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.

There are a number of different ways that recruiters can ask you the question of ‘Why do you want the job?’ such as, “Why do you want to work with us?”, “Why are you interested in this position?”, “What’s encouraged you to apply?”, “What specifically is it about the role that appeals to you?”, “What excites you about this opportunity?”, “Why us?”, or “Why are you the best candidate?”

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 eight 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 or small business? 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 the people who work there.

Talking with a line manager or colleagues about their experiences working at the company or in the role itself, can often influence 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 excites 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 are 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. Rather than just agreeing that you ‘relate to’ the company’s values, back it up with what those values look like in action for you.

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.

8: Get feedback and support on crafting your ‘why’.

If you’re questioning WHY you do what you do, or perhaps can’t see HOW it aligns with your current role or organisation, then I use a great online tool, Motivational Maps, which can give you the language to understand, articulate and communicate this. Your unique report looks at your top 3 Motivators and your lowest Motivator, out of the 9 motivational themes, and gives you an insight into “what makes you tick”.

As your coach, my role is to help you unpick your profile and work through the detail so you can make sense of each of the motivators and apply its findings to wherever you are right now in your personal or professional life.It can be ideal to help build an action plan for better performance and personal satisfaction at work, with your current or future roles, through to giving you the language to articulate what motivates you in your job applications and interviews. Download your free guide to Motivational Maps.


Still unclear what your ‘why’ is?

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 would like to talk about how Motivational Maps, CV or Application Reviews or Interview Coaching can support you, arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how I can help.

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