Picture this: You’ve been interviewing for a role you really (REALLY) want at a company you have admired for years. You’re nearing the end of an all-day interview marathon and are feeling confident. Then you get hit with it. The all-too-common interview question that surprisingly trips people up: “Why do you want to work here?”
This is often the last job interview question you may be asked by interviewers, which is why it’s critical to have a strong answer. Here’s the clincher: if you don’t get asked it, you should still proactively share this information toward the end of an interview. Why? It reinforces your desire for the role, and a potential employer always prefers to hire a candidate who is excited and motivated to work for them.
Now that we know why this is such a key question let’s break down how to answer it.
How to Answer "Why Do You Want to Work Here?"
Here’s a 5-step guide to answer this question:
1. Being completely honest, ask yourself, “Why do you want to work here?”
Spend some time really thinking about this. Acceptable answers (for you to share with yourself):
• “I legit hate my job and need something new.”
• “I hear the company pays a ton of money.”
• "This has been my dream company for years.”
• “I really like the products.”
• “The office is close to my home.”
• “I love the manager and what the team stands for.”
No answer is wrong so long as it’s honest (for now).
Tip: I suggest to my clients to do all interview prep in writing, and this is no different; it’s been proven that the act of writing something down helps us remember it. Plus, it’s one of the best ways to organize your thoughts. So, actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write this out.
2. Go through this list.
It’s time to refine this hopefully honest list. Ask yourself what the appropriate way to share is. What’s not appropriate? You probably don't want to mention the salary or proximity of the office to your home as your primary motivation in the interview. However, working in how it's always been your dream to work at the company can be a point in your favor.
Since you have this written down, actually mark what works and cross off what doesn’t.
3. Match your desires back with the goals, values, and general knowledge of the company.
You know all that research you’ve done on the company? (Tip: if you didn’t do any research on the company mission, you should probably pause on this prep-work and start there.)
That doesn’t just mean sitting idly in your computer search history. Here’s one of the ways we apply it: Recall what the employer valued, what their goals are (even better if you know about the goals of the employees, team, or department with which you’re interviewing!) On your same written notes of why you want to work there — and just like you’re doing a matching exercise that your daughter may do in grammar school — do that with your notes.
4. Identify themes.
Now that you know what is really driving you and have a clear understanding of what the company values on the same page, the goal is to match your reasons with things that the company values so that you can articulate why you’d be a good fit for the job.
And since it won’t be effective to laundry list everything, let’s create themes. Aim for 3-5 themes. For example, one could be the fact that you and the company are aligned on where you think the industry is going or a trend in the marketplace, another could be your experience and skill set that directly matches the opportunity, and a third could be the fact that you’d be working with a team that understands the art form that is the juggling act of being a working mother and values all associates bringing their whole selves to work.
These 3-5 themes become your answer! You can elaborate or share an example or two if it makes sense, but you need to be able to confidently express these things in a succinct manner.
(Which brings me to….)
Nope, you’ll never escape this piece of interview prep work. How to practice for this specific question? Review your notes and practice articulating them. Be able to do this in the form of a question-answer as well as a proactive comment in case you don’t get asked this question.
After doing this final bit of prep work you’ll be walking out of your interview day knowing you rocked it, shared your experiences, and explained why you want to join the team.
Templates for Responding to "Why Do You Want to Work Here?"
So, how—exactly—do you respond to "Why do you want to work here?" Try these sample responses to start off your answer.
• "I really admire X company because of..."
• "My background in X aligns well with your mission of..."
• "X publication recently featured an article on Y, which ties in well with your organization's goal of..."
• "It's always been my dream to work with your company."
• "I admire your work with/initiative on..."
A Final Note
As with an aspect and stage of the hiring process, it's important to tailor your response to the company and position. Avoid generic responses that could apply to a range of jobs and organizations. As discussed above, do your best to work in different facts and aspects of the company you admire, as well as your own qualifications. Doing so helps the interviewer see that you truly care about the job and aren't just applying because you'd be satisfied anywhere. While you may well thrive in a variety of settings, you want to convey that there's something particularly special about this one.
Jane Scudder is a certified coach, facilitator, and workplace & leadership consultant based in Chicago, IL. She helps individuals and group navigate their careers, teams, and personal lives. Find out more at janescudder.com.