The hardest easy interview question

Written by Sarah Mallen, Information & Guidance Coordinator at The Careers Service

Employers tell us that one of the key reasons for applicants failing at the application and interview stages is not being able to answer the simple question – “Why do you want to work for us?”

Why do they ask this?

Employers are not stupid, they know you will be applying to other jobs & companies. However, they do expect you to be enthusiastic about working for them.  The cost in money and staff morale of hiring someone who is not interested in the job is huge, so they want to get it right.

So what are they looking for?

  • Evidence that you have researched the company. What are their unique selling points? What are they working on? What are their key values/strengths?
  • Your motivation – Why do you want to work there? How does it mesh with your values strengths, goals, skills?
  • Evidence that you understand the role and how it fits into that company.

So how do I explain this?

On your CV
Make sure you read the job description or person specification carefully. The recruiter will be looking to see that you are talking about relevant skills and using relevant examples if possible.  If you are using a short personal profile – make sure it addresses directly the needs of the role and or your motivation.

On your cover letter or personal statement
You need to cover motivation and relevant skills/experience. This is your sales pitch.

Ensure that you cover motivation. You really do need to be specific. Too often I read statements like …

  1. You offer a great salary & benefits package
  2. I really want to work in London
  3. You are a leading company in your sector

All these statements apply to hundreds of companies including the competitors of the company you are applying to.

In a cover letter you don’t have masses of space but it’s important to show where your interest in the role stems from.  There may be a clear trajectory in your education but that won’t always be the case, make them see why you have chosen your chosen career path. Link this to your skills and prior experience.

Application forms / online questions and at interview
Some companies make it really easy for you and ask?

  • Why do you want to work for (insert company name here)?
  • Why are you interested in …? (insert name of business area or name of role here – eg tax, customer service adviser )
  • They will then often go on to ask specific questions about your skills or strengths.

These can often be the first two questions at an interview. So getting it right will make you feel more confident and give the recruiter confidence in you.

That all seems a lot of  work, are there any short cuts?

Yes it takes time, but it’s not wasted. These 3 things can often be reused if you are applying for the same roles.

  1. Be clear on your career goals.
  2. What skills (gained in any way) do you have that relate to this area?
  3. What direct experience, including education, do you have that relates to this area. This is an easy way to show your motivation… look I’ve been working towards this.

If you are applying for the same sector and roles consistently then a lot of your research will already be done.

  1. You will know who the other big players are
  2. You will know (or be able to see) what differentiates each company

A final warning though….

DO NOT cut and paste from one job application to another, I have seen far too many applications mentioning the wrong company name, wrong job title, wrong skills.  You think you would never do that, but I’m pretty sure the ones I have seen didn’t think they did either!

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