“Why are you applying for this position?” is a straightforward interview question that gives you plenty of room to give a solid answer.
But doing this can be a little tricky.
This guide will help you craft an answer that impresses your interviewer and improves your chance of getting an offer.
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Why This Question is Asked
There are many reasons why interviewers ask “Why are you applying for this position?” While it seems like a cut-and-dry question requiring a straightforward answer, it’s much deeper than it appears at face value.
Interviewers are looking for a few core details in your response.
The first is that you fully understand the job and what it entails. It’s a way to check that you know what you’re getting into. Whether you’re applying for an entry-level or executive-level position doesn’t matter. Employers want to see that you did your research before applying.
Secondly, your answer should demonstrate that you’ve given this position thought and considered how it fits into your larger career goals. Why does this matter? It helps employers choose candidates who are enthusiastic about the job and naturally motivated to succeed.
Many job-seekers apply to as many positions as possible. While that sounds like a good idea, applying hastily to many jobs without thoroughly reviewing the requirements, doesn’t work in your favor. You’ll likely miss key requirements, not follow instructions, take shortcuts, and not tailor your applications. At the end of the day, your lack of effort translates to a lack of interest.
They prefer to hire individuals who genuinely care about the opportunity. It reassures them that you won’t change your mind, get bored, and move on shortly after hiring. Instead, a good answer can prove that you’re ready for the challenge and committed to succeeding because it plays a part in your larger career aspirations.
How to Answer, “Why are You Applying for This Position?”
Your response can make or break your chances of moving forward in the hiring process. This isn’t a question you want to think up on the spot.
While you should always craft a unique response, here are a few tips to help you develop a knockout answer that makes a difference.
1. Research the Company & Position
Always research the company and the position you want. This tip should apply regardless of whether this question comes up or not. It’s always a plus when you can demonstrate that you’re well-prepared. It shows professionalism and an eagerness to get hired.
Furthermore, it helps you understand how you should frame your response. You need to know everything you can about the company and job to tell interviewers why you want it.
Start by reading the job description closely. Pay attention to the keywords used in the posting, and determine the most relevant skills to the position. Use the job description to understand what hiring managers are looking for and connect the dots to your skillset.
You can use that information to envision yourself in the job and where you want to go next. How does this position fit into your larger plans? What skills will you use, and what will you gain from this job?
It’s also important to learn as much as possible about the company. Read its corporate website, check on social media, and read press releases. Figure out the company’s goals, what it’s trying to achieve, and how this job contributes to the bottom line.
If you know someone who works for the company or used to be employed there, reach out before you apply and ask them how they like working there and ask if there’s any information you should know before you apply.
Absorb all that information like a sponge. You can sprinkle the knowledge you gain into your answer to show that you’ve done your homework and given this job all the consideration it deserves.
2. State What Appeals to You About This Opportunity
Here’s where your research about the company comes in handy.
When you’re explaining why you’re applying for the position, one of the best ways to stand out is to talk about something specific. What about this job and company stood out to you most?
When you discuss a detail that’s specific to this company and job, you’re showing that you have a genuine interest in the role. It’s not just another job for you. Instead, it’s an opportunity you’re truly excited to grab.
Consider mentioning something about the company itself. It can be a fact you saw when reading the organization’s website or a detail you learned about the company culture. Whatever the case, the more distinctive it is, the better.
And if you do know people who work for the company, be sure to mention them by name. Referencing the name of a good employee works positively in your favor. This is why it’s a good idea to speak with employees you know before you apply.
3. Tie in Your Skillset
It’s wise to take every chance to tie your response back to your skills and qualifications. You’re still trying to impress, after all! It’s not enough to say that you’re passionate about the opportunity and interested in contributing to the company’s bottom line.
You also have to prove that you have what it takes to succeed.
Use your skills and experiences to connect the dots. Talk about why you want this job, what skills you’ll use to excel, and how this will benefit the team or company. This tip is a great way to provide a meaningful answer proving you’re serious about the position while allowing you to present yourself as a prime candidate.
Plus, talking about what you bring to the table is a great way to show that you’ve given the opportunity ample thought and are confident that applying for this position is the right move.
4. Practice Your Answer
Our final tip is an easy one: Practice your response.
Many job-seekers make the mistake of not preparing for tough questions like “Why are you applying for this position?” While there are no guarantees that it’ll come up, there’s a good chance it will. It’s a common interview question that reveals more information about your motivation than most realize.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can “wing it.” The goal is to sound prepared and confident. You can’t do that when you make things up on the spot.
Practice saying your answer with confidence.
That doesn’t mean you need to have a script. Reciting rewritten words will only make you sound inauthentic and robotic. Instead of doing that, be comfortable delivering your response in different ways.
Memorize the points you want to make, not the words you’ll say. Once you’re confident expressing your ideas, you can deliver an impressive answer.
Mistakes to Avoid
If you give this question plenty of thought, you can provide a memorable response that interviewers want to hear. However, there are still ways to get things wrong!
To help you avoid a misstep, here are a few things you should never say when answering, “Why are you applying for this position?”
The Dreaded “I Need a Job” Answer”
When you hear this question, your first thought might be, “I need a job.” Leave that thought in your head!
Remember why interviewers ask why you’re applying for the position. It’s to see that you’re serious about the opportunity and to learn more about how it fits into your larger career narrative. Answering with something as blunt as “I need a job” will not do you any favors.
Again, employers ideally don’t want people who apply to every job under the sun and pursue anything that comes their way. It’s about finding the right person who’ll contribute to the bottom line while gaining experience that improves their career.
A short-sighted answer like this does the opposite and may get you pulled from the running entirely.
Leaving personal details out of the equation is always a good idea. Hiring managers aren’t interested in learning that you desperately need a regular paycheck. Matters of money and financial issues don’t belong in the interview room.
Implying that you’re only applying for this position to get a paycheck is just as bad as saying you need a job. It provides no meaningful information and paints you as someone uninterested in what the job entails.
It’s alright to get somewhat personal, but those elements of your response should be career-related. For example, if you’ve always dreamt of working this job or entering this industry, that’s fine to say. But things that aren’t job-related should not come up.
Never speak ill of your former employees. That’s a tip to remember for all interview questions. Even if your last job was with a direct competitor of this organization, badmouthing isn’t a good look.
If you’re willing to talk trash about old companies, colleagues, and supervisors now, what’s stopping you from doing the same in the future with this organization? Speaking badly about anyone is the quickest way to turn an interviewer off. It’s not a good look, and hiring managers may worry about how well you’ll fit into the company culture.
Implying That This Job is Temporary
Finally, don’t say anything that alludes to this position being temporary. That can be tricky when you’re talking about your larger career goals. It’s important to demonstrate that you’ve given this position considerable thought and know what you want to gain from it.
But treating it like a stepping stone isn’t a good idea. What hiring manager will take a chance on you if they think that you’ll leave within a year? Hiring employees is resource-intensive, so companies want people who will stick around.
Always leave the door open. You can imply that you hope to grow with this company or hope to obtain new skills that take your potential to new heights. But never say anything that points to you leaving for better opportunities elsewhere.
If you need some inspiration for answering this question, you’ve come to the right place. The following example answers check off all the boxes. They work for various reasons and serve as a good jumping-off point as you develop your own response.
In the first example, we have a candidate pursuing a marketing job. It’s a fairly simple answer, but it cuts straight to the point and serves its purpose. The job-seeker explains why they think it’s a good role for them and highlights what they believe they can bring to the table.
“I’m applying for this position because it looks like an amazing opportunity to sink myself into digital marketing. I’ve worked in marketing for the past several years, and I enjoy the challenges of learning new strategies and tools as they emerge.
I’m particularly excited about the chance to work in digital marketing. While I have a few years of experience with social media marketing and digital advertising, those marketing strategies weren’t the focus at my previous firm. I believe I have the skills to hit the ground running here and my interest in learning would ensure I come up to speed quickly.
Your company is one of the most well-known firms in the area, and your team has completed many campaigns that I respect. I’m eager to become a part of that and develop exciting new strategies that leave an impact on your client’s target audiences.”
In our next example, we have a nice mix of personal and professional goals. The candidate explains why they believe they are the right fit for the job while showing the hiring managers precisely why they pursued this opportunity. It provides a glimpse into the candidate’s values and proves that they did their research.
“I’m applying for this position for a couple of reasons. The first is the opportunity to do new things that align with my larger career goals. I valued my time with the company I worked for, but there are no longer any growth opportunities that appeal to me.
Your company does a lot of work to support underserved communities. That’s a personal passion of mine, and it aligns with what I want to do in the future. It’s a unique challenge that I’ve always dreamt of doing.
This position seems like the perfect opportunity to apply my unique skill set and advance my career. My years as a business analyst have taught me to be analytical and focus on the data. My passion is helping others. This position would allow me to do both, and I’m excited to show what I can do.”
Our final example is simple but effective. The candidate speaks highly of the company to show that they’ve done their research. They also provide a great explanation about why they’re excited about this opportunity.
“The main reason why I’m applying is to be a part of this organization. Your company is the best known in the e-commerce space. I’m a frequent shopper and regularly advocate for your platform.
I truly believe that it’s revolutionizing how people shop. I’ve read recent press releases discussing some of your company’s larger goals, and I would love to be a part of making that happen.
My experience as a front-end development specialist aligns with the job posting and combined with my ambition, I feel I’m a strong contender for this role.”
“Why are you applying for this position?” can seem like an intimidating interview question to answer at first, but it’s actually quite easy if you have the right approach and preparation.
Run through the steps above, spend some time practicing, and you’ll end up with an answer you can be proud of.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.