How to Answer, "Why Do You Want This Job?"

Recruiters and career guides insist that you should always tell the truth in a job interview. And that’s good advice; you should never lie. But neither do you have to volunteer every sordid detail, especially when it comes to questions like, “Why do you want this job?”. You don’t need to talk about how desperate you are to pay your bills or how much you hate your current boss any more than you need to tell a complete stranger in the grocery store what goes on in your bedroom. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you should say it.

Truths to avoid

Put these answers in the category of dirty laundry that shouldn’t be aired in public (or at least in front of your interviewer), true or not:

  • “I’ve lost three jobs in the past 4 months, and I’m having a hard time paying the bills.”
  • “I’m desperate to get out of my current work situation. They always expect too much and never give me credit for what I’ve done.”
  • “My unemployment benefits are about to run out, so I decided it’s time to find something.”
  • “My mom found the ad and insisted I apply.”
  • “Because the position is open and the money is good…why not?”
  • “Well, I’ve always wanted to give this industry a try, and, since I don’t have anything else going on, this seems like a good time.”
  • “My family keeps bugging me to get up and run errands for them, since I’m the only one home all day. I decided that, if I’m going to be doing that much work, I might as well get paid for it.”

What to say instead

When you answer, “Why do you want this job?”, don’t forget that you’re not talking to your BFF or your therapist. You’re talking to your (hopefully) future employer. Your answer should focus on things that would be mutually beneficial to both you and the company:

  • “Nothing motivates me more than making a substantial impact, and I think I can really make a difference here.”
  • “Based on the job description and on what you’ve told me, this job is a perfect match for my core competencies.”
  • “Not only does the company as a whole have a reputation as a fantastic place to work, it looks like I’d be working with a top-notch team.” (It never hurts to compliment the company!)
  • “This job has a hands-on aspect that I’ve missed, as I’ve been working on the theoretical side for the past few years. I’m really excited at the thought of getting back into clinical work.”
  • “I want to do a job that matters…something that leaves the world a better place. Working to develop treatments for sick children is a job that makes a difference.”

Bottom line: When you answer the question, “Why do you want to work here?”, steer clear of talking about your bills, your bank account, your current boss and co-workers, or your mom’s refusal to let you continue sitting around in your underwear playing Minecraft all day. Instead, your answer should explain why nothing in the world would make you happier than making your potential employer successful.


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