By Abbey Slattery
In just about any job interview, you’ll be asked this question, or some version of it: Why are you applying for this position?
Your answer says a lot about how well you understand the job and your own abilities—and how you’ll mesh with the company culture. After all, it takes more than experience and skills to be the right fit for a job.
Here’s a quick and dirty guide to nailing your answer.
4 things you should never say when they ask why you’re applying for this position
1. Don’t make it about the small stuff
If you tell them that you’re applying for this position because it means a shorter commute or better pay, that doesn’t won’t give them confidence that you’ll stay in the position long. They might see you as a flight risk—as soon as something closer or better-paying comes along, you might be out the door. While you can mention that you love those perks, that shouldn’t be the reason you’re applying for the job.
2. Don’t trash-talk your current job
Okay, so maybe you hate your current job, but the last thing you want to do is bring that negativity into a new position. Focus on what you can offer the company and what you can gain from this new position, not how your old workplace is bringing you down.
3. Don't draw it out
Detailed answers are good, but your interviewers only want to hear so much before it’s, well, too much. There’s a time and place to do a deep-dive into your experience and goals, but avoid oversharing—and accidentally saying something you shouldn’t. Your answer should be about four sentences long—that should do it.
The three-step formula to answer: “Why are you applying for this position?”
1. Prove that you’ve done your research—and tie it to a larger career goal
Answering this question is your chance to show off that you’ve really done research on the company and are interested in what they have to offer. Maybe they have a small, in-house team and you’re passionate about the chance to collaborate and take on more responsibility, or perhaps you really believe in the company’s mission and are personally committed to the work they do.
I know you have a small but growing in-house team that works closely. I’ve always worked in large organizations and have missed out on the collaboration that comes with small teams.
2. Then, tell them how you will uniquely benefit the company in this position
Talk about how you will personally help the company reach its goals. If you can tie it to the first part of your answer (your larger career goals) even better.
I’m looking for a small organization that will let me take on more responsibility and put my new skills to use. I learned a lot about operations in my last role and I’d really like to use that new skill to help you grow your team.
You might try ending your answer with a question. Ask what they have in mind for the future of the position—where the new hire might be in a year or two. Or ask about what big projects are coming up that you could contribute to. Asking questions related to your answer will show them that you're actively exploring the position.