Curtis Peterson was recently interviewing for a digital marketing manager position at SmartFile, an Indianapolis company that provides secure file sharing services, when his interviewer asked him what he knew was a make-or-break question: ‘Why do you want this job?”
Here’s how Peterson responded:
“I want this job because I've always loved building and marketing websites—even as a kid. I built websites when they were using frames and AltaVista was a decent search engine. I was 10 or 11. I've always been passionate about digital marketing, but I just didn't know I could make a career out of trying to get people to a website.”
He got the job.
His answer illustrates what hiring managers really want to get when they pose this question: a sense of who you really as well as a sense of how you’d fit and add value to the organization.
The three ingredients below will help you craft a perfect answer that will keep you in the game. Word to the wise: One thing you should not say in response to this question is “Because I need a job.” That shows a lack of passion, and suggests you might not stick around if something better comes along.
Show how your skills match
At every point of the interview, you need to show your skills and ability to solve problems are a good fit for the company.
Go back to the job description and your earlier conversations with hiring managers to get a review what they’re looking for and craft your answer around that.
You say: “You’re looking for someone who can manage big software projects from across functions, and that’s exactly what I was doing when I worked at Company X. I managed a budget of $2 million, and a cross-department teams of 10 people that included developers, engineers, and creatives to bring 15 software products to market.”
Show your enthusiasm for the job
Your answer should show that you’ll be able to use or learn key skills in the position that are important to you, says Dawn C. Reid, owner of Reid Ready Life Coaching in Clementon, New Jersey.
While the question seems to ask about what you want, remember that it’s really about the employer. So even as you talk about what has you excited, put it into the context of how this will make you an asset to the organization.
Find a way to mention your long-term prospects at the company, and you can also quell the employer’s concerns about retention or edge out another candidate who might be a flight risk.
You say: “I’m excited to see there’s a lot of opportunity to use advanced computer skills in this position. Being able to build my skills and continue to develop in a growing company is important to me, and there seems to be long-term opportunities here.”
Show how you fit into the culture
The company isn’t just interviewing you to find out about your skills. They want to know if you’ll be a decent coworker. So your answer needs to prove that your goals and values are similar to the organization’s, says A.P. Grow, associate professor of leadership at City University of Seattle.
Your research for the interview—grilling friends you know who work there and reading up on the latest news about the company—should give you a sense of the firm’s mission and values. Find spots where they overlap with your story and present them in your answer.
You say: “This organization's priorities for ethics, teamwork and effectiveness match my own. What's most important to me is finding a place where individuals want to work together, as a true team. I see that reflected here. The match of what you need with what I can do is clear, and the additional benefit of having the same values and community interests lead me to want to be here more than anywhere else.”
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