Nailing the “why do you want this job” question at interview

Please start off by telling me why you have applied for this job?

If you are prepared for the interview, you absolutely know this question is coming. 

 Whether or not you answer it well though depends on your approach. Give a good answer on this one and you set yourself up for a great interview. If you give a lousy response though, you may have already blown your chances of success!


Typical answers include:

·         My family are moving so I …..

·         I wanted a job with better prospects

·         I am looking for a new challenge in this field of work

·         I hate my current job so ….

·         I thought I sounded like a good fit for the job

·         I like the sound of the job ….


The problem with all of these answers is that fail to demonstrate why you are a suitable candidate for the job. Employers don’t want to hear general answers; they want to hear compelling reasons why you are suitable for THIS SPECIFIC JOB. They don’t want to know that you are looking for a marketing assistant role or want to work in a creative environment, they need to know why you are a good fit for THEIR marketing assistant role in THEIR particular environment.  


So, how do you come up with a compelling reason for this question? The best approach is to think of this as an opportunity to ‘sell yourself’. To do this, you need to make sure that you align your answer to the kinds of things that they are looking for in an ‘ideal’ candidate. To understand this you need to have a good grasp of the job role, the company and the key criteria that has been mentioned in the job advert. Now follow these steps:


1.      Tell them what you like about their company – this immediate flattery usually works a treat, particularly if it shows that you know about the company.  It demonstrates that you have done your research and indicates you want to work for them, not any old company in this sector.   


2.      Describe some key aspects of the job, particularly the challenges that you imagine you would face.  This shows that you understand what would be expected of you and do not have an unrealistic view of the work involved.


3.      Tell them about the top qualities you have and link this to show how you have dealt with similar challenges or job duties in the past. Back this up with brief examples.


4.      Finally, think about your weaknesses and the likely concerns that they might have about your suitability in order to address these head-on.  For example, if some relevant industry experience is desirable but you don’t have this, then you need to demonstrate why this wouldn’t stop you doing a great job.


Imagine you were applying to a graduate marketing assistant role and you were asked the ‘why do you want this job question’. I would answer the question using the 4 steps to say something like this:


“I think Company ABC is a great organisation. I admire your company values, particularly the fact that you invest so much time and resources into developing employees so that they become experts in their field. This is the type of company that I aspire to work for.  I know that you need a marketing assistant who is not only willing to learn, but will work flexibly throughout the week and at weekends to support the vast number of campaigns that you are running. I have just completed my degree in marketing where I achieved a distinction across 70% of the modules. I therefore have strong theoretical knowledge that I am looking to apply to a role by gaining practical experience in a forward thinking organisation. During my studies, I worked in a number of voluntary roles where I was called at short notice to fill in for other team members on reception or on the switchboard. I am therefore someone that is extremely flexible and willing to devote my time and energy into building a career where I can fulfil my potential.  I know that I don’t have any marketing experience in paid roles, but whilst at university, I started my own personal blog and had great success at utilising digital marketing approaches to drive traffic to my site and build engagement with my followers”.  


Of course, every job you apply for will be different, but hopefully this example shows you have you can apply the 4 steps to create a powerful response which you can deliver with enthusiasm and passion.  Remember, this question is not about why you NEED the job; it is about showing why you would be a great fit for the company.