You’re in the interview and they ask you, “why are you applying for this position?”… or “why did you apply for this job?”…
Are you prepared with what you want to say?
In this article I’m going to reveal:
Let’s get started…
Employers ask questions like, “why did you apply for this job?” or, “why are you interested in this position?” for 2 big reasons.
First, they want to make sure you’ve done your research and know what their job involves.
And second, they want to see if you’ve thought about your own career and know what you’re looking for.
Employers don’t want to hire a candidate who’s applying to every job they can find online. They want someone who’s thought about their career goals and wants a specific type of job (or at least a few different types).
Why? Well, if you seem unsure of what you want, they’re going to be afraid you’ll change your mind, not end up liking their position very much, get bored and quit, etc.
Imagine they’re hiring a salesperson, and one candidate says they’re looking for all sorts of jobs and aren’t really sure what they want to be doing. They don’t know much about sales jobs, but saw the job posting online and quickly applied because they need to find work.
Now imagine the next candidate says, “I applied for this position because sales is what I want to be doing in my career, and this position seems like a great sales opportunity.”
The company is going to hire that second person every time.
…And why it’s important to make sure you’re ready to answer other questions like:
The bottom line is: Employers want to hire someone who cares about their career and has thought about their career path and future.
And they don’t want to hire somebody who doesn’t know much about their particular job or didn’t do any research before the interview… because it shows them you either don’t know what you’re looking for or are desperate and don’t care).
Now that you know why they ask, let’s look at how to answer this interview question…
Now that we’ve looked at the reasons employers ask this interview question, let’s look at how to give the best answer possible while avoiding traps/mistakes that can cost you the job.
There are three steps you should follow when answering, “why are you applying for this position.” Here they are:
This can be an opportunity for advancement, a chance to continue building your skills in a certain area (like sales, project management, cancer research, Java programming, etc.), a chance to get involved in a new area (like moving from individual contributor to manager), or any number of other things.
The key is to have something specific you’re targeting, rather than just saying, “I need a job.” No employers want to hear that!
You can name the industry you want to be working in. The type of role. The size or type of company (for example a start-up). There are so many things you can talk about here, but you need to have something to demonstrate you’ve thought about what you want to be doing in your next job.
That’s the first step to being able to answer, “why did you apply for this position?”
And you need to make sure whatever you say fits their job and company. You’ll see why in the next step.
After you show them you’re targeting specific things in your job search, talk about what caught your interest.
You could mention details you saw on the job description, on the company website, etc. Show them you understand what their role involves and are excited to be doing the work!
Don’t worry if this sounds difficult, I’ll share full answer examples soon.
Here’s the final step, though:
This final step is “tying together” everything you’ve said so far.
You’ve told them what you’re looking for, you’ve told them why their job seems interesting, so now you just need to conclude by saying something like, “So that’s why I applied for this job – it seems like an opportunity to build the specific skills I want to be learning in my career, while working in the industry I’m most interested in.”
For this final step, you can also consider adding a bit about how your previous experience will help you do well in their job.
Using the same example ending above, you could add a sentence to the end and say, “So that’s why I applied for this job – it seems like an opportunity to build the specific skills I want to be learning in my career, while working in the industry I’m most interested in. Also, since I’ve been doing this exact type of work for the two previous years in my current job, in this same industry, I’d be able to hit the ground running and start contributing immediately to your team’s efforts.”
That’s one of the main things hiring managers look for and love to hear – the ability to succeed quickly in the job by demonstrating past successes or similar past work.
Let’s look at some word-for-word sample answers now…
Now that you know the 3 steps to create your own answer, here are some full example answers you could give for questions like, “why are you interested in this job?” “why did you apply for this job?” etc.
“I’ve been working in digital marketing for 5 years and it’s a field I enjoy a lot and want to continue growing in. I applied for this position because after reading the job description, it seems like a great opportunity to continue building digital marketing skills – like social media marketing, Facebook advertising. And since I’ve been doing this exact type of work for three years with my last employer, I’d be able to hit the ground running and start contributing immediately to your team’s efforts.”
“In my next position, I’d like to continue building my project management and leadership skills. I reviewed the job description and saw an emphasis on team leadership and project management, so it seemed like a great fit. And since I’ve already spent 3 years managing 7-figure client projects and leading a team of five people in my most recent company, I’m confident that I could get up to speed very quickly and start contributing results for you in this role.”
“Right now, I’m looking for more leadership, since I’ve been in my current position for 4 years managing projects across our department. I saw on your job description that this person you hire will manage 4-5 projects, and will also have the chance to train a team of their own in the future and get into direct management. That’s something that excites me a lot, and unfortunately, my company can’t offer that right now, so that’s a major reason that I wanted to apply for this job in particular. I think my past experience leading projects would help me contribute immediately in this role. Can you tell me more about what type of leadership role that this position can grow into in the long run?”
As another way to stand out in the interview, you can end your answer with a question of your own. You can see this in the example above.
This is one of my favorite strategies to recommend because it turns the interview into a back-and-forth conversation and helps you build rapport with the hiring manager.
Now, before we wrap up, let’s cover a few mistakes and traps to avoid when answering…
There are a couple of things you definitely shouldn’t do when the interviewer asks why applied for their job. Here’s what not to do…
In fact, you can also use this same 3-step formula to answer “Why do you want this job?”
Follow these steps any time an interviewer asks a question about why you wanted to apply for this position, why you were interested in interviewing for their job, etc.
If you do this, you’ll immediately impress them, and you’ll be one step closer to a job offer.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.