We’ve all been there. You are in the middle of an interview. You may be in a coffee shop, a conference room, or in front of your computer discussing your interest in a role with a team you have never truly met. You have been researching the brand as holistically as possible in preparation. You know their mission and have memorized the job description for the position you are interviewing for. Maybe you did some digging around social media to find out more about the hiring managers or people who are interviewing you. Everything is going well.
And then they hit you with the dreaded question. “Why are you applying for this position?”
Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
Equal parts invigorating and heart attack-inducing, this question allows for so many different types of answers. Is it a job you have always been fascinated by? Is it a company whose beliefs align with yours? Are you looking to make an impact in a different way from what you did at a previous job? Was it for the money, and is that something you admit to your interviewer?
Ultimately, your interviewer is asking you this question because they are gauging how well you understand the position you have applied for. Have you done the necessary research? Did you read the job description carefully and thoroughly?
Maybe you have held a similar position within a different industry, and they want to see if you will be able to convert your skills into the new industry seamlessly. The way you phrase your answer could give them clues on if you truly are the right fit, regardless of any amount of experience you may have.
How to Respond
If you have ever been in this situation and have not felt prepared to respond, this is your cue to work on it. Prepare a genuine, open, intelligent response in advance. Research the tasks that are listed in the initial job description. Understand any specifics that can go into those tasks, as they may not be listed upfront.
For example, a marketing role may list that you need to adhere to deadlines and be available for launches. It might not, however, detail what days of the week launches are focused on or what your schedule may look like during that time. This is a great time to look to friends who hold similar positions or to do a deep dive on Linkedin regarding people in similar fields.
Are you going to be responsible for customer or client-facing interactions? Perhaps you have experience in an accounts role at a former company but have not been in charge of presentations previously. Come to understand what skills you do possess, and learn about the ones you may be questioning. Understanding the role is key to how you approach the interview. There is no such thing as over-preparing.
Focus On The Role
You may feel compelled to speak at length about the company and how its values align with yours. However, this question alludes to the position itself. In this instance, it is important to focus on the role within the company.
This is where your prep work comes in handy. Got a real feel for their list of desired skills in a worker? Mention those skills, even verbatim, if you would like. For example, a position as a copyeditor may require a response similar to the following.
“This job caught my eye because I am looking for a writing-heavy opportunity that will allow me to create processes and balance my creative and analytical minds. My interpersonal skills have developed well over my last 6 years as an editorial assistant, and those will come in handy when handling an international team of writers.”
You can go on to note some specific ideas you have that align with the job description and branding if you would like. Ultimately, just let them know you did the legwork and believe in the work you will be engaging with on a regular basis.