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:
- Why employers ask this interview question
- How to answer with 3 proven steps
- Costly mistakes you need to avoid when answering
Let’s get started…
2 Reasons Employers Ask Why You Applied For This Job
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.
I’ll give you an example:
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.
That’s why it’s so important to have a great answer for why you’re applying for this position and why you’re interested in this position.
…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…
Watch: How to Answer “Why Are You Applying For This Position?”
How to Answer “Why Are You Applying For This Position?”
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:
1. Explain something specific that you’re looking for in your job search
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.
2. Tell them something you noticed about THEIR job that you liked
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:
3. Recap what you’ve said to show exactly how their job fits what you’re looking for
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.
Here’s why this type of answer will impress the interviewer:
- You’re showing them you understand the job and took some time to research. Remember, they want to hire someone who wants THEIR job, not just any job.
- And you’re showing them that you’re targeting specific things in your job search. This shows that you care about your career, which they’ll love. Why? Because it means you’re more likely to work hard, put effort into learning, and stay a while (if the job is good!)
- And finally, you’re reminding them how you can help them, rather than just talking about what you want.
Let’s look at some word-for-word sample answers now…
Example Answers to “Why Are You Interested in This Position?”
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.
Answer Example #1
“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 and 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.”
This works because: This answer is fairly straightforward, with no interesting story or unique anecdotes required, but it still works. It’s clear that you’ve read the job post and understood the requirements of the role. What’s more, it shows how you have plenty of relevant experience and it highlights your passion for the skills involved as well as for learning and growing in the field.
Answer Example #2
“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.”
This works because: From this answer we can tell that you have both the project management and leadership skills required for this role. Importantly, this answer indicates that you are not content to rest on your accomplishments and that you see this post as an opportunity to continue expanding your knowledge and developing your skills.
Answer Example #3
“As a registered nurse with six years of experience in a busy ER, I don’t want to give up the pressure and high pace altogether, but I’ve been hoping for a role in a slightly slower-paced facility where I can apply the skills I’ve learned but also have more time to connect with patients. Your job post for a day-clinic nurse with a broad technical skill set and the ability to work under periodic intervals of pressure really stood out to me because it’s exactly the balance I’ve been after. My experience is well suited to your busy afternoon rush, while the slower hours will offer me more time for patient care and connection.”
This works because: This answer shows that you studied and understood the job brief in full. It outlines your unique skill set and indicates that you have the skills to fit the post. It also explains how you’ve been hoping for a post just like this one, one with a balance of pressure and calm, a wide range of technical tasks, and more time to empathize and care for patients.
Answer Example #4
“I’ve managed a successful corporate office for the past four years and have been searching for a similar role where I can use my advanced organizational skills in every aspect of office management. From travel and event planning, employee induction, correspondence and stock ordering to interdepartmental liaison, procedural maintenance and office administration, these skills stand me in good stead for this post. What really appeals to me about the role you’ve posted is the client-facing aspect of it as, having started out in FOH hotel management and client liaison, I’ve always been fond of customer service – and really good at it too!”
This works because: This answer shows how well the role was researched, as you include a list of relevant technical skills in your description of past experience. It is clear you have the technical and administrative skills required. This role is a unique mix of office management and client-facing duties and, since you’ve outlined your skills, experiences and hopes in this regard, we can see that you’d be a great fit for the post.
Answer Example #5
“I applied for this role because it’s what I’ve been working towards and aspiring to for the past five years. Having been in the food and beverage trade for 7 years, I have been head waiter in a busy restaurant for three years, have completed management training there and have filled in for the floor manager on numerous occasions. Although I have the skills and professionalism to advance to a management post, the restaurant where I work is fully staffed and simply doesn’t have a route by which I can advance. Since your post explicitly calls for a young floor manager with a strong background in waitering, I know I’d be ideal.”
This works because: This answer works because, although you’ve never been employed as a manager, your training and fill-in experience fairly qualify you as a ‘young manager.’ We can empathize with your situation and that you’re unable to fulfill your ambition in your current role. Your ambition is a great sign and the fact that you’ve not only waitered but were promoted to head waiter in a busy restaurant makes us think you have what it takes.
Answer Example #6
“Having spent the last few years managing fundraisers and outreach for the busy local Red Cross, I have been fulfilling my passion for community service but also taking on an increasing amount of personal financial pressure. For the past year, I’ve been searching for a post at an organization that maintains a similar amount of outreach and impact, but that can also lighten my loan in terms of personal finances. I knew I had all the skills needed for this post and I knew that, with your outreach track record and contribution to the local community, I wouldn’t feel that I was giving less in order to make more money. I applied for this post because it allows me to make a difference, while also making ends meet.”
This works because: This answer works because it’s honest but doesn’t make you look like you’re just in it for the money. It’s clear that community service comes first for you but that you really do need to make a decent income as well. We understand this necessity and that volunteer work is not possible for everyone, even those who are dedicated to serving others. Also, as a former manager for the Red Cross, there’s no doubt that you have the skills needed for the role.
Answer Example #7
“Besides my project management experience and skill set, which make me ideally suited to this role, I feel that my values and the values of your renewable power brand are in perfect alignment. Since 2015, I’ve been consistently implementing lifestyle changes towards a more sustainable future. I have moved completely off-grid, in terms of energy and fresh food produce, myself and have employed your brand’s equipment and methods to do so. I strongly support your brand initiative, and I would be proud to join a team where all aspects of business process, including the running of your own commercial space, are sustainable in nature.”
This works because: Company goals and values are too easily overlooked by job applicants, especially those who are desperate for work and applying to everything they find. However, for a brand that’s dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable lifestyle management, values and goals are central. Your movement off-grid and dedication to sustainable living, coupled with your extensive project management experience make you an ideal fit for this post.
Answer Example #8
“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 this position can grow into over time?”
This works because: 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.
Benefits of ending your answer with a question for the interviewer/hiring manager:
- The hiring manager will start to see you as a colleague and someone they can picture themselves working with
- They’ll respect you more.
- You’ll seem like a more in-demand candidate because you’re asking great questions and evaluating them, not just trying to get the first job you’re offered
- It’ll make the whole interview more conversational and less like an interrogation. The result? You’ll feel a whole lot calmer and less stressed. Which means you’ll give way better answers.
Now, before we wrap up, let’s cover a few mistakes and traps to avoid when answering…
Avoid These Mistakes When You Answer “Why Did You Apply For This Job?”
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…
- Don’t make it seem like you don’t care what type of job you get
- Never make it seem like you applied for every position out there, without reading or learning about the position
- Don’t make it seem like you don’t know anything about their company. You should never go into an interview without knowing what their company does, how they make money, etc. If you don’t know this stuff, you don’t deserve the job (and you probably won’t get it).
- Don’t tell them you don’t know or aren’t sure
- Never give an answer or reason that’s about your personal needs… like needing more money, a shorter commute, etc. Keep it focused on their needs and your career growth (try to balance both). That’s it.
- Never badmouth your previous or current company. Talk about the positives you want to GAIN in your next job, not what you’re looking to escape in your current job if you have one. That’s a rule you can follow in any of the interview answers you give.
Sample Answers to Avoid
Avoid these mistakes #1:
“I feel that this job would look great on my resume when I apply at <anothercompanyname> at the end of next year.”
Why this doesn’t work: By indicating that you see this role as a stepping stone to another post, you indicate that you don’t view this company as highly as the other and also that you don’t intend to stay in the role for long. Onboarding costs money, so it makes no sense to hire someone who’ll be in and then out again after a year or two.
Avoid these mistakes #2:
“I’m applying for this role because of the benefits you offer, the pay, and the high number of paid annual leave days.”
Why this doesn’t work: Well now, this answer clearly indicates that work and skill are not priorities for you. Instead, you are thinking of days off before the work even begins and you are thinking of all you have to gain instead of what you can give to the role. We all value benefits and a good income, but employment is not a one-way street. To reap the rewards, you need to put in the effort.
Avoid these mistakes #3:
“I’ve applied because I’ve got all the skills and qualifications listed in your job description.”
Why this doesn’t work: On the surface, this seems like an obvious and acceptable answer, however, it’s important to remember that this is the answer that most applicants would give – and you’re NOT trying to blend in with the crowd. Be unique and highlight aspirations and goals that make YOU perfect for this role, but also show some company knowledge to prove that you’re not just looking for any similar role at any company.
So That’s It… Now You Know How to Answer:
- “Why did you apply for this job?”
- “Why are you applying for this position?”
- And many other similar questions
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.