‘Why are you interested in this position?’ Tricky graduate interview question

Graduate recruiters want your reasons for applying for a job to go beyond the salary and benefits offered. Discover how to answer ‘Why do you want to work here?’ using our example responses.

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This interview question might be expressed as:

  • What excites you about this role?
  • What attracted you to this position?
  • What motivated you to apply for this role?
  • What appeals to you about this role?
  • Why do you think this job is for you?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why are you interested in working at [employer name]?

Although we use many variations throughout this article, they’re all the same question. You’ll need to draw on your knowledge of both the employer and the specific job vacancy or graduate scheme you applied for while making your response individual to you.

It’s a similar question to ‘Why do you think you will be successful in this job?’ and ‘What can you bring to the company?’ ; however, the recruiter is looking for not only your strengths but evidence that you are serious about the opportunity. If you are, it’s likely that you’ll perform better and stay with the employer for longer.

‘Why do you want this job?’ answer: an example

Take a look at this example answer aimed at a customer service role with an online retailer.

‘Because the attention to detail you put into the service you provide really stands out to me and is something that I would be excited to be part of. The ease of navigating your website suggests you want to do the right thing for your customers, and from your reviews I can see that most customers were satisfied or had any issues resolved quickly. It’s important to me to work for a company that sets high standards and looks after its customers. I’ve sold T-shirts online and I know that being polite and answering enquiries promptly is what my own customers expect – as well as the quality of the material and the appeal of the design, of course. I would love to use the interpersonal and problem-solving skills I have developed from this to contribute to your aim of expanding into new markets while maintaining outstanding customer service. The range of training you offer your graduates would allow me to develop these abilities further.’

Why is this a good answer?

This example answer includes:

  1. an understanding of the company’s unique selling point and future plans
  2. some of the skills or strengths the role requires, which you can find in the job description, and acknowledgement that you have them – but not in too much detail because the recruiter can ask you more about them in the rest of the interview
  3. an insight into your personality and interests, and how they relate to the job.

The interviewer is trying to discover whether you’ve made the effort to find out what the organisation does, how that might appeal to you and what you hope to get out of the job. You should then show that your career aims converge with the organisation’s needs.

How to prepare for the interview question ‘Why have you applied for this job?’

This question of why you want the role, however it is phrased, is nearly always asked in job interviews – so taking the time to prepare before your interview is especially likely to pay off.

1. Refer back to your application

You will have already addressed the question of ‘Why are you applying for this position?’ as part of either your online application form or covering letter. This is a good starting point to remind yourself of your motivations.

You could also expand on some of the same experiences you mentioned in your application when answering the interview question. The employer has decided to interview you based on what you wrote so, if your interview response is consistent with your application, it will help confirm to them that you are a suitable candidate. Think of the interview as a chance to explain your reasons for applying in more detail without needing to stay within a strict word count.

2. Do further research before your interview

Go beyond the research you did when you applied. Browse the employer’s website, social media channels and any recent press coverage. Reflect on any work experience you’ve previously done with the same employer or in a similar role, and any employees you’ve met at careers events or through your university’s alumni network.

Make a list of the employer’s priorities, working methods, culture and strengths. How is it different from its competitors? How does it fit into the wider industry (for example, is it large or small, long established or a start-up)? How has it succeeded in its field? What does the job involve? What training is offered? Which abilities does it require? How could you see the type of role you’re applying for developing? What would you learn from the job? A career is more interesting if you’re learning from it.

3. Consider what interests you about this role

What aspects of the opportunity appeal to you the most based on your research? If you’ve picked a graduate scheme in a specific field, why that over the other schemes at the same employer? Have you spoken to someone at the company, which led to you applying? Did your work experience, extracurriculars or personal projects indicate that the work you’d be doing in the job would suit you?

Next, make a list of your abilities and consider how they might help you in the job:

  • your skills such as communication, teamwork, attention to detail and innovation
  • your characteristics and values such as honesty, calmness and courage
  • your strengths (the things you like doing that motivate you). Examples include listening, organising and trustworthiness. Some of these may overlap with skills, while others may overlap with characteristics and values.

To plan your answer, choose your abilities and interests that best align with the employer’s needs and your understanding of what the role involves. For example, your attention to detail might align well with delivering a great customer experience. You could also link the employer’s culture and values to your personality or link the direction in which the company is heading to your own career plans.

How not to reply to the interview question ‘Why did you apply for this job?’

A poor response would be: ‘Of all the jobs I’ve applied to, this seems like the best one. If you look at my application, you’ll see I’ve got useful skills for it.’

Why is this answer unlikely to get you the graduate job you want?

Using ‘seem’ or ‘appears’ might lead the recruiter to conclude that you’ve applied for the job without bothering to research it properly. Being vague also won’t do you any favours. What are the main skills you would bring to the role? Why is this the best job for you, and – crucially, from the interviewer’s perspective – why do you believe you’re the best candidate for the employer?

‘Of all the jobs I’ve applied to’ can add to the impression that you’re going through the motions and you see nothing special in this particular employer, despite telling them they seem ‘the best’ – they may suspect you of false flattery. Furthermore, ‘If you look at my application’ can come across as impertinent. Of course they’ve looked at your application (though, as we explain above, you can refer back to specific examples from your application and elaborate on them).

Advice for answering ‘Why are you interested in this job?’ in your chosen career sector

You can practise your answer to this and other tricky interview questions using resources from our partners Shortlist.Me .

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