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What to answer to the question "Why do you want to work here?"

The interviewer catches you off guard with the simple question: Why do you want to work here? Learn how to tailor your answer and stand out.

What to answer to the question "Why do you want to work here?"

The hiring manager asks a rather simple interview question, yet it catches you off guard: "Why do you want to work for this company?" The obvious answer that comes to mind is, "Because you have an opening, and I need a job." While this may be true, it won't earn you any points in a job interview.

The interviewer is looking for an answer that indicates you've thought about where you want to work—that you're not just sending your resume to any company with a job opening. Researching the company and industry before your interview will make you stand out as a more informed and competent applicant. Search company Web sites for mission statements, product and service information, principals' backgrounds and contact information. Check company financials through the US Securities and Exchange Commission. By reviewing the company’s website and social media accounts, and reading news articles about the firm, you’ll be able to draw conclusions about the value you can bring to the position, whether it’s because the company’s mission matches yours, its culture is a good fit or you have a skill that the company needs. 

You must do research before the interview and come up with two or three reasons you want to work for the company. It would also be beneficial to think of at least two reasons this job is a good match for your skillsstrengths, experience and background. What can you bring to the company? Write down your thoughts and rehearse them as part of your script.

When an interviewer asks you “Why do you want to work here?” you should use this opportunity to show that you've done your homework on the company and how you might fit into the open role.

For instance, Annette is the first candidate interviewed for an HR manager position. When she is asked why she wants to work there, she replies, "I have always wanted to work for this company. I love your product, and I have used it for many years. And it seems that this job would be perfect for me, a real opportunity for me to grow and develop."

Annette's answer begins well, but then shifts to what she can get out of the experience instead of what she has to offer. Her answer would be stronger if she proved she had researched the industry and company, and therefore could discuss more than her own experience with the product. You may think this question is all about you, but like other questions in your job interview, it’s still really about what you can do for the employer. 

“Most candidates fall into answers related to culture or a lifelong dream to do this work. But the candidate that can move beyond an attractive culture or lifelong dream and put their skills into the context of a deliverable to the employer will move beyond other candidates,” says workplace culture consultant Steve Langerud, who is based in Grinnell, Iowa. “Drill down on a key skill or deliverable that the employer needs and that you love to do. It is less important to the employer that you will love working there than the fact that you will get juiced by helping them improve their performance.”

James is another candidate, and he answers more directly: "Based on the research I've done, this company is an industry leader. When I visited your Web site, I found some impressive information about future projects you have planned. I was also impressed with the founders' backgrounds and the current financial statements. This is the company I've been looking for, a place where my background, experience and skills can be put to use and make things happen."

James's answer demonstrates his interest in and enthusiasm for the company and what it stands for. He also demonstrates how he envisions he could be a member of the team.

Jennifer Malach, founder of 20/20 Career Solutions in New York City, says one candidate she interviewed for an accounting manager position stood out by noting the company’s recent announcement that it was going public and would need a new set of accounting skills. The candidate then highlighted her applicable certifications and skills. “This demonstrated that she knew what value she could add to the existing accounting team during the company's transition,” Malach says.

There are no right or wrong answers to this question. Your answer should reflect that you have thought about what you want and have researched the company. Let the interviewer know you are being selective about where you want to work and you're not just going to take any job offered to you. Demonstrate that this is the company you want to work for—a little flattery will go a long way.

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