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Interview techniques, Learning a Skill, The Life Book for Work, Uncategorized, Work skills

Why do you want this job? – How to answer this question in the interview – A Life Book for Work

20160816_140111.jpgWhy do you want this job?

Although there appear to be an infinite number of interview questions in effect there are only really three and these are:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Do you want to do the job?
  3. Will you fit in?

All questions you might be asked including the apparently random ones can be tracked back to one of these core concerns

In my previous blog ‘Get that job’ I suggested that your task at the interview is to be positively, reassuringly honest in your answers. In my blog ‘How to answer those pesky interview questions’ I outlined how to answer the ‘can you do the job questions?’.

Now I want to talk about how to answer the ‘Why do you want this job?’ question. Essentially this is looking at your motivation, energy and if you really want THIS job or just any job.

The ‘Why do you want this job?’ question can come in many forms for example:

  1. ‘Why should we appoint you over the other candidates?’
  2. ‘What interests you in the position?’
  3. ‘Why do you want to work for us?’
  4. ‘What do you find most attractive about the position we are discussing?’
  5. ‘What do you know about the company?’
  6. ‘How long would it take you to make a contribution here?’
  7. ‘What do you look for in this job?’

If you have been in an interview which was over quickly and never seemed to ‘take off’ it is probably because you have answered this question poorly.

Without awareness of the rules of the ‘interview game’ most people answer this question badly and often reply with the equivalent of ‘well you are a warm and cuddly company and I think I would be happy here’.

If you answer the question like this you are not saying anything interesting, memorable or unique and you will also come across as self-interested.

20160816_141920.jpgThe best way to answer the ‘why do you want this job?’ question and to stand out from the crowd, is to realise that it is your main selling opportunity during the interview process and as such it’s a good idea to reinterpret the question in your head as ‘Sell yourself to us’. Once you do this it is important to remember to focus on the needs of the company and not your own.

If you went to buy a washing machine and the sales person said ‘please buy this washing machine because I have not made a sale all day and I need to meet my targets, this particular model is on promotion and will give me a bonus’. The chances are pretty high that this will not get you buying the washing machine.

On the other hand, the salesperson who spends time talking to you to identify your needs and find out what you are looking for and then brings you over to the washing machine which meets your purchasing criteria and explains the features and benefits of the appliance is much more likely to make the sale.

So when preparing your answers to this question you have to do your research. You need to look at the company website, annual report (if appropriate), re-read the job description and person specification thoroughly, take up the opportunity to meet the recruiting manager or other staff if it is offered. Talk to friends and anyone who might give you an insight into the company and the job on offer. It would also be a good idea to read any relevant articles and look at social media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to identify any trends or challenges the company is currently facing, which might impact on the vacancy you are applying for.

Then when asked the ‘why do you want this job?’ question you should first recap for the interviewer what you have identified as the key criteria for the role and in the process mention some of the sources you have used to form this impression. You will then take all of the criteria in turn to demonstrate how your experience matches their needs for the person.

So imagine an experienced training and development manager going for another organisational development role in a larger organisation. They might reply to this question something like this:

Having read the job description and the company mission statement and objectives, talked to a number of people within the organisation informally including yourself and read recent city articles, I believe what you are looking for is someone who can spear head cultural change within your organisation enabling it to become more customer focused, reap the benefits of new technology, streamline processes and systems and create greater employee engagement.

In my previous role in Sisel Systems I was instrumental in leading the successful ‘Keep them coming’ campaign, which not only improved customer retention by 60%, but also enabled the company to attract over 34,000 new customers in an 18 month period. 

Underpinning this campaign was a research project to identify what customers required from our organisation and then I arranged focus groups of staff and sent out ‘opionnaires’ to enable them to take ownership of and provide solutions to the problems that had been identified.

Central to this approach was a new management development programme which enabled over 200 managers to be trained in the new systems and culture of the organisation which not only improved the effectiveness of the managers, but also reduced sickness and absence by 30%. We also had considerable success in promoting our initiatives in the Trade press, which was picked up by a number of national newspapers. Central to this approach was a complete project plan, which enabled us to keep focus and know at any given time where we were in the cultural change process. As a result of this programme and other company initiatives the profit increased by 22% in one year, staff retention improved significantly and generally employees reported that the organisation had become a much more pleasant place to work.

Prior to working with Sisel I worked for an internet start up company where I was instrumental in developing systems and procedures for nearly every process within the organisation. I realised that customer focus was the way forward to separate us from the competition and this became the ‘mantra’ within the organisation. As a result our profits trembled in three years and after five years we were one of the few businesses in the sector to be still trading and thriving.

If you have identified what they are looking in the role correctly and sold yourself into their requirements successfully, there is a possibility that they might think you are over qualified for the job. Therefore in addition to identifying their needs and demonstrating that you meet them, you should also explain why this job is of particular interest to you.

For example if the organisation is expanding you might want to be part of that continued expansion, you might be interested in the fact that up to now they had not done much work on developing the culture of the organisation, you might be interested in applying your skills in a different industry.  12311223_10207904027856046_3521061831446311825_n

So a formula for answering the ‘Why do you want this job? question is:-

  1. Identify and express their requirements for the role.
  2. Demonstrate how you can meet the needs that you have identified
  3. End with a challenge the job would present to you or particular interest that you have in the job

I have used a deliberately high level job in the previous example to demonstrate the process. The approach also works for more ordinary jobs like for example a customer services role in which case the answer to the ‘why do you want this job?’ question might be:

Having read the job description, talked to the recruiter and used the services of your organisation on many occasions I believe what you are looking for is an experienced member of the team, who knows how to use computer systems and multiple screens to take customer orders efficiently, who is able to work at a fast pace and can resolve any problems at the first point of contact.

For the past 5 years I have been working for the Pleasant Company where I was fully trained in customer services and had a reputation for taking calls at a fast pace whilst building a relationship with the customer. I achieved the company’s annual ‘Best member of the Team’ award on two occasions, which was particularly special because my team nominated me. During my time with the company they introduced a new computer system and I was selected to train other employees on the new system and gained a reputation as an excellent problem solver. On numerous occasions I also received gifts from customers for ‘going that extra mile’ to assist them.

I am particularly interested in this role because it would enable me to further develop my customer service skills and work on more complex systems and problems.

One of the ironies of interviews is that the most qualified person does not always get the job. I was recently coaching a highly experienced applicant who assumed that since she had the most knowledge and skills that she would be the obvious candidate to get the job. Unfortunately this is not always the case.


An interviewer would prefer to appoint a more inexperienced ‘hungry’ candidate who could be easily trained and who clearly is enthusiastic, has done their research, is positive and bouncy and wants to do the job, than a more qualified one who has ‘been around the block’ a few times and may be more jaded by the experience.

Every recruiter wants a motivated person to turn up on the first day of work and for them to remain motivated throughout their time with the company. The best way to do this is to appoint the applicant who shows by their energy, enthusiasm and commitment that they really want to do this job.

Once you have got answered the ‘why do you want the job?’ the interview will more than likely move on to the ‘will you fit?’ part of the process.

Although you can prepare for these questions too, it is important to realise that this next part of the interview is about how the interviewer feels towards you. It is highly unlikely that the interviewer will think ‘well I don’t like them but the team they have to work with might’. If the interviewer feels uncomfortable at this stage they will not appoint you however well qualified you are.

In the next blog I will tell you how to approach the ‘Will you fit in?’ questions in the interview process.

In the meantime I hope that this article has provided you with some suggestions on how to come across as knowledgeable, motivated and hungry to do the job on offer.

Please note that this is blog three in a series of articles on ‘How to impress at the interview’. The others in the series so far are:

‘Get that job’ and ‘How to answer those pesky interview questions’

With thanks to Jo Grant for permission to use her beautiful photographs.

Please note that this article is Copyright and cannot be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any way without prior permission of the author.

















  1. Pingback: How to excel during a Competency Based Interview – the Life Book for Work | pamelamilne - August 31, 2016

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