One of the most common questions in recruitment, and one of the most difficult ones to answer for many candidates, is to explain ‘why’ you’re applying for a job. It can be a real struggle to provide an answer which is credible, authentic and persuasive. 

“You’re a really great organisation to work for and am looking for that next step in my career.” 

Giving a brief, generic response will leave you and the recruiter feeling short changed. Just because you’ve worked in a similar role before, or you think your CV says it all for you, it’s crucial to avoid assuming that the recruiter will figure it out your ‘why’ for themselves.

As an experienced careers consultant and coach I regularly work with clients to help them understand their ‘why’ and clearly communicate ‘how’ they’re a great fit for their next job. Here are my seven top tips to help you craft your best answer.

1.Show insight and curiosity with your research.

It all starts with putting in the time to research exactly what gets you excited and curious to find out more. Failing to properly research or go beyond just basic facts and figures on a company’s website, will often catch you out. Look for news articles, recent successes, challenges faced, what they’re posting on their social media accounts. Your answer needs to include what you have learnt from your research and how this has sparked and confirmed your interest.

2. You believe strongly in the company’s product or service .

You may have a strong brand recognition and confidence in what the service or product can offer. But a high profile name or great reputation are not enough on its own. So, what are your reasons to be part of a growing corporate success story? Or a key part of the aspirations of a charity or philanthropic venture? Or excited about the growth of a new start up? Research examples of their recent successes and innovations, and how this has captured your interest and reasons to join them.

3. You’re inspired by positive conversations with people who work there.

Talking with a line manager or colleagues about their experiences working at the company or the role itself, is often a big influence on your decision to apply. You just need to explain how these conversations and insight have confirmed your interest. If you haven’t yet spoken to anyone about the job, and you’d benefit from some extra insight into what you’re applying for and what’s it’s really like to work there, then read my article on ‘Why Won’t Applicants Talk To Us?’ Sometimes, it can be helpful to explore other candidate’s experiences of a company’s culture and recruitment process from looking at sites like Glass Door, Great Place To Work or Vault. Although be wary of over-emotional posts that may skew your views!

4. Share what energises you about the opportunity.

As well as demonstrating that you understand what is expected from you in the role, use the job description to identify which day to day elements of the job particularly interest you. How does this match with your particular strengths? Include what skills and experience you can bring that are essential for you to be successful in the role. Remember to tell a story to bring your ‘why’ to life, as this is much more engaging and adds credibility to your answer.

5. Demonstrate how you’re the best ‘fit’.

The qualities and values expected of the individual who will thrive within that role or organisation, should be clearly laid out in the job description. So, rather than just agreeing that you ‘relate to’ or ‘align yourself’ with the company’s values, back it up with what those values look like in action. Notice what stands out for you when reading some of the staff’s profiles (either on the company’s website or LinkedIn). What similarities are there between who the company recruits and what you have to offer? Highlight how the culture and way of working is a great fit for you. Maybe it gives you more flexibility to work remotely or manage your own diary. Or perhaps they encourage real ownership and innovation of ideas.

6. Explain how it fits at this stage of your career journey. 

Recruiters can make all sorts of assumptions (rightly or wrongly!) about how this role fits into your career story. They may query a candidate who appears to be taking a ‘backward step’, be unsure why you’d be prepared to commute some distance, or not recognise how your very different previous jobs relate to what you’re wanting now. You need to make it clear why this role and company fit your current and future career goals. Would this new role give you a fresh take on using your existing skills and expertise – new sector, size of company, new client base? Is it a step up and chance to develop your leadership capability? If your transitioning to a very different career path, focus on the transferability of what you can bring and why this change is important for you right now.

7. There are real opportunities to progress, develop, and contribute.

If personal and professional growth are an important motivator for you, explain where you expect the stretch and growth to be in this new role. Are you clear what parts of the role may be more challenging and that you’re ready to step up? Give an insight into how the role, team or wider company goals will help you work towards you and your longer term ambitions.

Sometimes, it can still be tricky to understand why you truly want to apply for the job. By the way, it doesn’t count if you have an unwavering belief you could do that job standing on your head or you’re desperate to work somewhere else! Therefore, step back and question whether this is the best role and company for you right now. Ask yourself if it’s worth investing the time and energy needed to submit a quality application, if you’re struggling to answer the basics of why you’d make a great candidate.

So, if you’re unclear about what the ‘why’ is for your next job, or you’re having difficulty visualising what your next role could look like, arrange a free consultation phone call with to discuss how working with me as your career coach can help you get better clarity and focus in your job search.

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