How to answer the interview question: “Why do you want this job?”

By Robert Half on 8 May 2017

“Why do you want this job?”

Simple question isn't it?

Actually, there is much more to it than you may think.

It’s a given that you will be asked this interview question at least once in your job search and how you respond can often be the difference between getting the job offer, or not.

"Why do you want this job?’"is one of the most common interview questions alongside, ‘tell me about yourself’, ‘what is your greatest weakness’ and ‘where do you see yourself in five years’. For some people, these questions can get your palms sweating, but the good news is answering this interview question might just be as simple as accurately articulating why you applied for the role.

“Why do you want this job?” - Anticipate the question

  • It’s likely to be an early question in the interview, possibly before or around “Tell us a little about yourself” and “what do you know about the company?”
  • It might be worded in a slightly different way, such as “Why do you want to work with us?” or “Why did you apply for this position?”
  • The way you answer this question isn’t the be all and end all of the interview. If you remember later on that there was something you meant to say, bring it in for another answer. That could be through a simple “Can I just say, there’s something I meant to mention earlier on…”

Why the interviewer is asking this question

There are multiple ways of answering the interview question “Why do you want this job?”, but a good answer will show consideration of the company, how your skills and experience align with the role, and your needs for job satisfaction.

Think of it from the company’s perspective, they want to hire someone who will deliver added value in the role, be driven to achieve the business goals and willing to learn and develop in the position.

Often the search for the right fit can be costly and time-consuming, so the interviewer will be wanting to make sure that before presenting a job offer, they have the right candidate. Enquiring as to the reasons you want the job along with all the other questions in an interview, will provide them the insight they need to help inform their decision.

Prepare your answer

Here are a few considerations and questions to ask yourself to make sure you provide the best answer:

Know company and role: pinpoint exactly where your skillset will fit in with the role and where it will benefit you, as well as your perception of what the company offers.

  • What stage of growth is the company in?
  • Has the company recently changed their product or service offerings? If so, how could you have added value to this process?
  • Are there any industry regulations or changes to the sector coming up?

Valid experience and examples of success: one of the strongest indicators of your chances of gaining the role and succeeding is showing that you’ve done it well before, and/or indicators that you can do it again.

  • Have you recently achieved or exceeded one of your objectives as a previous role? How could you apply those same learnings to this company?
  • What industry or specialist knowledge have you successfully applied to a role in the past that you could transfer should you be given this job?
  • What challenges have you overcome and how?

What does it offer you: you’re aiming to show that you can bring many different skills to the role which will enhance and improve the company. You’re ambitious and you see that this role will push and test you, and fill in gaps in your own skillset.

  • What are you career goals and how will this job help you to reach them?
  • What professional development or learning opportunities are you looking for next?

Passion: cultural fit is quickly becoming a key consideration for manager's looking to add a new person to their team. They want to make sure that the new hire is the right fit with the way their team operates and the wider organisational culture.

  • What aspects of this job will make you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
  • During your job search, what aspects of this job made you send in your resume?

What should you say?

Consider these as introductions to an answer, or the basis. With each one, speak naturally and calmly, relating what the job can do for you and what you can do for the role and company.

  • “I see it as a way of progressing my career in an exciting/forward-thinking/fast-moving company/industry as…”
  • “I feel my skills are well-suited to this job because…”
  • “I feel I have the hands-on knowledge (or other particular skill) to succeed in this role because…”
  • “I’m excited about this opportunity as I will be able to…"

Examples of what not to say

Here are a couple of interview mistakes that will be a sure-fire way to ruin your chances in progressing to the second interview or being offered the job.

  • “I just need a job" – anything that comes across as a grasping, anxious need for any job, without showing a specific regard for the company or role for which the interview is taking place, suggests a lack of real care.
  • "I’ve heard the money is good” – while financial remuneration is a key consideration, discussing salary this early in the interview, and more to the point, emphasising that money is your only motivator paints a bad picture.
  • “I see it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things” – no manager expects their employees to stay with the company forever, but if you already have one foot out the door before you land the job can raise red flags.

With a little preparation and forward thinking, if the question "Why do you want this job?" pops up, you'll have the right response ready to ensure you tick every box on the interviewer's list.

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