AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger

Congratulations on the job interview! You’re probably already studying up on common interview questions and researching the company and your interviewers' backgrounds (right?). Maybe you've already rehearsed why you're the best candidate for the job over and over in the mirror.

But have you thought about the question, “Why do you want to work for us?”

Answering why you want to work for a company is an important question — and your response is one that can make or break your chances of securing your seat at that vacant desk. 

Why do employers ask “Why do you want to work for us?”

It's common that an interviewer will ask you why you want to work for their company in particular. Why? They want to know that the candidate they hire is genuinely interested in the company and its vision, as opposed to just interested in getting just any job. A motivated, excited candidate is going to stand out from the rest.

How to answer “Why do you want to work for us?”

To answer “Why do you want to work for us?” you should always be sincere. Understand the company and its past accomplishments and future goals well, and get to know the people who are working there already (especially the people interviewing you). Your answer should explain that you want to be part of the company because you're impressed or inspired or motivated or compelled in some way by their efforts and visions.

In order to answer this question honestly, you should first ask yourself the question. Perhaps your answer for yourself looks like one of the following:

  • I really love the vision of this company.
  • My values really align with those of this company.
  • I think I'd be able to challenge myself and really grow with this company.

Once you know for yourself why exactly you want to work for that company, you can articulate it to your interviewer in a better way. 

What not to say when answering “Why do you want to work for us?”

When you're answering why you want to work for the company, there are some things you definitely should never say. For example, never respond with the following:

  • Dont say that you just need more money.
  • Don't say that you just need a job.
  • Don't say that you just want a shorter commute or more flexibility or better vacation time.
  • Don't admit that you don't know much about the company but the job sounds good.
  • Don't just make a blanket statement about how great the company is without any evidence to back up that you actually understand the company's accomplishments and successes.
  • Don't say that you are just looking to work in any other field than the one you're in.
  • Don't badmouth your former company and explain that you're only looking for an out.

You always want to phrase your response in a way that shows the company that your values and vision align.

How to make a thoughtful response

Match your desires with the goals and values of the company. 

So, for example, if you want to have a shorter commute, you'll not only want to communicate that you're looking forward to having more time to spend actually doing the work you enjoy but also that it excites you because the work excites you. And having and fostering motivated employees is a central tenet of the company's vision. You appreciate that the company values high morale.

Another example might be that you really respect the leaders at this company. For example, a senior journalist you admire works for this magazine, and you recently saw how well her article performed. You'd be honored to work for a company that produces such great work, and you're looking forward to being part of that. Or perhaps you really respect the new CEO of the company who you recently read about in the news (because you did your research!). You appreciate the CEO's hard work and align with their vision that they spoke about in that news article.

You’ll want to be sure that you're thinking about the actual position.

You'll want to be sure that you talk about why you think you'd do well in that specific position for that specific company. Perhaps it's thanks to the intimate teams and collaborative nature of the team you'd be working on that leads you to believe you'd excel. Or perhaps it's thanks to the company's impressive mentorship program that you're confident you'd get a lot of use out of.

However you choose to answer the question, just make sure that you're honest.

Examples of responses to “Why do you want to work for us?”

Here are three sample responses answering why you want to work for the company for which you're interviewing.

1. You've always wanted to work there.

“I've always read your editor-in-chief's letter from the editor notes. I've really enjoyed learning about her vision for the magazine and seeing how that's taken shape over the last few issues especially. For example, I know she's written a lot about inclusivity, and I can see how the magazine has been diversifying in a number of ways. I really respect the team's efforts and want to be part of it. I know my background in journalism and my interests as an activist will prove invaluable in helping to propel the magazine forward.”

2. You respect the leaders there.

“I've read a lot about the hospital in the news lately, and it continues to impress me. For example, I’ve learned that several of your doctors have been ranked among the best in the country for helping women and children. This really resonated with me because, for the last few years, I've been volunteering with NGOs to help single mothers and their children have access to affordable healthcare. I'd love to be part of a hospital that's already offering that.”

3. You enjoy the company culture.

“I’ve already met a few employees from the company already: Jane Doe and John Smith, two of your sales associates based in Los Angeles, and Samantha Burke, your CTO in the New York office. I’ve had a lot of talk with each of them about what it's like working for this company and I've only been told great things about everything from the office culture to the work-life balance they all have. And the comradery among them, which I can see from how highly they all speak of each other, is inspiring. I'd love to be part of such an empowered group of professionals who lift each other up.”

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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.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for answering “Why do you want to work for us?” Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!