The question of, "Why do you want to work here?" is not limited to job interviews. You’ll find it knocking on your door in networking, informational interviewing, and even at job fairs.
When you are asked this innocent-sounding question, you must have a strong, relevant answer. Your answer should demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the skills, talents, experience, and strengths you have that are a match for their culture and the targeted position/department.
Until you get to the point of receiving an offer, employers are just looking for reasons to eliminate you.
Here are some answers you never want to find coming out of your mouth:
"For the money."
"It seems like a nice place to work."
"My cousin Fred works for you, and he says the benefits are great."
All three of these answers are similar, and may be absolutely true. However, they share the same problem – they are all about what you want. However, they do not make the employer interested in hiring you.
Generic answers don't make you stand out either:
"Because I know I can make a really good contribution."
"Because I know you have an opening for ______________, and I am qualified."
While these may seem better, they err in the similar manner of being vague, "vanilla" answers that anyone could give to any employer for any job.
For more bad answers to avoid giving, read 30 Bad Answers to Job Interview Questions.
The answers above don't stand out to the employer because they aren't about the employer. They make one of two mistakes:
With these answers, you fade into the woodwork and get lost among the other job seekers who have not done their homework either. These answers will never get you far with an employer.
When I say, "homework" I am referring to research and preparation in four key areas:
1. Know yourself
2. Know the company
3. Know the position
4. Know the interviewers and hiring manager (if possible)
Let me walk you through these:
Before you talk to employers, or even network for positions, you need to have a strong grasp of what you can offer them. (What’s the return on investment you provide to the employer? Why are you the person they should hire?)
Analyze the job description, point-by-point. What are they looking for? Write down the job requirements, one by one.
Then, determine how do you match -- or exceed -- those requirements. Write down your matching accomplishments or skills for each requirement.
You should be able to talk about your strengths and your accomplishments, and to readily give concrete answers to questions such as "What are your greatest strengths?" "Why should we hire you?" and "Tell me about yourself." as well as "What do you know about us?" and "Why do you want to work here?"
Get to know the companies you will be talking to (or talking about, if networking). When you know details about them, their culture, their goals, their products, and their challenges, you are then able to talk about yourself and your fit into the company.
Visit LinkedIn, and read the company profile information. Search for current/past employee profiles. Read Job Interview Preparation with Smart Google Research for more tips.
Google the company, and read all you can. Visit their company website to learn more about them.
Don't appear to be shopping for "any job you find me qualified for." Instead, you need to know where you would fit into the company, whether there is a current advertised opening or not.
Again, resources like LinkedIn will let you search profiles for staff in target departments. Use the information to learn more about their job responsibilities and to identify LinkedIn Groups they belong to (and join them). Also, using Google and viewing the company website will allow you to learn more as well.
Hopefully you know the name(s) and job title(s) of the person or people who will be interviewing you. If you do know their names, you can Google them and also check out their LinkedIn Profiles to learn more about them.
Perhaps you share something with one or all of them, from a previous employer to a school, certification, professional association, hobby, or home town. Any information you learn can help you build rapport with the person by mentioning it. Or, the information can help you be prepared for the person's approach or reputation, without disclosing the commonality you share.
Once you have done all your pre-interview homework, the reasons you want to work for this employer should be more clear to you. If appropriate, you can reference your research, which should impress the interviewers.
Put your answer together based on your research and your interest in the job. Don't be insincere, but do demonstrate both your interest and your research.
[MORE: Smart Answers to Interview Questions.]
Play the game, and realize that even if this job is not a match, if they like you and want to hire you, they may find the right place for you (at the right salary) in the long run. As long as you've done your homework in advance and demonstrated your interest in them.
For more about handling behavioral interviews, panel interviews, and telephone interviews, as well as preparing for job interviews, see the article list on the right.
Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s ‘career hero’ making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11 top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, Resumes for Dummies,and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Google+ and Twitter at @careerhero.