And, even if it doesn’t, if you want the job you should get this sentiment across regardless. So, really, there’s no way around figuring out how to string together a coherent thought about what motivated you to apply and why being in this position makes sense for you (and for the company).
Luckily, there’s actually a pretty simple way to go about answering this question effectively without having to go through every big moment or transition in your life and career that’s brought you to this interview. Here’s a smart framework for how you should structure your answer.
Step 1: Express Enthusiasm for the Company
First things first, this is an excellent opportunity for you to show off what you know about the company. You can talk all day about how excited you are about joining the team, but nothing will trump actually knowing a thing or two about the place you’re interviewing with. So, to prepare, spend some time honing in on what you know about the company and select a few key factors to incorporate into your pitch for why you’re a good fit.
Say you’re interviewing for a small quantitative asset management company. The start of your answer might sound something like this:
“The first thing that caught my eye when I saw the position posted was definitely that it was at EFG Advisers. I know that you build a lot of your tools in-house, the team is small, and you run a variety of long- and short-term strategies in the U.S. equities markets using a quantitative approach.”
Especially with smaller companies, it’s always impressive when a candidate knows a thing or two about what goes on at the company. And the best thing about this is you rarely have to go beyond reviewing the company website or having a quick conversation with a current or past employee to learn enough to sound like you’ve been following the company for a while.
Step 2: Align Your Skills and Experiences With the Role
Next, you want to sell why, exactly, you’re right for the role. There are two ways you can do this: You can either focus more on your experiences (what you’ve done before that brings you to this point) or your skills (especially helpful if you’re pivoting positions or industries).
Try to pinpoint what the main part of the role entails, plus a couple of the “desired skills” in the job description, and make sure you speak to that. Follow up your introduction to how excited you are about the company with why you’re a good fit:
“But the part that really spoke to me about this position was the chance to combine both the programming skills I gained from being a senior software engineer and my knack for quantitative analysis in a position that actively lets me engage with my growing interest in investing and portfolio management.”
Keep it short—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk about how you got your skills or relevant stories throughout the interview—and just focus on highlighting a couple key relevant abilities or experiences for the position.
Step 3: Connect to Your Career Trajectory
Finally, you want to show that the position makes sense for where you’re going in your career. Ideally, you won’t give the impression that you’re just using the position as a stepping stone. Show that you’ll be around for the long haul, and your interviewer will feel more comfortable investing in you:
“I’ve been interested in switching to finance for a while now and have been actively managing my own personal portfolio for a few years. Joining a quant shop makes sense to me because I think it’s one of the few places where I’ll still be able to use my technical skills and spend my day thinking about finance. I’m really excited to learn more and see how I’ll be able to contribute the firm.”
Of course, you don’t have to state specifically that you see yourself in the position for a long time. Just show that you’ve given some thought to how the job makes sense for you now and that it continues to make sense for the foreseeable future.
String these three components together, and you have a response that will impress on three fronts: your knowledge and enthusiasm for the company, your relevant skills, and your general fit with the position. Plus, this framework has the added benefit of not stopping the flow of the conversation the way going through your entire life story would.