You’ve arrived at an interview for the job of your dreams. Your resume is polished, your interview clothes are nicely pressed. You’re sitting across from the interviewer, who smiles, takes a breath, and asks you one of the most common job interview questions in the world:
"Why do you want to work for us?"
What do you say?
I’ve gone to many different job interviews over the years and I’ve sat on the other side of the table as an interviewer. The questions I’ve encountered have ranged from practical ("When can you start work?") to expected ("Why do you think you’re right for this job?") to downright fun ("What Star Wars character do you most identify with?"). But I’ve encountered some version of "Why do you want to work this company?" in every single interview.
It can be a daunting question. As an applicant, you might wonder why a company is asking this question or what kind of answer interviewers are looking for. In this article, I’ll breakdown why companies ask you this question, what constitutes a strong answer to this question (spoiler alert: what makes a strong answer changes with every interview), and talk about how to get ready for this question and others in your interview prep.
Why Companies Ask "What Attracted You to This Company?"
There are a number of reasons why companies are concerned with what attracted you to their company. Mainly, companies want to ensure that you’ll be dedicated to the position you’ve applied for and, by extension, the company itself.
Research has shown that employees that are highly engaged in their work are much more productive, attentive, and dedicated than employees that aren’t. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, companies with highly engaged employees see greater productivity, lower turnover rates, and a generally happier work culture than companies whose employees don’t really want to be there.
Asking "Why do you want to work for this company," then, is a way for an interviewer to judge your commitment to the job and the company. If you give a noncommittal or shallow answer, such as "I just really need a job," you’re not showing that you’re particularly dedicated to the company or its mission. If, by contrast, you can name a few specific projects or facets of the company that excite you, you’ll show that you’re truly dedicated to working at this specific job.
Companies want passionate employees. Managers will often hire an applicant who really, truly wants the specific job they’re applying to over an applicant who might have better and more relevant experience, but is more indifferent to the position and the company. It’s important to have a strong explanation of what attracted you to this company so you come across as a highly engaged and excited potential employee.
What Are Interviewers Looking For?
So, what’re interviewers looking for when they ask the question, "Why do you want to work for us?" Well, they’re mainly looking for the following things:
#1: Excitement About the Company, Its Mission, and Its Goals
Interviewers want to see that you’re excited about the job and the company that you’ll be working for. In your answer, you’ll need to demonstrate a genuine excitement for the position you’re applying for.
#2: Concrete, Specific Examples of Why You Want to Work for the Company
Interviewers also want to see that you’ve done your research about the company. Coming to the interview armed with specific examples of programs, initiatives, or even company culture hallmarks (such as participation in a company-wide softball league) that are exciting to you will help prove that you truly want the job.
#3: An Explanation of Why This Role Is Right for You
Besides explaining why the company is a good fit for you, it’s important to reiterate why this job in particular is right for you. Explain why you’re excited about working for this particular role, or mention how the role is uniquely suited to your strengths.
What’s A Good Answer to "Why Do You Want to Work for Us?"
The answer changes a lot depending on the job and the company you’re applying to. In fact, you should have a different answer to this question for every job interview you attend. Your explanation of what attracted you to this company should be tailored specifically to the position you’re applying for.
Here are a few rules you should follow when coming up with an answer to this question for a specific job interview.
#1: Mention Specific Reasons Why You Want This Job
Having a specific answer to why you want a particular job will show that you’ve put real thought into how you would be an asset to the company. Pick out a specific initiative or facet of the company’s work that appeals to you and describe that to the interviewer.
Check out this example answer:
"I’d love to work with Technology Development Company X because you’re on the forefront of technology creation. I’m extremely excited about how your tools have created opportunities for people around the world to have access to technology in ways that’ll improve their lives. I’m passionate about using technology to help people, as well, and have volunteered on social welfare projects in the past.."
This answer demonstrates that you're knowledgeable and excited about the company by discussing a specific program that’s exciting to you.
#2: Check Out the Company’s Mission, Goals, and Values
Companies often publish their mission, short term and long term goals, and values that they uphold in both their work and for their employees. Check out these items and consider mentioning them when describing why you want to work for the company. For instance, you could say:
"I really appreciate that this company upholds the value of transparency. I really appreciate transparency in the workplace, because it means that people are honest and clear about what they need to get their work done. I haven’t seen many companies that state that they value transparency, so I was extremely excited about the opportunity to work for one that does."
This answer demonstrates that you’ve researched the company’s core values and explains why you consider one of them so important.
#3: Think Outside the Scope of the Position You’re Applying to
You’ll stand out from the crowd if you show that you’ve looked beyond the scope of your potential role to understand other important things about the company. A great answer will show that you’re truly passionate about the entirety of the company.
How to Come Up With a Good Answer to "Why Do You Want to Work for This Company?"
When you’re preparing for your interview, ask yourself the following questions about the job and company you’re applying to so that you can have a solid answer to this question.
#1: What Makes This Job Different From Other Jobs?
Consider the job description of the job you're applying to. What makes it stand out from other, similar positions you've applied to? Does it require you to stretch your skills in certain ways, or give you more responsibility than other positions? Perhaps the company provides opportunities for you to engage in professional development.
Noting specifics about how this job is different and more aligned to your interests will show the interviewer that you're truly passionate about this particular position.
#2: What Makes This Company Different From Other Companies?
What makes this company unique? Do some research on the company's website and look up what current employees say about it. Identify several reasons why the company seems like it'd be a good fit for you. Maybe it has the same core values as you do, or maybe the company culture highlights something that's important to you. Whatever it is, find something about the company that stands out to you.
#3: Why Did I Apply for This Job?
Think about why you really applied for this specific job. In particular, if you'd be leaving a current job for this one, make sure you tell the interviewer why. Explain what's exciting about the role and why you decided to submit a resume for it.
You can use your responses from these questions to craft an answer to the question "Why do you want to work for this company?" Remember, your answer should show specifically why you’re excited about this job.
Review: How to Answer "Why Do You Want to Work for Us?"
Having a unique, well-thought answer to the question "why do you want to work for us" will help you stand out from the crowd of interviewees for a particular job. Interviewers ask this question to assess how you'll fit in with the company and to see whether or not you're truly passionate about the role and the company you're applying to. You'll likely be asked this question at every single job interview you'll ever have, so make sure you spend time considering this question during your interview prep.
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.