shutterstock_126628475It’s one of the most common interview questions out there (rather unsurprisingly) and is almost universally used as an interview icebreaker. It’s a natural question, of course; hiring managers want to work out whether you’re a good fit.

It may seem like a fairly straightforward starter, after all you have probably already thought about why you want to work at the company. As it turns out though, they’re actually asking far more than just one question…

What are they asking?

This question is an old faithful for many recruiters for good reason, it often demonstrates many qualities a candidate might have and successfully answers a number of questions all at once. It’s unlikely to be a clincher, but by answering it in the right way, you’ll set yourself up well to fly through the rest of the interview.

What do you want? – Of course a large part of this question is just as it seems. They’re interested in your motivations and your goals; ensuring that these are in line with what you are offering is a sure fire way to ensure you don’t leave within half a year.

Are you serious about the company? – By providing an answer that proves you’ve done your research, it shows that you care enough to have put the time into your preparation.

How thorough are you? – Clearly, by showing that you’ve researched effectively and come up with an answer that provides a correct evaluation of the company, it displays that you’re thorough in the way you work. It’ll also show that your aspirations and the reality of the job that you’re applying for are aligned.

Don’t be caught off guard

With a better understanding of exactly what it is that the hiring manager wants to find out, you should know by now that preparation is key. If you’re caught off guard, the chances are that one of two things will happen:

  • You’ll supply a vague, non-enthusiastic answer like ‘I think you would be a fantastic company to work for and you’ve got a great reputation in the sector’.
  • You’ll end up trying to make up for your lack of knowledge by rambling on and wasting valuable time.

By failing to do your research, the chances are you’ll end up with one of these cut-and-paste style answers that could be used to answer this question for any job since the beginning of time. At the end of the day, don’t forget that most hiring managers have been round the block and you’re unlikely to get away with this sort of last minute answer.

Do your research

I’m sure it’s pretty clear at this point that the first step to success with this question is doing your research, and this doesn’t stop at re-reading the job specification. Check out all their channels of communication first, including their website, mission statements and press releases to get an idea of the kind of company culture they actively want to project. This way you’ll have a ready-made idea of their brand identity as well as their clients and services.

Next up, take a look at social media, including the usual suspects as well as seeing if they have a blog. This is always a good indicator of the type of work environment you can expect if you get hired, as they give you a more informal look at the inner workings of the company. You may find that they project a very corporate image across their social media channels or perhaps they give the impression of a relaxed, playful office vibe.

Finally, try to access information that isn’t directly controlled by the company. Search for the company on google news using speech marks “” to find articles about them – avoid the self-produced PR and you may gain some interesting insight into the business. It’s worth checking out employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor, although remember to take reviews with a pinch of salt; if you look for trends as opposed to focusing on specific reviews you won’t be misled by one disgruntled employee.

Three answers they don’t want to hear?

  • “I saw that you were hiring and I thought, why not!”
  • “I know that you guys offer a huge salary for this position”
  • “I’d really love to work for a company that has [meaningless perk]”

Whatever you do, try to focus on providing a meaningful answer. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being motivated by salary or taking a chance on a company, but the hiring manager will want to hear that you have other, more specific motivations.

Enthusiasm!

When it comes to interview time, as with any interview question the focus is on making sure your answer is believable. Your research should go a long way to proving that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity, as you’ve taken the time to look properly into the company.

Other than that, the best bet is to hone in on something that actually does excite you about working for the company. It’s easy to spend so much time on finding the perfect interview answer that you’re no longer accurately representing how you feel. In the end, there’s no substitute for the truth and if you’re struggling to find something truthful, you probably need to re-evaluate why you’re applying for the job.

Connect the role to your skills and experience

The best and most simple piece of advice for any job interview is to stop making it about yourself; what hiring managers want to see is how your skills and experience will benefit your company. As a result, any opportunity to turn the question from an egocentric focus to exactly how you will benefit the company is worth taking.

Explain how you’re excited about the prospect of using your knowledge in a way that’s specific to the new company:

“The real clincher for me is that working here will allow me to apply the content creation skills I developed at my last job, in combination with my instinct for social media engagement with such a large audience across your platforms”

Here, you’ve got a great combination of research, and using the opportunity to promote your skills in a way that shows benefit to the company in, hopefully, a unique way.

Align with your career path

Provided you don’t give them the impression that you’ll be using them as a very short-term stepping stone, it’s important to connect why the job is important to your long-term career path. If they can visualize why this is an important part of your journey, they’ll be reassured that you’ll remain in the job. After all, if they’ve decided to hire you then they want to know that they’re going to keep you!

It also displays that you’ll be motivated to excel in the job, while showing that you have aspirations over and above simply the desire to make money or that it’s ‘just a job’.

Got all that? Provided you prepare properly and work all the angles in your interview, you should find the answers comes naturally to you. If you’re struggling, consider approaches or methods that the company employs, something innovative about their products/services or their culture and growth potential. If these don’t inspire you in any way, it might be time to start the hunt again!

Author: Matt Arnerich