“Why Do You Want This Job?”


“Why do you want this job?” is typically asked of a job applicant when the job applicant themselves hasn’t come right out and made it clear why they are actually applying for the position. Even when it’s not asked straight to the applicant, the employer is always evaluating your words and your body language in an attempt to find out why.

Look, employers don’t want to undergo a frequent turnover in their employees. When they do, that takes time away from what they’d otherwise be doing, and of course it costs both money to advertise and then train a person. So it stands to reason then that they want someone who truly wants the job and who understands the job so there’s no miscommunication and they know each other’s expectations.

Now you might sit there reading this blog and say to yourself, “I know why I want this job – I don’t have one and I need to work!” That answer isn’t going to get you the job 99% of the time. What the interviewer is really hearing when you answer like that is that you are desperate for work – any kind of work – and have no real investment in the job or the company itself. Once hired and less desperate, you’ll realize this isn’t the best spot for you, and you’ll immediately start looking for a job that better suits you now that you have the security of ‘some’ job. In short, they’ll hire you, turning away other candidates, then you’ll be trained to do the job and shortly in this process you’ll quit. The employer will be left to repeat the entire process and get no return on their investment in you.

There are some people who during the interview itself become very excited about the job but fail in any way to show it. Their voice remains monotone, their body language is so conservative or stiff there’s no hint in it that they are really motivated, and so they are assumed to be fairly neutrally invested in the opportunity. If they land the job, good, and if they don’t land it, well, no big deal really. At least this is the impression they’ve left the employer with. Later on of course when they don’t get hired, they may say how disappointed they were, and if the interviewer was honest, they’d say to the applicant, “Really? I didn’t get the impression you really cared one way or the other.”

Now the best thing you can do is first let your body language show some enthusiasm for the job. Sit slightly forward in your chair, smile and be connected with the discussion that’s going on by looking the people who are interviewing you in the eye. Make sure the tone of your voice varies; stress different words as you talk so that those words are emphasized and you become more interesting to listen to. When you answer questions about your achievements and successes, show by your body language that you are indeed proud of those moments. When you speak of past employers that you got on with well, communicate that happiness with your face the same way you’d look remembering some pleasant memory.

Know why you want the job. Is it about a rare opportunity that brings together your past experience, qualifications and the chance to work in a smaller, tight organization where you can provide leadership and have many responsibilities? Or is this the chance to specialize; focus solely on a few responsibilities in a larger organization, where your expertise and the job description seem made for each other?

Are you out to make a difference? The short commute is a definite asset, as is the chance to bring your creativity to a company known for its openness to new ideas. Maybe the reputation of the organization as a magnet for cutting edge technology or their investment in local charities you support is part of your reason for wanting to be a part of their team. Maybe too you’re just attracted to their benefit package and you just want to disappear into a cubicle there for the next 7 years – no wait! Don’t use this last one – even if it’s true!

The key to answering this question about why you want to work for the company is to know how they’ll benefit from having you onboard and matching that benefit with some need they have you will answer.  So what do they gain by hiring you? Are you a problem-solver, risk-taker, new age philosopher, traditionalist or negotiator? If they need a problem-solver and you’re positioning yourself as a traditionalist who doesn’t rock the boat, there’s a place for you – but not with this company. You failed to do your homework and provided yourself a solution for a problem they don’t have; thanks for coming in.

The key will be found in the job posting; ‘what we’re looking for’ or ‘what you’ll do’. Make sure this is what you’re up for in the first place, and can you really be happy doing what the job entails? Don’t even pursue the job if you know you’re a poor fit. You don’t want to be out of work again in 3 months or less and again job searching.

At any rate, this question of why you want the job should never appear to come as a surprise in the interview; know why you’re there.

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