There are several common questions you’ll hear if you’re on the lookout for a new job. Alongside such typical inquiries as “Tell me about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” comes this one: “Why do you want to work here?”
While you might have heard lots of advice on answering these questions, some of it isn’t that great. A pat answer gleaned from a job interview question book usually puts interviewers to sleep and does you a giant disservice.
While you may wonder whether the question “Why do you want to work here?” is worthwhile, your answer sheds a lot of light on your true intentions. If you can’t give an answer that reflects a genuine interest in the company, you’re probably better off declining the interview altogether.
Interviewers genuinely want feedback on their workplace. They want to know what their reputation is among the public and why people apply to work for them. They don’t want to hear that you applied for the job because you could tick off the application requirements; they want to hear that you’re excited about their product or working environment.
Often, interviewers can categorize the responses they hear to determine whether an applicant is truly interested in working for them or is simply looking for a paycheck and health benefits.
Someone who is genuinely interested in the company will express their knowledge about its services and products or the positive impact the organization has had in its sector. They may resonate with the company’s values or like the organization’s approach to onboarding its new employees.
On the other hand, an applicant simply seeking a job will have a more constrained response. They may discuss the organization’s workplace flexibility policy, summer Fridays, or 401(k) match.
The essential difference in the responses is that the first type discusses how the company serves its customers and industry. In contrast, the second type outlines how the organization benefits the employee.
Nearly all interviewers will ask why you want to work for them — it’s one of the most frequent job interview questions. However, a little preparation can set you apart from other applicants and ensure you give a genuine and heartfelt response.
If you fail to do any investigation into the company you’re interviewing with, you’ll likely come across as unprepared and uninterested. Being unprepared will put you at a disadvantage to other candidates who have done their homework.
Start your research with a deep dive into the company’s website. Check out their products or services and ensure you fully understand what they do. Research the organization’s significant leaders and look at their LinkedIn profiles. If you know the name of the individual you’ll be interviewing with, pull up their profile on LinkedIn.
If the company you’re interviewing with is public, you can see their latest earnings report and financial statements. Even if you’re not a CPA or finance expert, you should be able to dig into the details and understand how the company earns its money and what its plans are for the near future.
After a thorough deep dive into the workings of the company and its people, you should find something you can identify with. People can often resonate with a core value that the company holds dear, like innovation or team-building.
If you find a common core value, think of a few examples from your personal life or prior work experience that connect with the value. For instance, if the value is innovation, you could talk about how you developed a new process in your previous job that saved lots of time or how you’re interested in new technologies like AI or predictive analytics.
Sometimes, people resonate with a company’s services or products themselves. For example, a company manufacturing equipment to detect cancer early may find a big supporter in an applicant whose family member died from an undetected case of late-stage leukemia.
Whatever your reason, make sure you can convey your support and enthusiasm for the organization outside of how it financially benefits you.
Sometimes, the actual tasks of a role excite an applicant. Workplaces at the forefront of technology or positively impacting others are especially prone to having this effect on applicants.
If the role’s responsibilities attract you, pick the ones that are most exciting and be ready to talk about them. For instance, if you’re applying for a nursing job in the emergency room department, you might discuss how helping others get the care they need is important to you.
If the job is more analytical, you might discuss recent skills you’ve picked up that you hope to apply to the role, like data analytics or Python.
Another way of answering the question is to talk about your expertise and skills and how you anticipate they will help build out the role you’re interviewing for.
Prior executives and senior leadership should have a vision for how they plan to drive organizational changes. For instance, someone seeking to take on a new CMO job might talk about how they drove up revenue in a similar industry by instituting new advertising campaigns.
Whenever you discuss your skills and expertise, you should discuss the past and future plans for the role so the company leaders see how an investment in you can benefit them.
Remember that your interviewer likely knows you’re already technically qualified for the job. Your performance in the interview itself will determine whether you proceed to the next stage.
Keep the focus on the company and its values and how you can further benefit the organization with your expertise. At all costs, avoid talking about the financial benefits to you for working for the company.
At Cowen Partners, our HR executive recruiters are exceptionally skilled at delivering in-demand candidates, no matter the need and across all industries. Backed by a proven executive recruiting process, we have been the partner of choice for startups, corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and more, meeting unique and critical recruitment needs across the entire C-suite, including CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, CHROs, VPs of sales, other VPs, directors, and several other leadership roles.
With our executive recruiters, you get senior partner-led searches, due diligence-run networking, meticulous candidate vetting, and so much more, all geared towards one goal — placing the very best talent as soon as possible, all while ensuring a seamless fit with your company culture, your big-picture objectives, and other factors. Plus, we have one of the highest candidate retention rates in the industry while consistently delivering world-class talent faster than the competition.
That’s how Cowen Partners has become a leading executive search firm nationwide, and it’s why our executive recruiters have a reputation for excellence and success.
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