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How to answer the "why do you want to work here" job interview question

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“I just need to get paid.”

“I don’t know.”

These are typical answers I hear when performing mock interviews with my clients and I ask, “Why do you want to work for this organization?” But while they may be honest, unfortunately they also probably aren’t what the employer wants to hear. Although it seems like it should be a simple question, for many people it is actually one that is very tricky to answer. To be fair, it’s quite a loaded question.

Is there really a right answer?

The first thing to ask yourself when answering this question is: Why did I apply for this job? There must have been something about this particular job that made you think, at the very least, “I can do this, and I wouldn’t mind it.” If not, that’s a problem! Why did you apply to this job if you’re not going to actually want to do it? I know that most people need a job because they have to pay bills, and that’s completely understandable. But as someone who helps people find jobs every day, I want you to know that there is a job out there that you will enjoy and that will use your skills and strengths. If you are struggling to believe this, or if you’re looking for help with finding the right job for you, I highly encourage meeting with someone who works in career services.

The second thing to ask yourself is: What skills do I have that would make me good at this job? When you’ve identified your strengths, try to think of examples where you put these strengths and skills into action. This is an important point for many interview questions – think of these examples as your proof of what you are saying about yourself. Anyone can talk the talk, it’s walking the walk that matters.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do research on the organization.  Showing that you’ve taken the time to check out the employer's website, review news articles about them, and seek out statistics or other information about the industry can be very impressive to an employer. Try to find something you really connect with. Maybe it's their mission statement, the cause they are fighting for or a fantastic awareness campaign that really connected with you. Maybe it’s that you’ve been there as a client, donor or volunteer and had a great experience, or you heard from your friend that they are a great place to work. Whatever it is that you like about this organization – tell them! They want employees who will be happy to work there, not ones that will speak ill of the company or be a bad ambassador for them.

Wow them with a three-part answer

In summary, you'll want to practice a three-part answer to this question that includes:

  • What attracted you to the job
  • What strengths and skills would make you excel at it
  • What you connects you personally with the organization

When you put all of these pieces together (your interest, your skills, and your research), you'll be able to create a very strong and convincing answer for the employer.

Charity Leonard is an Employment Facilitator with Youth Employment Services (Manitoba), which provides free and inclusive employment services to youth ages 16 – 29. She is passionate about empowering youth to find their paths in life and recognize their value in the workforce.

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Really fantastic advice. I've found myself stumped many times about how I should answer that question, and now I wonder if answering badly has prevented me from getting a job in the past. I will make sure to bookmark this for my next interview.
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