Moving on from Brexit, this month’s post returns to the series I started back in May. So far, I’ve covered two popular questions asked in interviews: ‘What are your Weaknesses?’ and ‘Tell Me About Yourself.’ I suggest you go and read those too, particularly if you’re preparing for an interview.
Now that you’ ve come to terms with those two unpalatable questions, here is an even more unpalatable one:
Why do you want this job?
This is going to be asked at pretty much every interview, because for some reason, employers want to know that you know about their company. I’m trying to be empathetic/mature/adult here, trying to understand why this is important if the candidate is qualified and seems relatively normal.
If I was an employer, would it matter if the potential employee knew about my company? Not even a tiny bit. If I’m hiring a graphic designer, I only care that they can make wonderful designs. I don’t give a hoot if they’ve never followed my company’s Facebook page.
Alas, it seems I am alone in this, for this annoying question is pretty much standard fodder for an interview no matter what job you’re going for. I think part of the problem is, the recruitment industry brings out so many improvements to this, that and the other, and yet there have been very few allusions to how the interview process can be improved.
Personally, if I was giving an interview, I would give them a little test to highlight their skills so I know what I’m getting before I hire the person. A lot of people think they are better at something than they actually are, and then you got the odd rare gem who is actually better at something than they think they are. Even without a pre-hiring test it’s easy to weed out one from the other by assessing how they talk about themselves, their mannerisms, and how regularly they use the pronoun ‘I’. Still, it would be a reassuring endeavour to see that yes, this person is actually as good as their Curriculum Vitae suggests.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as savvy as I am. Most employers still adopt the traditional interview approach of asking a series of predictable questions.
So, in order to keep you, the jobseeker, in the loop, here are some tips for answering the ‘why do you want this job’ question:
I always find that a good way of giving job advice is to divide it into two sections: what to do, and what not to do. Here are some answers you should avoid and why:
Answer One: Stuttering/mumbling/ I, I, I, ummmmmm…/I don’t know/I never really thought about it.
Why you should avoid this: Common sense, people. You should avoid this because it shows that you haven’t put much thought into the job. It suggests to the interviewer that you’re not very passionate about it, that you have a kind of ‘meh, need a job, sure I’ll just throw my CV their way’ attitude. This will guarantee you won’t get the job. Why? Because employers hate staff turnover. They hate having to deal with hiring and training new people. An employer’s dream would be a set team that all work for them until retirement. So when you act like you haven’t really thought about it, that you aren’t all that bothered, they say to themselves ‘this isn’t a person who is going to stay in our company for long. This is a person who will just move on as soon as something better comes along.’ An employer needs someone who is passionate, because this ups the chances of them staying in the job even if a different job has more money. Understand?
Answer Two: I need a job/I’m broke/I need something to pay the bills/I want to work/I’ve been out of work a long time.
Why you should avoid this: See the response to answer One. The reason this answer is a big no-no is for exactly the same reason.
Those two groups of answers cover the most popular mistakes people make when tackling this interview question. Now, because every single job and interview is different, I can’t just give you a one-size-fits-all template. Instead, here are a few general pointers that you should consider and apply to your particular interview prospects:
Show how you want this job IN PARTICULAR
You do this by conducting research about the company (a simple Google search) and finding out what you like about the company. It can be something really simple, from the way they treat their staff to their general work ethic to the unique perks of the role. Google, for example, has these kind of staff inspiration rooms, where the workers go to unwind and brainstorm. What is it about this particular company that attracts you? Has the company won awards for excellence? Is the product they make really high quality? Try to show why you would actually be proud to work there.
Think about how your life experience has brought you to this point
Think about relevant life experiences where you learnt how to do something, or became passionate about, something that correlates with the position you’re being interviewed for. For example, Curtis Peterson, when being interviewed for SmartFile (a company that provides secure file-sharing services), responded to ‘why do you want this job’ in the following manner:
‘I want this job because I’ve always loved building and marketing websites — even as a kid. I built websites when they were using frames and Altavista was a decent search engine. I was 10 or 11. I’ve always been passionate about digital marketing, but I just didn’t know I could make a career out of trying to get people to a website.’
Peterson got the job.
Make it seem like this is your end game
It might not be your end game, but pretend it is. Make it seem like you’ve waited all your life to get a job like this. You might want to tell the interviewer how for years you worked in places and did such a thing, but always wanted the opportunity to grow and develop, and this is how you ended up here. Make it seem like your jobs previous to now were like an apprenticeship for this one. Employers love that stuff.
Be polite. Grit your teeth and bear it. Yes, it is a ridiculous question. A lot of people get excited about getting any interview at all. People don’t always have the luxury of only applying for jobs they’re passionate about. More often than not, you apply for a job because your current one is absolutely atrocious, or you don’t have one at all. However, for some reason, this question still does the rounds at interviews. It’s up to you to be prepared for it.
Copyright Gillian Rixey, Company Jobs Direct Ltd.
by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)