How to answer the job interview question: ‘What is your ideal company?’
Hint: Give an answer that aligns your ideal workplace with the employer you’re talking to.
But while that may be your fantasy, you need to remember that the hiring manager is looking for an answer that’s more grounded in reality.
“They are interested in finding a match for the position and the company,” says Michele Jennae, executive career coach and owner of Perpetual Career Management in Sacramento, California. “A match doesn’t just consist of qualifications, but motivation, attitude, potential, culture, and more.”
These suggestions can help you find a way to describe your ideal company and provide an answer that will impress your interviewer.
To avoid giving a canned, predictable response, you need to know what you really want in a workplace—and understand that isn’t the same as what others may want.
“Think about what an ideal company really does look like for you,” says John J. Brady, executive director of Protem Partners in Philadelphia. “When you know what it looks like, you can answer truthfully, which will also come across more convincingly.”
You need to have a clear idea of the type of environment that enables you to do your best work, says Marilyn Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University. “Do you work best in a collaborative team, or is a solo practitioner more your style? Do you like fast-paced, innovative environments or more hierarchical if-it-isn't-broke-don’t-fix-it ones? Be clear about how these elements enable your top performance.”
You say: “My ideal company is one that values individual employees and encourages them to speak up and share ideas, but that also has a commitment to sustainability”
Giving an answer based on how your own values overlap with the company’s values is key to positioning yourself well, Jennae says. And here’s where doing your homework on the company pays off. “Use a specific value or two that resonated with you and provide direct evidence as to why it represents your ideal,” she says. This shows both alignment and preparation.
You say: “I know sustainability is part of your mission and something you consider in every project the company undertakes.”
Focus on what you can offer
Your ideal company should help make you an ideal employee—and you want to show that.
“A response that focuses exclusively on perks and benefits to employees probably won’t go over very well,” Brady notes. “It suggests you’re only interested in what you get, rather than what you contribute to the corporate community.”
Your answer should show you’ve researched the company and the challenges it faces, Jennae says. In your ideal company, you will be part of the solution to those problems.
You say: “My ideal company would present exciting challenges that allow me to use my interest in and experience with growing sustainability efforts, and I see how my experience developing metrics could be useful here to propel the business forward”