How to Answer ‘Why Do You Want to Work Here?’

It’s not about just saying what you think the employer wants to hear.

Written by Brian Nordli
How to Answer ‘Why Do You Want to Work Here?’
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
UPDATED BY
Brennan Whitfield | Jun 15, 2023

The question “Why do you want to work here?” is typically asked of job candidates in the early stages of the interviewing process, often in the first or second interview. Sometimes recruiters or hiring managers ask it in a slightly different way, such as “Why are you interested in this position?” 

When answering, it’s important for candidates to showcase their knowledge of and enthusiasm about the role and company, as well how their skills and experiences align with the job.

 

How to Answer ‘Why Do You Want to Work Here?’

A good answer to the “Why do you want to work here?” question is able to highlight your experience, show you’ve done your research about the company and convey enthusiasm for the role. Depending on your response, it can set the tone for the rest of your interview. 

Here’s just a few different ways to answer the question, with samples and tips to remember.

 

1. HIGHLIGHT YOUR PASSION FOR THE TECH

If you’re familiar with the product or have followed the company closely, don’t be afraid to let that passion show. The key is to think through what problems they’re solving and how you can add value to it in your role.  

James Durago, director of people at FeatureBase (formerly Molecula), recalled two engineer hires who had previously worked on the company’s open source product Pelosa. When he asked them why they wanted to work at FeatureBase, they pointed to their familiarity with Pelosa and experience tackling the same problems the company is focused on solving. Their responses eased any concerns about their interest in the role and ability to do the job, Durago said.

Sample Answer

“I’m a user of [the product] and I really believe in the fact that it’s going to change the game for a lot of folks. I understand the issues you’re trying to solve, and I believe I can help because I have intimate knowledge of the product. And here’s why …”

Key Tips

Do your research on the company and the product or solution they provide.

It’s not enough to say, “I love your product,” said Kehau Likio, a program delivery manager at sales bootcamp SV Academy. You need to be able to explain what it is about their product that you love.

Start with the company website to familiarize yourself with the product and mission. From there, reading a few recent news articles about the company and looking up the hiring manager is suggested, according to Keirsten Greggs, founder of TRAP Recruiter and a talent acquisition consultant and career coach. The good news is, it doesn’t take too much research to come up with an answer. 

 

2. DRAW A PERSONAL CONNECTION WITH THE COMPANY MISSION

The answer you provide presents a great opportunity to work in your own personal story and share about yourself with the recruiter. This type of response starts with a personal mission statement and specific examples to back it up. It’s then followed up with how those experiences tie in with your interest in the company, Durago said.

Sample Answer 

“When I look at my life and the decisions I’ve made personally and professionally, the one underlying theme is [insert theme]. You can see that in [personal example X] and [personal example Y]. The company’s mission is [insert mission]. Here’s why that’s in line with my beliefs and why I’m excited to work here.”

Durago used this response during his interview with FeatureBase, drawing a connection between the company’s mission to make AI more accessible and his desire to help others.

It’s best to save this approach for when you have a personal connection to the company’s mission. If you do, the framework is a great way to convey enthusiasm about the role and show that you’ve thought through what it would be like to work at the company, Durago added.

Key Tips

Understand your “why?” for choosing to interview with this specific company.

It’s more effective for candidates to answer this question outside the context of an interview, according to Likio. That way, it’s more about what they want out of a company they work for, rather than what they think the interviewer wants to hear. When a candidate figures out their “why,” their response will be more genuine during the interview.

“It’s good to have [candidates] think for themselves, ‘What is it about this company that makes me go through the interview process?’ That’s when the real genuine and authentic answers come out.”

Sometimes it just takes time to find your “why,” Likio said. The more exposure you have to companies and the more you ask yourself “why this company?” the clearer the answer will become.

 

3. EMPHASIZE WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE

If you’ve done your research, then you should have a good sense of what the company stands for and the work you’ll be doing. With this response, find one thing that drew you to the role — whether that’s the company’s mission, the job description or product — and share how you can add value to it. 

This approach is also a great way to highlight one or two of your accomplishments and convey enthusiasm for the role, said Debra Wheatman, a career coach and president of career services firm Careers Done Write. Just make sure to keep your examples short and to the point.

Sample Answer

“I view this role as an opportunity to add value [insert what attracted you to the company] and I believe that my skills support this through [share one or two examples of your experience here].”

Key Tips

Think about the kind of job you want and what industry you want to work in first. If you have a strong preference for working in a specific field, it’s a lot easier to answer the question. If you don’t, don’t worry, Linkio said. It can be just as helpful to think about what kind of manager you want to work for.

While candidates might think they want to work for a larger company for job stability, managers are a better indicator of what it's like to work in a role than company size. When you apply for a job, Likio recommends researching the hiring manager’s LinkedIn. Look at what topics they post about, how many people they manage and check out any content they’ve produced to decide if their coaching style is right for you.

 

4. CONNECT WITH THE COMPANY CULTURE 

Recruiters are always looking for candidates who will fit in with the company culture and surpass expectations, Wheatman said. While you might not have a full picture of what that culture will be like until you visit the office or meet with managers, you can pick up on hints in the job description, company website and blog posts. 

Highlighting an aspect of the culture and how you plan to add to it is a great way to convey that you have the drive and ability to succeed at that company. It shows that “you want to learn and you want to contribute, and you’ll do whatever it takes to surpass expectations,” Wheatman said.

Sample Answer

“I’m interested in the company based on [insert what you researched about the culture]. I believe I can play a role in solving the issues of the company and add value to the [insert aspect of company culture here]. Here’s why.”

Key Tips

Look for specifics in the company’s culture that resonate with you. It could be that the company donates to a nonprofit that you value or the fact that the manager loves reading to cats and you also read to your cat, Greggs said. The key is to make a genuine personal connection to the role or manager.

Also, don’t shy away from reaching out to anyone in your network who works for the hiring company, Likio added. They can tell you what it’s like at the company and give you insight into how you’d fit in.

“It’s just trying to gather as much context as possible so you can ask yourself, ‘Do I see myself working here?’” she explained. “And taking it a step further, ‘Can I see myself being successful here?’ and ‘Can I speak to the things they want me to speak to?’”

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What Not to Say When Asked ‘Why Do You Want to Work Here?’

A bad response to the question “Why do you want to work here?” won’t necessarily make or break your interview, but it still influences the hiring manager’s decision. Talking about the paycheck or the need for a job are the most common faux pas. But candidates can also slip up with how they frame the response.   

If you do feel like your answer fell short of what you intended, don’t fret. Most companies understand mistakes do happen and that a candidate might have just had an off-response, Durago said. Following up after the interview to clarify your response can often be just as impactful as if you aced it the first time. 

With that said, here are some mistakes to avoid.

 

DON’T TRY TO BE A SAVIOR 

While it’s important to share your accomplishments, this type of response falls into the trap of introducing too many “I” statements. Hiring managers want to know you can work on a team, Durago said. He considers it a personality red flag when a candidate assumes they know the company’s problems and positions themself as the only one who can solve them. 

“You can come in with an opinion, but we are a team and we want to collaborate with people,” Durago said. “Humility and being humble are values of the company.”

Instead, Durago suggests emphasizing collaboration and focusing on how your skills apply to the job description. If you’ve identified a problem the company is facing, share that it’s an assumption and how you’d work with a team to solve it.

Don’t say: “I looked at your website and I think that I can easily solve all your problems.”

 

DON’T WASTE THE RECRUITER’S TIME

Recruiters might reach out to you on LinkedIn and invite you to apply for a role with their company. While you may just take the interview just to learn more about the opportunity, you still have to take the time to do some research, Durago said. Find at least one reason you might be interested in the company. Otherwise, there’s no point in even taking the interview.

Don’t say:I’m interested in the job only because you reached out to me and I want to know what else you have going on.”

 

DON’T TREAT THE COMPANY LIKE A STEPPING STONE 

Ambition can be a good thing, but no company wants to hire someone who is already plotting their exit. Hiring someone is expensive, so a manager will only want to invest in a candidate who has a genuine interest in the position, Wheatman said. If you have bigger plans for your career, focus instead on the growth you want to achieve and how the company will help you accomplish that goal.

Don’t say:I’m really looking to advance quickly and this company would make a great stepping stone in my career.”

Related Reading30 Great Job Interview Tips From the Experts

 

Why Interviewers Ask ‘Why Do You Want to Work Here?’

Hiring managers and recruiters ask it because they want to know that the candidate has done their research on the role and is excited to work for the company, Likio said. It may seem superficial, but she’s seen otherwise strong candidates lose out on jobs because they had a lackluster response.

During the phone interview stage, the recruiter uses the question to vet candidates. They want to see that you have enough knowledge and enthusiasm to merit a recommendation to the hiring manager. But what the recruiter is looking for may change based on the company size.

At FeatureBase, Durago often asks the question to make sure the candidate has thought through what it means to work for a fast-growing startup. Working at a startup can be a grind as the company goes through frequent changes and sets ambitious goals chasing growth, Durago said. He wants to know that the candidate has a driving purpose, such as a personal connection to the mission or a passion for the technology, that will help them get through the tough times.

But at Google, where he worked as a recruiting manager, he wanted to know that they were interested in the job beyond the brand recognition or prestige.

During the second stage of the interview, a hiring manager will use the question to hear how you’d fit in with the team and company, Greggs said. They want to see how your skills and experience apply to the position, and they want to know what specifically makes you excited to work for them. Enthusiasm may seem like an inconsequential qualifier, but managers often take that as a sign that the employee will be hard-working and dedicated to their role, she added.

Jessica Powers contributed reporting to this story.

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