Filling out job applications can be time-consuming and, often, daunting. Employers ask a ton of questions about your experience, educational background and skills to make sure you're the right fit for the position. And then there's the "Why are you applying for this position?" question that really sets some candidates apart from the rest.
What Employers Hope to Learn By Asking ‘Why Are You Applying for This Position’
Employers ask candidates why they're applying for their particular job opening to see if they’ve done their research and flag those with impressive responses. They ultimately want to learn about your career goals and how their specific job position fits into your career plan, as well as make sure that you are sincerely interested in that specific job and will be motivated to perform well if you're hired.
Candidates who are applying for the position because they have bills to pay and just need a job aren't likely to compete well with those who really want the job because they believe in the mission of the company, appreciate the company's work, know that their skills will be beneficial to the company or another reason that is company- or job-specific.
Of course, many candidates will share that they're fans of the company and its work, and their skills will prove valuable to the position. So how do you set yourself apart and formulate an answer that'll be sure to catch employers' eyes?
How to Answer “Why are you applying for this position?”
Your answer to "Why are you applying for this position?" should depend on the position for which you're applying, your experience and your knowledge of the company and job opening itself.
You probably shouldn't be applying for a position if you can't answer why you're applying for it by thinking about your experience, knowledge of the company and the job opening.
1. Discuss Your Former Experiences and Future Plans
Your experience and plans for new experiences should be a big part of your answer. If you're applying for a more senior editorial role, and you have experience as an editorial assistant, one reason that you're likely applying for the job opening is because you'd like to advance your career. The next step following editorial assistant is an associate editor for many companies, and a will to propel your career forward and move up to challenge yourself and put new and practiced skills to work is an attractive quality to employers.
2. Highlight Your Knowledge of the Company
Your knowledge of the company should also be a decent part of your response. You can find an editorial position with a number of media outlets — but why do you want to work for the company specifically? If the company focuses on one of your passions, boasts an impressive readership or even employs a journalist you revere, perhaps that's why that company excites you. You should know enough about the company to be able to talk about why the job opening at that company appeals to you.
3. Show Your Knowledge of the Role
Your knowledge of the specific role the company is looking to fill is critical, as well. If you're applying for an editorial role but you only have experience in backend web design and don't quite understand what an editorial position entails, you won't be able to answer the question well. You should be aware of what exactly the job opening is calling for — perhaps it's an attention to detail, an adherence to deadlines, writing skills, an understanding of the outlet's voice and audience etc. And your response should tap into these key words and phrases written in the job proposal so that the employer knows that you understand what you'd be getting yourself into, and you're willing and able to do it.
What Are Some Sample Answers?
Here are some sample answers depending on the type of job you're in. Let's take, for example, these five job types.
If you work in sales, here's an example answer:
“The [name of company] reputation is certainly a factor. I would be proud to work for a company with such an impressive [example of the company's sales statistics] in the industry. And I'm also confident that my experience in [sales experience] would be fitting for the [type of role] because [examples of how your experience would benefit you in this specific role]."
If you work in retail, here's an example answer:
“I've shopped with [name of company] for years and appreciate the company's efforts in [examples of sustainability/local manufacturing/etc. efforts]. I already believe in the mission of [name of company], and I'd be proud to work there. My experience as [retail experience] would prove beneficial for the company because [examples of how your experience would benefit the company]."
If you work in a creative field, here's an example answer:
“I really revere the work of your editor-in-chief [name of person] and the outlet's commitment to [sharing women's voices, shedding light on the environment, promoting technological innovations, etc.]. I've been working as a [journalist, graphic designer, photojournalist, etc.] for [X] years also covering [women's voices, the environment, technology, etc.] and I'm confident that my experience will benefit the company."
If you work in the service industry, here's an example answer:
“I recently saw an article in [name of publication] about [name of restaurant, hotel, service-oriented brand]'s renewed focus on [sustainability, locally-sourced products, diversity, etc.]. I'm impressed by the company's efforts and would be proud to be a part of that work. My experience in [service experience] would be fitting for the [type of role] because [examples of how your experience would benefit you in this specific role}."
If you work in technology, here's an example answer:
“The [name of company] reputation is certainly a factor. I would be proud to work for a company with such impressive innovations [example of the company's recent work] in the industry. And I'm also confident that my experience in [tech experience] would be fitting for the [type of role] because [examples of how your experience would benefit you in this specific role]."
Additional Resources to Help You Through the Job Application Grind
If you're looking for more resources to help you get through applying for jobs, Fairygodboss has tons of resources for you. We cover everything from how to apply for jobs to how to write a resume and cover letter to get noticed. Here are three links to get you started:
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at HerReport.org. She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.