Why hiring managers ask, “Why do you want this job?”

By Jack J. Kelly


This is a great softball question to get. It is the perfect set-up question to sell yourself and detail why your skills, experience, and background are perfect for the role. Although being a native New Yorker makes me a natural cynic at heart, keep in mind that nothing is easy and never let your guard down.


The rationale for this question, in part, is that an employer is searching for a motivation as to why the candidate wants to work for her company in this specific role. The subtext is that the manager wants to listen for clues that may make her realize that the job seeker is not terribly interested in the job, but just wants a job. It could be with her company or any number of other organizations. If she does not sense a connection to the position, it is easy to conclude that you are taking the position solely for the money and a temporary home until the next best offer arises.  Additionally, by asking “Why do you want this job?”, the manager is basically telling the interviewee, “Sell me on yourself. Prove to me that you really want this job and are hungry for it!”


With this in mind, you are afforded the time and platform to sell yourself. It may sound crass; too bad. That’s what an interview is, for the most part. You are a salesperson and the product is you. Given this open-ended question, it is now your chance to speak from the heart and pitch your product – which is you.  Don’t go for trite, banal, generic answers that everyone else gives. Just be yourself (if being yourself is a bad idea because you have a lousy personality, then we have a little problem) and tell the interviewer why you really want the job and articulate the reasons why you are the perfect, most awesome candidate for the job.  Use your voice as a musical weapon. Sound enthusiastic, dynamic, engaging, and motivated. You can say the same thing in a boring monotone and the hiring manager will have no interest, but if you come across passionate and excited, you will get his rapt attention.


Now, I’m assuming that you have already done your homework and you actually want to work for the company. If you haven’t, do so now. You need to know as much as possible about the company, a bit about the hiring manager without appearing too stalkerish, and the company’s products and services.


I’m a big believer in being authentic in the interview process. The probability of success increases dramatically if the candidate possesses the right background for the job, is truly interested in the job, and working for this particular  company. Your sales pitch will resonate true if you really feel that you have the right stuff for the job and are highly excited about the opportunity. Conversely, your answers will ring hollow if you are not going after the job for the right reasons.


If a candidate seems only mildly interested, he will lose out to the passionate applicant. If the job seeker plays coy or “hard-to-get” and puts the entire onus on the company to answer why his workplace is better than others, you will lose out to someone who is all-in on the job.


It is a two-way street and your chances increase substantially if the company is interested in finding the right candidate with the appropriate skills and not just searching for a body to plop into an open seat.


Before the interview, you need to carefully review the job description and learn as much as possible about the job. Then, you can really go into detail about why you would be a good fit for the company and that it would be mutually beneficial, as you will be intellectually challenged and afforded the opportunity to grow your career while adding value to the organization.


Here is a summary of how to answer the question:

  1. Compliment the company by acknowledging what they do, how they are perceived in the marketplace, why they are special, and add how the firm is specifically important and meaningful to you.
  2. Match-up your skills, experience, academic background, and personality to the job description. Then, express how your background, skills, and experience are relevant to the job, will enable you to succeed within the organization, and make the hiring manager’s work life easier.
  3. Discuss why the company would be a great fit for you.
  4. Explain why the role resonates with you.
  5. Share why you believe that this job will help you grow and advance your career.
  6. Cite examples of how you will help the company.
  7. Give your best sales pitch.

As an example, here is a brief summary of how I would sell myself for a position as the “Head of Compliance, Legal, Audit, Risk Recruiting for the United States division of  a top-European based firm” if asked,  “Why do you want this job?”


                I understand that you seek a Recruiting Manager for your US offices. While I have not been actively looking  for a new job, this  opportunity was brought to my attention by an employee of your company.


                After conducting extensive research about your firm, I was very impressed with your amazing international  growth, particularly in the Compliance, Legal, Audit, Risk and Anti-Money Laundering space, which I specialize in.


                I am highly excited about this opportunity, as I have been an Executive Recruiter for over 20 years and have managed teams of Recruiters for over 19 years. My team and I have placed well over 2,000 Compliance, Legal, Risk, Audit, and Anti-Money Laundering professionals with some of the best, top-tier financial institutions in the world.


                This job speaks to me, in that I would love to utilize my experience and passion for recruiting to help build  your US offices.


                Also, I am excited to work on an international level. The best part of my career was when I was building and growing my recruiting business and I would love to do that again with the resources of a large, diversified search firm.


                With my experience recruiting, managing recruiters, top-standing and acknowledged leadership in the Compliance area, I believe that my skills, background, and experience will enable me to be intellectually and professionally challenged, succeed, and build your brand in the United States.


                Thank you for offering me the opportunity to share my background and great interest in this important position with you.


For you other cynics out there, no, the above is not an attempt to find a new job, it’s for illustrative purposes only.

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