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 your spiel about why you're the best candidate for the job over and over staring in the mirror or roping in your roommate as an audience.
But have you thought about how you’ll answer the question, “Why do you want to work here?” Your response can make or break your chances of securing a seat at that vacant desk. Learn why employers ask, how you should answer it and exactly what not to say when answering.
It's hardly surprising that an interviewer will ask you why you want to work for their company in particular. They want to know that you’re genuinely interested in the company and its vision, as opposed to just any job. And they want to see that you’ve done your homework enough to know why you’re interested in the company and its vision. Sometimes, this is the last question you’ll be asked by interviewers as you wrap up the conversation, which is why it’s especially critical to have a strong answer. And if you don’t get asked it, you should still proactively share this information throughout and particularly toward the end of an interview to reinforce your desire to work for the company. After all, a potential employer wants to hire a candidate who’s excited and motivated to work for them rather than someone who seems disinterested and ready to bolt.
You can’t know if you’re interested in applying for a job without doing some research on the company that’s hiring. And you definitely can’t know if you want to put in all that effort to prepare for and go through with the interview process or potentially accept an offer if you don’t know much about the organization. Interviewers want to see you’ve been diligent and thoughtful enough to consider why you want to be part of their company vs. any other.
Career coach Jane Scudder recommends doing all of your interview prep in writing, “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 (or type) your research out.
Your interviewers will be able to sniff out a generic or recycled statement right away — so make sure what you say is specific and unique to each place you interview with, as career coach Lily Zhang writes for The Muse. Explain that you want to be part of the company because you're impressed, inspired, motivated or compelled in some way by their mission, company culture, values or otherwise.
For example, saying that “your values align with my own personal values” simply won’t cut it. Take it a step further and include details from the research you’ve done. You might include something like:
“The accessibility standards at Ivy & Stone Co. align with my own personal values of supporting companies who go out of their way to prioritize accessible features in their messaging, including the use of closed and open captions in video campaigns.”
In a job interview, “Every answer that you give is an opportunity for them to understand how you’re going to contribute and how you’re going to add value,” says Eloise Eonnet, career coach and director of Coach Connect at The Muse. When answering this question, you want to ensure that you understand the company, its past accomplishments and future goals well. Follow these three simple tips to put together a persuasive answer:
Then connect the dots for your interviewer. Take what you know from your research and any previous interviews about the values and goals of the company overall — or better yet, the department, team, or employees you’d be working with — and tie those to your specific skills and career goals.
“You want to make sure that you’re clear on what you bring to the table and how you’re going to contribute,” Eonnet says. For example, if you’re hoping to work for Albatross Industries on their sustainability team, you’ll want to tie your skills and experience in with how you can help the company reach their goals. Your answer might include something like:
“I’m hoping to contribute my years of manufacturing experience to help Albatross Industries reach their goal of zero-waste production by 2026.”
Here are three sample responses to help inspire your own. But remember — your answer should always be super specific to you and the particular job and company you’re interviewing with.
“I really admire Riley & Son Furniture Suppliers because of the company culture that you all have fostered. Your setting of weekly goals instead of quarterly goals, hosting monthly gather rounds for awareness months and prioritizing lunch & learns are just a few aspects of Riley & Son Furniture Suppliers I would love to take part in as a member of your team.”
“It’s always been my dream to work for Fashion World Magazine, which I've subscribed to and have religiously read for the past 10 years. In reading the new editor in chief’s intro letters recently, 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 clearly see how the magazine has been prioritizing diverse representation both in its visuals and in its coverage choices. I really respect the team's work and want to be part of it. My background in journalism and my previous experience covering diversity, equity, and inclusion in fashion will prove invaluable in helping to propel the magazine forward on this new path.”
Example answer if you want to highlight a perfect qualifications match:
“My background in human resources at a variety of nonprofits will allow me to excel in the fast-paced, innovative environment of Sarasota Inc. I was excited to learn that Sarasota Inc. offers employees a four-day work week to encourage employees to volunteer their time at a local charity of their choosing. When I began looking for a new position, I knew I wanted to continue to work for a company that is passionate about philanthropy, and Sarasota Inc. has long been at the top of my list.”
“I’ve always been a fan of Pawfect Pet’s products ever since I adopted my schnauzer Lucky three years ago. It was hard finding products that I knew were natural and safe for Lucky but as soon as I found Pawfect Pet’s natural oat milk shampoo, I was hooked! As a customer, I’ve also appreciated the dedication Pawfect Pet has to customer satisfaction with your loyalty program and flexible return policy. I would be honored to help uphold Pawfect Pet’s customer satisfaction guarantee as a member of your customer service team.”
There are some things you definitely should not say, including the following:
That you just need a job. The interviewer already knows you need a job. Why else would you be applying? They want you to want this job at this company out of all the others out there.
That you don’t know much about the company. You can bring your skills anywhere — your interviewer wants to know why you want to work at their company specifically. They also want to see that you care enough to learn about the company ahead of your interview.
That you’re just in it for the benefits. Benefits shouldn’t be the only reason you’re excited about a company. Benefits being equal, what gets you excited about this role and organization compared to others you might be interviewing with?
That you just need to get out. It might be true that you’re stuck in a toxic work environment or an imploding company and are trying to run out the door as quickly as possible. But your interviewer wants to know more than what you’re running from, they also want to understand what you’re running toward and why.
Your answer to this question needs to clearly show what about the organization you’re really drawn to and how you’re going to contribute in the role, Eonnet says. So be your authentic self and show them the enthusiasm and value you could bring to the table — if only given the chance.
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.
Fairygodboss team editors and career coach Jane Scudder contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.