Whether you are interviewing for your dream job or for anything to pay the bills, “Why are you interested in this position?” can make or break your chance at a job offer. Here's how to answer the age-old question in a way that lands the job.
Why employers ask this question.
Interview questions often come in two flavors: “Tell me about yourself" or “Tell me about myself.” In other words, a question will usually be geared toward learning more about you, or it will aim to understand what you know about the employer and the job description.
“Why are you interested in this position?” is in the latter category. A good thing to keep in mind, however, is that all questions involve talking about yourself and the job together. This way, you are indicating throughout the interview what a perfect match you and this position are.
Getting interviewed isn’t easy, but interviewers also have their work cut out for them. In a limited amount of time, an interviewer must determine if your skills and qualifications will translate well into this new role and if you will add value to the team. They also must figure out how much you care about their opening and their company: will you accept the job if they offer it to you? Will you be in it for the long haul or leave after six months? Will you put in the work to grow the organization or will you do your job and go home? Interviewing requires a lot of reading between the lines.
Employee intentions post-job offer can be difficult to determine, especially since you may not be completely honest about your future intentions in an interview if your goal is to get the job now. But “Why are you interested in this position?” is a reliable way for interviewers to begin teasing out some answers, so it is important that you think about your answer ahead of time and make sure you are strategic, without being cryptic, in your answer. This question is specifically utilized to determine how much you actually know about the position and the company, how likely you are to be fulfilled by it and how interested you are in developing the job description to better fit a changing company and world.
This question also helps employers determine who wants to work for them over who wants to work. It’s open-ended in a way that allows for insight into what motivates you, what language or vocabulary you use to describe your work and how you sound when you talk about the work. This question can tell an interviewer quite a bit about whether you understand the job at hand, whether you have done your homework and whether you will add value to the job, so make sure your prepared answer addresses all three.
4 steps to respond.
1. Start with yourself and your qualifications.
Prepare an answer that is clear and to the point. A good way to do this is to focus on one or two of your qualifications or career goals and begin your response by highlighting these. This is a good chance to show how your career path has logically led up to you interviewing for this position and it helps to ground your answer in something both individual to you and relevant to the job or company. This will help your interviewer remember your answer and it will set you up to talk about the job with a focused lens. You can then transition into the main part of your answer with how the company does what you want to do and how they do it well. This will show the depth and feeling of your interest.
2. Focus on the job description.
While it's helpful to begin your answer by starting with yourself, don’t forget that the bulk of your answer should focus on the job description. “Why are you interested in this position?”, “What made you interested in applying for this position?”, “Why do you want this job?” and “Why should we hire you?” are all slightly different ways of asking you to show that you know what you are getting yourself into and you want to do it.
Read the job description carefully ahead of time, choose your one or two main qualifications and/or relevant career goals, and describe how having you performing the specific roles in the job description will benefit the company and help you achieve your goals. This is also a good place to make specific points about what you will learn or what experience you will gain in this position, which indicates to an interviewer how fulfilled you will be by the role. Many employers and departments have “purpose statements,” so going the extra mile to find out what it is and relating it to your answer’s main point will impress the interviewer.
3. Say good things about the employer.
Employers like to hear nice things about themselves. This is your opportunity to win brownie points by making specific, positive comments that make the interviewer feel good and show that you are already dedicated to bringing out the best in the organization. Don’t ramble or try to cover every single base; relate these compliments to your one or two main points about how your goals or experience are a perfect match for this position and leave it at that.
4. Finish strong.
To end your response to this question on a high note, consider implying how fortunate (or serendipitous) it was that you ran across this particular job advertisement. Without going over the top, hinting that the stars aligned in both of your favors to put you in the interview room can help you come across as desirable and can indicate to the interviewer how excited you are about this particular opportunity.
Interviewing for a job with city planning:
“I am interested in the 'building plans examiner' position because I want to study building codes. I have extensive experience in architecture and design review, but the review and examining work that I am most interested in benefits from an in-depth knowledge of building codes that can only come from working in lots of different environments with these codes firsthand. There’s no better place to do this than with city planning. The city does it all: from deck codes to skyrise guidelines, a building plans examiner has to look up the most diverse building codes every day and gets to familiarize herself with them. This is fundamental knowledge that I am passionate about learning. While I could continue on my current path and study the codes while working in the private sector, this position would allow me to put my study into practice every day and utilize my training for the city’s benefit.”
Interviewing for a job with human resources:
“A human resources position may seem like a strange jump for a gardener to make, especially since I have seniority where I am, and this is an entry-level position. But when I found my passion for human resources, I had to make some changes. I went and got credentials for HR on my own time, and I’m sitting here now because this is a move that I am dedicated to making. Last year, I was a crew chief on a park renovation, and I discovered the art of supervision and motivation. I loved the organization, the structure, the improvisation and the applications of HR, and this love has only grown in the last year. I want this particular position because this team is unrivaled in its dedication to social justice, which I find to be inseparable from HR itself.”
Interviewing for a job in web development:
“I have spent the better part of the last three years learning how web development can be operationalized to be more accessible, for everyone from the backend editors to the final user. This position merges my passion for coding, with an influential outlet to explore and innovate best practices when it comes to accessible web development. The role of collaborating on web development infographics is especially suited to my background as I have spent years working with diverse groups of people to rethink the ins and outs of how the web could work, given its current structure and limitations. This company’s dedication to community engagement is paramount to making lasting change and that’s what I believe I can do in this role.”