How to answer the "Why do you want this job?" interview question

This question usually comes early on in the interview; it’s often used by the interviewer as an icebreaker.

It’s considered one of the easier interview questions, but there is definitely a right way to answer it.

What to include in your “Why do you want this job” answer

Although this is meant as an easy question, there are a few things you’ll need to include:

1.   Your core messages – why you’re qualified/how you can benefit the company. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, I’ll explain more below.

2.   The reason the role excites you

3.   You understand the job

4.   You want this job, not just any job at the company

5.   The way the job connects to your career plan

6.   Your intention to stay in the job for awhile

You can see that even though this isn’t meant as a complicated question, it has some elements that you might want to brainstorm about before your interview.

1.   Core messages

 As you probably know, the idea in an interview is to “sell yourself'“ to the interviewer. This is also known as talking about your strengths, and is a way to convince the interviewer you’re the best candidate.

Core messages are your strengths. Education, experience, skills, and successful projects are all possible core messages.

Here’s a basic outline for how to use core messages to answer this question.

Why do you want this job?

I want this job because it will allow me to use my skills in X, Y, and Z (your core messages).

2.   Why the role excites you

You have to show interest in the actual work.

If you want the job because the department is working on some type of cool technology that you are interested in, that’s a good thing to use as an answer.

Or maybe the role is the same thing you do now but on a larger scale – that’s also a legitimate answer you can use.

The key is that you sound interested in doing the work. Not just in getting a job, but in getting this job in particular.

3.   Show that you understand the job

You’ll need to read the job description and think about it before you go to the interview. If you tell the interviewer that you want this job because you love doing X, but X isn’t a very large part of the job, then they’ll know you don’t understand what the job is and that’s a red flag.

Or if you say that the job “sounds great” or something else general like that they’re going to wonder if you even bothered reading the job description.

4.   Yes, this is a great company, but…

You can talk about how the company is great, but you need more. You need to show interest in the job, not just the company. You’re not going to be working for the broader company in your day-to-day work, you’re going to be doing a very specific job in a specific department.

If the company is famous, like Amazon, people are excited to work there simply because it’s famous. Being excited about the company is okay, but that isn’t a reason they’ll hire you.

5.   How the job connects to your career plan

Give a sentence or two to give the listener some context for why you’re there. You don’t need to give a lengthy explanation.

You’ll need to do this especially if the job is different from roles you’ve had before – if it’s in a new field, if it’s a downward move, or if it’s a sideways move.

6.   The job isn’t just a step along the way

Show that you’re interested in the job for itself, not because it will help you get a better job afterward. Of course all jobs should help you with your career, but you don’t want to sound like you’ll leave six months after you start. Do you sound like you’ll be satisfied doing the job for at least two years before you leave? If not, that’s a negative.  

You need to add these points into your answer, or else the interviewer will probably hire someone who does.

Good sample answers for “Why do you want this job”

Alexa Technical Program Manager

"I'd like to work at Amazon because I think I can help the company open a new business opportunity in the area of home automation. Since the Alexa division is working on this, I can extend my Master's research project regarding home automation, smart meters and Big Data.”

This answer was about why he wants to work at the company, but it would also work for why he wants the job.

He can change it a little to:

"I'd like this job as an Alexa Technical Program Manager because I think I can help the company as it opens a new business opportunity in the area of home automation. I can use the knowledge I gained from my Master's research project, which was about how home automation can incorporate smart meters and Big Data. I’ve spent so much time researching this topic and I want to continue moving this technology forward.”

AWS Biz Dev Manager Gov-Cloud (DOD)

Why do you want this job?

“I’ve been working in cloud computing for years now, and I want to work for the industry leader. In joining this team, I’d be working with the best. I know I can contribute because, as great as the team at Amazon is, no one understands the complexities of operating cloud-based services in government agencies as well as I do. Navigating compliance and security regulations without prior knowledge will slow down the team significantly, and I can fix that. In addition to that, I have the necessary contacts already that would let me find new growth opportunities for the team.”

Software Developer, AWS

Why do you want this job?

What’s thrilling about the idea of working at Amazon is that I wouldn’t just be using other people’s frameworks. I’d be creating frameworks for others to use on my team. Creating frameworks is something I’ve wanted to do professionally since I began my career, but I’ve only been able to pursue that passion through open source projects. As you know, I’m the largest contributor to an open source web testing framework, which is used by some of the largest enterprise companies, and you even use it here at Amazon. That’s exciting, but I did that project on my own time, on the side, and the idea of working at a place where I could contribute to and build frameworks from scratch would help me use my talents in the best possible way while also landing my dream job.

Senior Cloud Technical Account Manager

Why do you want this job?

“After over a decade of managing large-scale distributed systems at everything from high-growth startups to companies providing SaaS enterprise solutions, I’m ready to step away from the keyboard and use my expertise to help customers directly. I want to hear about their problems, and talk to them like partners, leveraging my experience to help them navigate the array of options available to them. The job description mentions trade-offs and risk management, and both of those things are important considerations, but there’s much more to it. For example, how to scale both horizontally and vertically using microsystems requires a tremendous amount of planning, thought, and preparation, in addition to the need for broad and deep knowledge across a number of disciplines. While I know the tech is always evolving, at this point, I can say I’ve seen it all, and no one can represent the VOC like I can.”

QA Manager

Why do you want this job?

“I want this job because I know I can use my skills to make your products better. Based on what I know about the Amazon brand and its products, I know how important quality is to you, and that’s what I bring. Jeff Bezos once said that “The best customer service is none” and the best way to achieve zero customer service is impeccable quality. Your customers expect and demand quality. I spent many years in the QA trenches, working on some of the most demanding software projects in the world. I’ve had to use every trick in the QA book to make sure we were shipping products that were bug-free, performant, and useable. I’ve done everything from basic regression testing to overseeing the creation of a suite of QA automation tools. On the development side, I pride myself on 100% unit test coverage, and demand the same from my reports. On the front end, I wrote selenium tests for a massive web application that had several different user types and a distinct UI for each them. The more complex the system, the more rigorous the QA.”

For more information about interviewing:

How to answer “Tell me about yourself”

Use PAR, not STAR, for answering behavioral questions

 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.