One of the most common interview questions is “why did you apply for this job?” And while it may seem like a straightforward question, if you haven’t prepared your answer, you could make one of the biggest interview mistakes — missing out on a prime opportunity to shine as a candidate.
In this article, we dive into why hiring managers ask this question, give you job interview tips, including how to craft a response, and we share some sample answers from which you can draw inspiration for your next interview.
Why hiring managers ask this question
Hiring managers ask candidates this for a number of reasons. Firstly, they want to know that the candidate is enthusiastic about the role and is genuinely interested in this position. If the candidate provides a generic answer, this is a red flag that they may just be willing to take any job in their job search and might not turn out to be an engaged employee.
By asking this question, hiring managers also want to find out if the candidate understands what the role entails and has put thought into how the role fits into their ultimate career goals. With employee turnover rates at an all-time high, companies going through the hiring process want to know the candidate applying for this position will be a good fit and will grow with the company.
Steps to crafting a response
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with what information hiring managers are looking for when they ask this question, let’s look into how to best respond. Below are five steps that you can utilize to craft a winning response:
Step 1: Research the company
One of the most important steps when preparing for any interview is researching the company. And when it comes to effectively answering “why did you apply for this job?”, having thorough knowledge of the company is vital. Hiring managers can usually spot the difference between candidates who took their time researching the company and those who simply read the job description when applying for the job.
Therefore, make sure to research the company’s products, mission, values, culture, and history. You can do this by browsing their website, social media, and checking to see if they were recently featured in any press.
Next, pick out a few aspects of the company that particularly resonate with you to focus on during your answer. Perhaps you’re interested in the innovativeness of their products. Or maybe you align with their company mission. You can then elaborate on why those aspects of the company particularly appeal to you.
Step 2: Research the position
Since one of the main reasons hiring managers ask this question is to develop an understanding of whether you truly understand the role, make sure to research the position in advance. Even if you were in a similar position before, it’s important to not just skim the job description, but thoroughly read through it.
You’ll want to have a comprehensive understanding of your responsibilities, key stakeholders, potential challenges, and which skills are required. This way, when answering the question, you’ll be able to demonstrate your understanding of the role and state specific reasons why you would be a good fit.
For example, if you’ve gleaned from the job description that the role involves extensive project management, you could mention your excellent time-management, collaboration and organization skills help you succeed with project management. This shows that you have thorough knowledge of what is required to be successful in the role and that you have the skills to do so.
Step 3: Reflect on your past experience
Since past behavior is often the best indicator of future behavior, hiring managers frequently ask candidates about their past experience. However, even if they don’t explicitly ask for examples, you could still incorporate them into your response, which could help strengthen your answer.
If you have experience working for a company with a similar culture or within a similar industry, this could be important to mention, as it shows that you’re aware of which cultures you work best in. Likewise, if you have experience working in the same sector, you could mention this as well.
For example, if you are applying for a startup and have previous experience working for a startup, it’s a good idea to mention this experience. This way, the hiring manager is aware that you enjoy working in fast, innovative and agile startup environments. Since this type of culture isn’t for everyone, you’ve learned from first-hand experience what it is like and are more likely to be a good fit.
Step 4: Consider what sets you apart
When crafting your response to the question, it’s important to think about what would set you apart from other candidates. You can then draw on these unique experiences to make yourself more memorable and stand out among the competition.
Perhaps you recently completed a course, or training that is directly applicable to the role. Or maybe you’re applying for a job within an extremely niche industry that you have experience in — experience other candidates probably don’t have.
For example, let’s say that you’re applying for a role as a sales representative for a company that manufactures eco-friendly products, and you have prior experience in this niche industry. You could mention in your answer that you are enthusiastic about contributing this prior experience and knowledge to the role. However, even if you haven’t worked in the specific industry before, there is most likely one aspect from your professional background that sets you apart.
Step 5: Format your answer in advance
When you’re under pressure during an interview, it can be challenging to craft your response on the spot. Therefore, make sure to format how you want to answer the question in advance. While you don’t want to sound too scripted, you should note down which specific points you want to cover.
An effective way to format your answer is to start by explaining what about the role interested you, why you would be a good fit, and how it aligns with your career goals. This demonstrates your understanding of the role, self-awareness in terms of your career, and competency for the role.
Next, you could mention what about the company particularly interests you — whether it’s their culture, mission or products. This shows that you aren’t just applying anywhere, but that you’re enthusiastic about this specific company.
So that you can gain a better understanding of how to format an appropriate answer to this interview question, we’ve provided some examples below. You can tailor these responses to your individual situation.
Example 1: You are a recent graduate
“Having recently graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting, I am looking to start my career at a reputable and accomplished firm, like Golden Capital Management. I understand that you are seeking a trainee accountant with excellent analytical skills and knowledge of accounting software. During my summer internship at Smith Investments, I gained relevant experience managing accounts using accounting software. With this experience, I believe I could contribute substantially in the role.”
Example 2: You are changing careers
“After working as an IT administrator for five years, I am currently transitioning into talent recruitment. The reason I applied for this job was because my understanding of Ignition Industries is that it is a company that values diverse backgrounds. And I believe my years of experience working in IT could be of value in this role. Since many of the roles you hire for are technical, my knowledge of this field would help me better find and identify suitable candidates.”
Example 3: You would like to develop in your career
“I’ve been in my current position for over three years and am looking to take the next step in my career. Since I already have nearly a decade of experience in healthcare administration and Blue Mountain Care is one of the leaders in the industry, I thought this role looked like a great opportunity. I was particularly drawn to the fact that this role includes extensive people management and leadership, because I recently completed a master’s in Leadership in Healthcare. Therefore, I’m looking for a role where I can apply the skills I learned in this course.”
The question “why did you apply for this job?” provides a fantastic opportunity for you to demonstrate your competency and motivation for the role. When crafting your response, remember to:
- Research the company’s history, values, mission statement and products in advance.
- Develop a solid understanding of the responsibilities of the role and the top skills required.
- Consider any strengths or experiences that could set you apart from other candidates.
Sometimes it is the questions that seem the most simple that can provide the best opportunity to shine in interviews. And by preparing a strong response, you can be sure you will wow the hiring manager.
Have you ever been asked this question in an interview? How did you answer? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally published 18 November 2020.