"Why do you want to work here?" is a question you can expect in most job interviews.
While an answer may seem obvious, a good response starts with how your skills, characteristics, and experience can help the particular company. Only then do you talk about why you're excited to work there.
As it's a common interview question, there are no excuses not to prepare.
To provide a good answer, you need to understand what the hiring manager wants in an ideal candidate, which requires research. Understanding what they're looking for allows you to personalize your answer and helps you stand out from other candidates.
This article outlines why interviewers ask this question, how to answer it and provides sample answers, tips, and mistakes to avoid.
Why interviewers ask, "Why do you want to work here?"
Interviewers ask, "Why do you want to work here?" at different times in the interview process for various reasons.
During phone interviews, recruiters use this question to filter out candidates who haven't researched the company. If you answer well, recruiters push you to the next stage of the interview process—generally an interview with the hiring manager.
Hiring managers use this question to determine if you're a good fit for the company and whether you're passionate about their mission, culture, or values.
They want you to explain how your skills, strengths, and experience will help you be successful in the position and why you're excited to work for their company.
Don't underestimate the value of enthusiasm. Managers take it as a signal you'll be hardworking and contribute to the company's goals. Employers love when your values align with the company's mission, core values, and culture.
Suppose you're looking for remote jobs. In that case, employers want to know your values and experiences align with working remotely. They'll want to see you understand the benefits and challenges of remote work.
If you're looking to get a job at a startup, employers want to know you understand the realities of working at a fast-growing company and are excited to work at their startup.
Think of it from the company's perspective. The interview process is resource-intensive, and hiring managers want to realize the best return on time invested.
The hiring manager needs to know two things. Whether you have the skills, traits, and experience required to do the job and why you want to work at the company. Their job is to hire the candidate who will have the most significant positive impact on the company's mission, culture, and customers.
How to answer "Why do you want to work here?"
The best way to answer "Why do you want to work here?" is to think about it as two separate questions:
- "Why are you the best person for this job?"
- "Why are you excited to work at this company?"
The first part of your answer should focus on why your skills, qualities, experience, and career goals align with the job description. The second part of your answer should outline why you're an excellent fit for the particular company.
You need to prepare your answer before the job interview.
Preparation is essential as you need to research the company, read the job description, understand why you want to work there, and practice your answer aloud.
Follow the steps below to prepare your answer.
1. Do your homework
Start by researching the company's website. Its website contains information about its mission, team, products, and customers. You should also watch any CEO or senior leadership team interviews. Interviews are a great way to feel company culture and core values.
If the company is publicly listed, look at its investor relations page. Investor relations provide information to investors, but they can also be an excellent source for job seekers.
Listen to the latest earnings call, read the annual report, and flick through their latest investor presentation. These resources help you learn about new products, improvements to existing products, key risks, revenue, profit and loss, and margins.
We also recommend reading anything related to the role you want.
For example, if you're applying for a sales role, read the case studies on their website and look up their product on comparison sites like G2 or Gartner. If they have a self-service free trial, sign up and use the product. This additional effort before your interview puts you far ahead of the average candidate.
After researching the company, it's a good idea to research your interviewer. They'll be Googling your name, so it only makes sense to return the favor.
You can likely find their name in the calendar invite for the interview. Otherwise, you can send an email to your contact at the company and request it. Once you have it, pop their name into Google and look at any public profiles.
LinkedIn is an excellent place to start as you can see their work history, but other social media sites are also helpful to learn about personal interests.
While you're on LinkedIn, look at their company profile and see if you know anyone who works there. If you do know someone, don't hesitate to reach out. They can tell you what it's like to work there, whether you'd fit in, and whether the position and company are compatible with your career goals.
The research process takes time, but it pays dividends because it allows you to personalize your answer to the company and role. Personalized answers are always better than generic answers and can dramatically increase your chances of getting hired.
2. Read the job description
It's not enough to say you love the company's mission and core values. You need to prove you have the experience and skills required.
The job description contains the position's duties, responsibilities, and purpose. It's everything the hiring manager wants in an ideal candidate. You can use it to pick out relevant skills, strengths, and experiences to highlight in your answer.
Don't worry if you don't meet every criterion. 99% of candidates won't either.
Note any requirements or responsibilities where you feel you have relevant skills and experience.
In general, think about highlighting technical skills, non-technical skills, and traits or values:
- Technical skills are actionable knowledge the company wants, like programming languages, experience with particular tools, or technical certifications. Even if you don't have an exact match, highlight similar skills.
- Non-technical skills are your cognitive, social, and personal abilities that make you uniquely suited for the company culture. For example, if you're a strong writer and value asynchronous communication, you'll stand out as a remote job seeker.
- Traits or values. Traits are how you tend to feel, think, and behave, while values are things you value. For example, if you are naturally extroverted and value meeting new people, those are outstanding characteristics to have as a salesperson.
It's also good to include these keywords or phrases in your resume to beat automated resume screening.
Related: How to create a STAR resume
3. Answer the question for yourself
Before you can answer this question for the hiring manager, you need to answer it for yourself. After all, if you're successful, you'll spend your days working at the company.
You spend the bulk of your time at work. It pays to work somewhere you like.
If you can't answer this question for yourself, you won't be able to convince a good interviewer. No matter how much you prepare, a lack of excitement about the opportunity will come across in your interview.
Below are a few common reasons for wanting to work somewhere:
- Long-term career goals: Joining a company is a form of investment, but you need to put the effort in to grow as a professional, improve your skills, and learn from your peers and manager. The good news is it's much easier to do if you feel like the position aligns with your desired career path.
- The industry: If you're applying for a job because you're passionate about the industry, that's a fantastic motivator. For example, if you love fintech or cryptocurrency companies, applying for roles in these industries will make answering this question easier.
- The company's products or services: Employers love hiring people who are passionate users of their products or services. Hiring customers is a great way to get insight into what they value.
- The people you'll serve: You might be passionate about the people you'll serve in the role. For example, if you love helping teachers and students, you might enjoy joining edtech companies.
- The manager: Your direct manager has a massive impact on your experience at work, so it's best if you enjoy working with and learning from them.
Even if you can't confirm exactly why you want to work there until after your interview, it's still worth thinking through ahead of time. Every interview is a learning experience, and the more exposure you get to different companies, the clearer your answer to this question will become.
4. Use the STAR method to structure your answer
You have a list of relevant skills, qualifications, experience, and reasons for applying to the role. It's time to learn how to construct a compelling answer that sells why you're the best fit.
"Why do you want to work here?" is an opportunity to explain why you'll be a valuable addition to the team. While it's not necessarily a behavioral interview question, we still recommend using the STAR method. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result:
- Situation: Choose a situation that highlights skills, traits, or experiences relevant to the job description and company.
- Task: Outline the goals or problems you were solving.
- Action: Describe the steps you took to achieve the goal or remediate the issues.
- Result: Outline the outcome of your actions and quantify your impact wherever possible.
Don't be afraid to show your personality and excitement for the opportunity.
Tell the interviewer if it's your dream job at your dream company. It'll make your answer more memorable and indicate you're likely to give 100% if hired.
The best answers outline why your skills and experience make you a good fit for the position while incorporating personal reasons for applying for the job and understanding the company's culture, mission, and products.
Your response needs to show mutual benefit for you and the employer. There's no strict time limit to follow, but it's best to keep your answer concise and memorable.
5. Don't forget about non-verbal cues
When answering, how you look and sound is as important as what you say. Review the company's social media presence to get a sense of their dress code and use it to guide your interview attire.
As a rule of thumb, business casual tends to be safe.
Outside of how you dress, your body language also contributes. Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and make eye contact when speaking or listening. Open body language and a smile go a long way.
Finally, think about how you're speaking. Speaking slower makes it easy for your interviewer to understand you and helps you appear relaxed and confident.
6. Don't focus on compensation, employee benefits, or why you're leaving your current job
Even if compensation or employee benefits are a big part of why you want to join the company, anchoring on them won't help you land a job offer. Nor will talking about what you don't like about your current or previous employers.
It's always better to frame your answer around what you can contribute to the company and why you're excited about its mission, values, or goals.
Remember, your focus is on convincing the hiring manager you're the best person for the job. You can start negotiating compensation and additional benefits when you receive a formal offer.
7. Practice your answer in a mock interview
A mock interview allows you to practice answering "Why do you want to work here?" in a job interview setting and receive feedback on your answer.
Mock interviews can also reduce stress, boost confidence, and help you master your body language. Be sure to give your mock interviewer information about the company and the role based on your research so they can give you tailored advice.
Sample answers to "Why do you want to work here?"
An excellent answer to "Why do you want to work here?" sets the tone for the rest of the interview and helps you stand out from other candidates. Use it as an opportunity to highlight your skills and experience, research into the company, and enthusiasm for the role.
Your answer needs to clarify why you're an excellent fit for the position, excited you are about the company, and how you'll solve problems and make a real impact.
Below are some great sample answers you can use as inspiration.
Example answer #1: Highlighting passion for the company culture, industry, and growth strategy
I'm passionate about automation and software as a service in general, and Zapier is a market leader in both categories. I've been a fan of your SEO strategy from afar and even implemented a similar strategy in my previous role, which grew revenue from organic search by 30%. I've also been working remotely for the last five years. I'm a fan of remote work and believe my skills make me a great fit for the SEO manager position.
Why it works: This answer proves the candidate has researched the company, understands the industries they operate in, and has experience working remotely. They've done a great job of diving into the part of the company they'd be focused on and shown an understanding of how it's currently working and how their skill set could help.
Example answer #2: Showing your passion for their product and your relevant experience
Not only is Stripe a leader in the payments industry, but you're also driving forward product design. I've been a Stripe user for the last five years, and seeing how much the product has evolved over that time is incredible. My ten years of experience as a product designer at other software companies like Webflow, GitLab, and Canva mean I understand how to design for a global audience at scale.
Why it works: The candidate is an active user of the company's products, so the interviewer knows they'll onboard faster and have more insights on day one than other candidates. They've also outlined to the interviewer how their previous experience at companies in the same industry could apply to the role.
Example answer #3: Drawing a personal connection with the company mission
Canva's reputation is stellar. A few of my former colleagues work here, and I've seen how much of Canva's core values bleed into everything you do: being a force for good, empowering others, pursuing excellence, being a good human, making complex things simple, and setting crazy big goals all align with my values. I helped grow VEED's social media channels by 45% while I worked there, and despite the scale difference, I believe I could contribute significantly to Canva's growth.
Why it works: Recruiters are always looking for candidates who are passionate about the company's values. It's also a great sign when a candidate has worked at a competitor as it implies they understand the problems the company is facing and have skills that could contribute to their mission. It's best to use this approach when you have a personal connection to the company and its values.
Example answer #4: Emphasizing what attracted you to the role
I love that MainStreet's mission is to help every entrepreneur push the world forward. I previously co-founded a startup and ran the product management function, so I know firsthand how much startups and founders have helped shape the economic landscape for the better. I know my skills leading product at Keeper Tax and shaping their roadmap based on customer feedback will help.
Why it works: The candidate has done their research and has a good sense of what the company stands for and the work they'll be doing. With this response, the candidate has outlined what drew them to the role and how they can add value based on previous experience.
Example answer #5: Tying your career goals to the position
I love the projects and products that MetaLab has helped build. I'm early in my career, so I love the idea I could have the opportunity to apply my product design skills to multiple companies at the same time. I think it could help me grow as a designer. Unlike other agencies I've looked at, you want to build things that are not only attractive but enjoyable to use, which is a massive motivator for me. In my previous role as a Product Designer at OpenSea, I pushed for improving the consistency of our UI and putting in small surprise and delight elements, which added to the overall look and feel of the product.
Why it works: The candidate outlined why they're excited to work at the company and talked about its values and how they align with their own career goals. If the candidate quantified their impact in their previous role, this answer would have been a slam dunk.
Tips for answering "Why do you want to work here?"
Follow the tips below to ensure you answer "Why do you want to work here?" well during your job search:
- Research the company: A good answer requires research. Look at their website, listen to interviews with the team, and read a few blog posts. If you know someone working at the company, ask them for half an hour of their time after doing your initial research.
- Use the job description: The job description contains everything the hiring manager wants in an ideal candidate. If you know what they want, you can use it to highlight relevant skills or experience to position yourself as the best fit.
- Emphasize your accomplishments: Share achievements you've made at previous employers and relate them to the job description and your desire to work at the company.
- Understand the company's goals: If you want to work at the company because you think you can help them achieve an important goal, you'll increase your chances of landing a formal offer.
- Connect the dots: Make it easy for the hiring manager to understand how your experience relates to the role and company. Link your past achievements and skills to their needs and desires.
- Use data: One of the reasons interviewers ask this question is to understand how you can add value to the company. The best way to show you can contribute is to use numbers to describe your impact on previous employers.
- Answer the question for yourself first: It's easier to answer this question when you have a genuine desire to work at the company, and only you can decide if you do.
- Focus on storytelling: Stories help you develop a deeper connection with the interviewer and ensure they don't forget about you five minutes after the interview.
- Keep your answer short: Provide as much context as needed and no more. You don't want to drone on for twenty minutes and eat valuable time in the interview.
- Build a personal connection: Find something about the company, role, or hiring manager you relate to and explain why. People tend to like and remember people with whom they share common values.
- Show enthusiasm: If you're excited about the company or the role, don't be afraid to let your natural confidence come out. Companies want to hire people who are enthusiastic about their mission and pumped to work for them.
- Practice and prepare: Prepare your answer before the interview and practice in a mock interview. While you don't want to come off as too scripted, it's better than unprepared.
- Send a thank-you email: A thank-you email can help you reinforce your interest in the role, outline why you're the best candidate, and gives you another opportunity to delight your interviewer.
Mistakes to avoid when answering "Why do you want to work here?"
A bad answer to "Why do you want to work here?" isn't the end of the world, but it will influence the hiring manager's decision. Avoid these mistakes:
- Not preparing an answer: Preparation or a lack thereof is apparent. You'll be much more likely to provide a compelling reason for wanting to work at a company if you've thought about it before the interview.
- Focusing on pay or benefits: Every company wants to be a great workplace that offers competitive compensation and benefits. However, most companies don't want to hire people whose sole motivation is the paycheck.
- Saying you need a job: While this can be true, it does nothing to differentiate you from other candidates. It can also raise a red flag as the hiring manager may believe you'll leave if you find a more compelling opportunity.
- Seeing the role as a pitstop in your career: You need to avoid answers that make it seem like you'll only be around for a short time. Onboarding new employees can cost as much as 50-60% of an employee's annual salary, so they want to make sure you'll stick around. It's OK to think about your long-term career path. Just emphasize you see yourself growing with the company.
- Focusing on what's wrong with the company: There's a good chance you'll find things the company could do better during your research, and it's great if you can point them out and emphasize how you could help close the gap. However, be wary. You may not have as much context on the issues as the interviewer. Frame things as suggestions, ask clarifying questions, then outline how you could help.
- Sharing generic or irrelevant examples: Avoid highlighting situations or skills unrelated to the job. Don't mention it if you can't relate it to the job description. A generic answer shows the interviewer you don't value their time and haven't researched the company.
- Being negative: Stay positive throughout the interview process and avoid talking about things you dislike about your current job or manager unless the interviewer asks you.
- Focusing on failure: Avoid sharing situations where you couldn't solve a problem or hit your goals. If you want to tell a story without a positive outcome, anchor on what you learned, what you would do differently next time, and how you'd apply the learnings to the new company.
- Trying to be funny: Most interviewers aren't looking to hire a comedian. Answering "I'm only here for the money" or "You look like you could use my help" only makes you come across as insincere or unprepared.
- Long-winded answers: There's a good chance there are multiple reasons you want to work at the company. You don't need to list them all. Pick the reasons you think will be most compelling to your interviewer and leave the rest out. The best answers usually focus on one, two, or three key elements.
- Forgetting about non-verbal communication: It doesn't matter how good your answer is if your delivery is off. Sit up straight, make eye contact, and smile.
- Wasting a recruiter's time: If a recruiter reaches out to you and invites you to apply for a role, you should still invest time researching the company if you plan to take the interview. Otherwise, you're wasting your own and the recruiter's time which could backfire if you apply to the company again.
Example of a bad answer to "Why do you want to work here?"
Honestly, I need a job. I'm not that excited about the opportunity, and I don't know much about your company beyond that you pay well and have great benefits. I don't think it matters that I'm not passionate as I'm highly skilled, and your company has many issues that my skills can fix.
Why it doesn't work: This answer isn't great. The candidate doesn't have a passion for the role or company and only cares about getting a job and its benefit. It also shows the candidate thinks they know what the company needs and are arrogant enough to say it without asking if their assumptions are correct.