help. BetterUp’s career coaches are well-versed in the tips and tricks to help you knock your interview out of the park.

How to navigate difficult situations during the interview

Everyone makes mistakes during interviews, even those conducting the interview.

It’s more important that you’re prepared to recover from an awkward stumble when answering questions. If you accidentally trip over your words, don’t panic. Instead, slow down and be patient with yourself. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous.

Likewise, it’s okay to pause before answering a question. It shows the interviewer you’re creating a thoughtful response instead of rushing into an answer.

Pro tip: Is there a specific color that inspires confidence for you? Wear it! Is there a particular top or way you style your hair that makes you feel good? Do that, too. Little things like these can boost your confidence when answering those big questions like “Why do you want this job?”

Finally, say you’ve recently made a significant career change. Odds are, the interviewer will wonder why you made that choice. Here are some tips when replying:

    • Stay optimistic and excited. This new role is a new opportunity that better aligns with your interests.
    • Be honest. If your previous job didn’t resonate with you, discuss how you took the time to explore your interests and goals. Show that you’ve worked to know your next step is the right one for you.
  • Highlight why you chose this company.
  • List your transferable and soft skills. For example, aim to show that, while you don’t have an accounting-related job title on your resume, your former experiences helped you develop skills that will ensure you thrive as an accountant. Good problem-solving, communication, and time-management skills are all great soft skills that are applicable to any job.

Thorough preparation will help you feel ready to tackle the question, “Why do you want this job?” You could even consider interview coaching to help you prepare for tough interview questions. With the right guidance and support, you’ll be set to impress hiring managers.

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BetterUp is here to help you confidently answer “Why do you want this job?”

BetterUp’s coaches and platform help individuals build a career plan to work toward accomplishing their goals. Based on your career goals, BetterUp pairs you with a coach best suited for your experience.

Together, you’ll work through exercises, assessments, and research to help you feel more confident and get started on the right career path. Learn more about BetterUp today.