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Top 5 Ice Breaker Questions #5: “Why Do You Want To Work Here?”

by Mark Ellwood

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Welcome to the finale in our series of posts under the heading of ‘Top-5 ice breaker questions and how to handle them’. We’ve been looking at those simple-sounding, yet tricky to answer interview opener questions. And in this final episode, we look at the superficially simple, yet pivotal question;

 

 “Why do you want to work here?”

 

This is, above all the other opener questions, is really the most important.  Your answer should demonstrate that you’ve done your research, it tells the interviewer why you are sitting in front of him/her and it gives the person opposite a sense of how you might fit into the company and where you feel you might progress to in the role. And we’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; you need to craft an answer that is not so short that it fails to convince, but also not so long it bores the interviewer to tears.

What is important to remember is the fact that someone has taken the time to meet, interview you and make an assessment. They’re not looking to hire just anyone to fill the role. They are not interested in people who just have the skills, or just want a pay rise. Especially today, in an HR-conscious environment with a focus on team dynamics, they are asking these questions to help them make an informed decision as to whether you represent value to the firm and someone who will feel utilised and fulfilled in the role. We’ve seen people online dismissing this question an antiquated. But it’s still being asked for a simple reason – it gets to the heart of the whole interview. Why do you want to work at this place?

 

Variations

The question can be asked in a variety of ways, including:

  1. What do you like about this company?

  2. Why do you feel this is the right move for you?

  3. What’s the most attractive thing about this opportunity?

 

What’s being assessed here?

This question is actually two questions rolled into one:

  • What has attracted you to this particular firm?

  • What will this new job give you?

 

Any strong answer must address both of these questions and if only one of these sub-questions is asked, you should include the answer to the other sub-question in your overall response. So, these questions are assessing your career aspirations, and whether this job fits into your plan. It’s clarifying your genuine interest in the job and the firm and what they do, and it also services the hiring firm as a form of intelligence as to what the company’s reputation is like in the employer market. Overall, it is looking at how much you’ve researched the company.

 

It is also often thrown in as a deliberate trip-wire question. A poor response will usually be the end of your progress for that application. Take note!

 

And finally, there’s the hidden question, which is what you can offer the firm. To the hiring manager, this is actually more important than your personal aspirations at that moment in time, so a strong answer will incorporate selling points for yourself to the hiring company.

So, this question no longer looks so simple.

 

How to answer?

 

In many ways, much of the same preparation that you will have undertaken for our previous Top-5 Ice Breakers will put you in a good position for this answering this question. Fundamentally, all these questions are about understanding the role and the company, and also understanding yourself – the perfect triangle of recruitment.  Let’s look at the two sub-questions and how we might prepare for those:

 

What has attracted you to this particular firm?

  • Market aspect. Take a look at recent news reports and press releases. You might be able to find an annual report online. Get a feel for how the firm is doing in the market, where it excels, areas it may be trying to expand into and what kind of reputation it has. You could also connect with people you know who work, or have worked, at the firm

  • Ethos/social aspect. Look up the mission, vision and values of the hiring company and any corporate social responsibility activities they are involved with

  • Employer/career aspect. Do people stay long at this firm? What’s it’s reputation as an employer? Where do people go to after working here?

 

What will this new job give you?

  • Growth. Analyse the job on offer – what new experiences is it giving you? Is it increasing your experience in particular areas? How are you growing your career with this job? Does it leverage your existing skills and experiences?

  • Change. Take a look at the team environment. Do they work in a different way to your current set-up?  Is it a larger or smaller team, and if so, how will this add to your experience?

  • Development. What learning and development opportunities are on offer? Will this role involve training, new qualifications or new skills?

 

Top Tip: Frame your answer in a way that is a selling point to the employer. To do this, think about what you bring to the role.

 

Five rules of thumb

The five rules of thumb to answer this question are:

  1. Keep it brief. As with all the other ice-breaker answers, don’t brush off the questions with a one-liner or a jokey quip. Equally, don’t launch into a lecture or a thesis. Get to the points, but make them count

  2. Do your research. The more you know, the better you’ll be in the interview in general

  3. Address the sub-questions. Do this and you can’t really go wrong

  4. Use examples. Any examples of your previous work you can use that bolster what you are offering the new employer is always going to boost your application, because you’re offering evidence, not just words

  5. Show positivity. Employers want to see that you’re eager to start a new job with them. Deliver your answers with (reasonable) excitement and (professional) passion

 

What to avoid

With such a superficially simple question, it can be easy to forget this is a formal interview question and fall into one of the common pitfalls:

  • Too general. Examples would be “The company has a great reputation and I’d love to be a part of that” or “I heard the benefits are great”

  • Incorrect information. An uninformed answer shows you haven’t done your research. Epic fail

  • No passion. While you don’t have to be gushing about the firm, or jumping off the walls of the room because you cannot contain your excitement, an unenthusiastic response can indicate that you’re not genuine with your answers or that you’re not really excited about working at the new firm.  Even worse, a hint of incredulity (a “Why are you asking me this question?” attitude) will always sounds defensive and be a put-off

  • Throw-away. “My friend told me there was a position here, so I applied”. Yes, we know. Why did you apply?

  • Jokes. Don’t. Humour has a place in interviews. This isn’t it

 

Try an example:

Scenario: moving into an expanding accountancy firm who need a senior manager in compliance.

Interviewer: 

“So, tell me, why do you want to work here?”

Interviewee:

“We’ll, as a leader in the accountancy field, I’ve always kept an eye on the firm, as I’ve admired the company culture and I like the way the teams are structured – flatter and more inclusive, less of a top-down approach. Recently, I heard the CEO talking about the company’s plans. I can see that the move into compliance advisory services is the natural progression, something I have some strong experience in from my recent advisory projects to banking clients, so I was very excited to see this position become available as it would leverage that experience while giving me an introduction to leading and shaping a new team. I’m also a fan of the charitable pro-bono work you’ve been doing with homeless charities in Asia and your mission to be a responsible contributor to society. ‘Giving back’ is something close to my heart and I’d like to get involved with your outreach projects.”

 

Let’s look at what this reply tells us:

  • It shows research – the applicant knows what the firm’s expansion plans are and its mission statement

  • It sells the candidate – they have the skills needed for this expansion and offer examples of previous experience in the right areas

  • It shows cultural fit – the applicant would prefer the structure at the new firm and they are aligned with the company’s mission and values

  • It’s honest and believable – the candidate explains why this job will offer them growth

  • The last line delivers some passion

 

So, now it’s over to you to get researching and put together your own answers.

That’s it for now from the Top-5 Ice Breakers. We hope you’ve found this series enjoyable and useful as a guide to your interview preparation. Let us know, we’re always keen to hear your feedback.