How to Answer: “Why Do You Want to Work for Us?”

Let’s start out with how NOT to answer this question! 🙂  The interviewer is NOT looking to hear these common responses (actual responses I’ve heard): 

  • It seems like a good place to work. 
  • I think the compensation could work for me. 
  • I couldn’t get the other job at ____, so this seems all right. 
  • I really like the advertisements I’ve seen on TV about your company. 
  • The title for the role really connects for me. 
  • It’s a short commute and the hours seem reasonable. 

Now, for some of you, these responses drew a good laugh, but there’s a reason people actually gave these answers. It’s because the response they gave made sense to them at the time. Some people reading may not understand why these responses are not very good. Let’s start with that “why” before we get to the better responses for the first “why.” 

From Generic to Meaningful

The bullet point responses above are not very good because they are somewhat generic, are about the job candidate’s preferences, or they don’t link to anything meaningful about the company that reflects some research into the company has been performed.   

The reason the interviewer asks this question is to ascertain whether the candidate is truly being thoughtful about why they would want to work for that organization. If all the candidate can do is provide answers similar to what’s above, most interviewers would immediately rule them out for the position. 

Attributes of good answers to this question include: 

  1. Specific vs. generic – – I was motivated to apply for a job with this organization because I love the work you do in our local community, I appreciate the emphasis you seem to place on work/life balance from what I can see on the website, and I’ve used your products for years.   
  1. Contribution to the organization vs. what the individual takes away – – I align very closely with the mission and values of your organization, and I think seeing the bigger picture of what this company stands for and how you are striving to achieve it matches up wonderfully with my personal values and passion. 
  1. Linkage of the individual’s skills / interests to what the organization espouses / needs – – With my project management skills and six sigma certification, I think I can greatly contribute to the high-quality standards I’ve read about on your website.    
  1. Personal connection – – I’ve known Jerry, a communications specialist who’s worked here for about 6 years, for quite a while. He constantly talks about how much he loves working here, and I know I’d fit well with how he describes the company. 
  1. Show you’ve done your homework – – Based on my networking, research on your company website, and reading about some of the company’s accomplishments in the annual report, I’ve seen many areas that match up well with my aspirations to contribute to such meaningful work with great people! 

In each of these examples, it’s important to mention specific things you’ve learned about the organization, or products, or mission that was particularly noteworthy for you. The more you can express something unique to them, versus generic things you could say about any company, the more it will come across as authentic and meaningful. 

Foundational Truths to Help You Prepare

Additionally, here are a few Scriptures I think line up as foundational truths for preparing good answers to this question: 

  • Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” 
  • Proverbs 14:15 “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” 
  • Proverbs 14:18 “The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.” 
  • Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” 

Bottom line, do your homework and be specific and authentic with your answers – – you’ll hit the mark! Blessings! 

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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