For a lot of people, this seems like a relatively easy question to answer during a job interview. And in a lot of ways, it should be. When I was a recruiter, I liked asking candidates why they wanted the position as a way to loosen things up early on in the conversation. When I started doing this, I thought I’d get an easy answer that confirmed the fact that he or she was great, which would allow me to move on to other pressing matters.
But, I quickly learned a tough lesson: answering this correctly is a surprisingly tough thing to master. Fortunately for you, I’ve seen the worst and am here to share some of the most common errors people make—and how you can avoid them.
1. You’re (Somehow) Caught Off Guard
Surprisingly, this was fairly common when I used to conduct interviews—a lot of people didn’t see this question coming. So they’d end up saying something along the lines of, “Uh, well. This job is probably amazing, so why wouldn’t I want it?”
What to Do Instead
You probably already know what you need to do instead: Be prepared to get asked this (a.k.a., know how you plan to respond). As Muse writer Lily Zhang explains, the key to answering this correctly involves showing excitement for the company, pointing out how your skills and experience align with the position, and connecting it to your own career path.
2. You Spend Too Much Time Answering the Question
This mistake is usually the result of the previous error. In your attempt at recovering from being under-prepared, it’s natural to try and spit out an eloquent answer. But often times, what ends up happening is that candidates will go on long overtures, such as, “Well, I couldn’t help but notice the job posting online, and I mean, there are just so many things to love about the company, especially because, oh my goodness, you have a pool in the office? That is incredible.”
What to Do Instead
I’m not suggesting that you respond as if you’re a robot. But you should keep it relatively brief. If the interviewer has follow-up questions, he or she will ask. Something like this should do the trick just fine:
I considered [a thing or two about the company] and how it fits into my career goals, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the perfect combination of [one career goal] and [one characteristic of your dream company] I’ve always hoped for.
If you’re prone to verbal vomit (as I am at times), it’s good to think about the exact number of words you might need to explain why you want the job—and then make sure you don’t go over that number. And sure, that might sound like overkill, but if you tend to go on and on until you don’t even remember the original question, it’s a good habit to develop for these situations.
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3. You Haven’t Thought About Why You Want the Job
And here’s the biggest issue. In too many cases, candidates struggle with answering why they want a particular job because they haven’t really considered it. And that sounds crazy when you read it, but in reality it’s common because people tend to spend so much time focusing on the application and seeing an interesting opening, that they forget to think about if this super cool role is actually right for them.
What to Do Instead
Before you even apply for a job, take out a pen and pad. Then write down a simple list of things you’re looking for in a gig. When you see one that you think might be interesting, compare the description and any information the company provided about itself to your list. If there are too many things missing, move on to another position and don’t look back.
Sometimes the most simple tasks are the most difficult—telling a recruiter why you’re interested in their job is right up there. However, while there are a few reasons people tend to mess this up, they’re all pretty easy to avoid if you know to look out for them. So use this information to nail the interview and get the position you deserve.
Photo of interview courtesy of Shutterstock.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author