One question you can expect to encounter during almost every job interview is: Why do you want to work here? Even though the question seems simple, it can be a make or break and determine the final outcome of your interview. With a little forethought, your answer will help establish your credibility, convince a hiring manager to like you, and prove your value to an organization. Here’s how to capitalize on this moment.
Every behavior starts with motivation; once you understand what motivates someone, you can leverage that information to influence their opinion of you. So what does an interviewer hope to achieve by asking, “Why do you want to work here?”
Here’s what they want to see in your response:
Enthusiasm about the position and company. This is probably the most important motivation for asking the question—the interviewer wants to see a genuine emotional connection.
Values that align with the organization’s culture.
Evidence that you’ve researched the company and understand their purpose.
Authenticity and substance—you want to avoid vague answers, like “I want to be challenged and grow professionally.”
The ideal answer will address all these points and reinforce the idea that you’re uniquely qualified for the position. Although it might seem counter intuitive, interview questions are almost never about you as an individual—they’re about what you can do for the employer. So at every opportunity, try to frame your responses to highlight your capabilities.
Interview questions are almost never about you as an individual—they’re about what you can do for the employer.
How to Create a Response That’s Tailored to Your Situation
There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to this question that will convince an interviewer to hire you. But there are a few strategies you can employ to help you prepare a response that fits your circumstances.
Focus on the cultural fit.
Think about what you’ve observed so far about the office atmosphere. During your interactions with other employees at the office, did you pick up on any cues? Is the office pin-drop quiet, or have you heard co-workers collaborating and talking freely?
What have you learned so far about the company policies that shed light on their culture—for example, do they have a charity task force? A flat organization that encourages everyone to contribute ideas and limits bureaucracy?
Point to these qualities in your response to make the interview feel personal.
“In my limited time at the office, I can already tell this is the type of environment where I would thrive. When you talked about the company fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, that really resonated with me—I’m looking for opportunities where I can take ownership over my work and exercise more autonomy. It’s important for me to partner with a company that encourages innovation and doesn’t get tied up in red tape.
I also spent a few minutes in the lobby waiting to meet with you and noticed a lot of energy in the office—people were collaborating with each other at different workstations, co-workers seemed busy and upbeat. I think this reflects on the company’s egalitarian values. I really like the idea of having people contributing ideas at every level.”
Highlight a company’s reputation as an employer.
Learn about the company’s reputation within the industry. If you talk to current staff about the training they’ve received during their employment, for example, you could reference this during the interview.
“I was initially drawn to this position because I’ve heard so much positive feedback about the internal training programs. I’ve spoken to people who work with [Company Name], and I’ve always been impressed with their level of expertise.
Last year at the SIAM Conference, for example, a panelist from [Company Name] presented on artificial intelligence and its impact on the biotech industry. This hour-long panel changed how I think about actuarial statistics and harnessing data to improve intake operations.
I’m excited to have an opportunity to work for a company that provides the kind of stimulating learning environment that generates innovation and professional development.”
Talk about your interactions with the organization’s product or service.
What products or services does the employer offer? If you aren’t already a customer, sign up for a trial period or test out an item from their inventory. If you enjoy the experience, consider incorporating that feedback into your interview responses—this could be a useful jumping-off point for explaining why you want to work with the company, and the hiring manager will be impressed by your initiative.
“When I heard about [Company Name]’s new mobile app, I had to try it out for myself. I was immediately impressed with the intuitive UI design and seamless navigation, and I connected with the company vision: to build a password manager that helps people keep their information safe.
As a Director of Product, I can make this app even more effective by improving the functionality between devices. With a better syncing process and data field recognition, [Company Name] can enhance the user experience and increase the number of downloads.
I developed similar features for [Previous Employer], which led to a 28% boost in user engagement. I love this product, and I’m looking forward to working together to make it even better.”
Position your candidacy within the context of an organization’s objectives.
Review the employer’s online presence, including their website, social media pages, and news coverage. Look for new product launches and any indication of the company’s plans for future growth. If any of these initiatives seem relevant to your area of expertise, raise the issue during the interview and explain how you will support those objectives.
As with all the other responses, you also want to establish an emotional connection—don’t hold back from expressing how much you’ve enjoyed learning about the company.
“I see this as an opportunity for me to leverage my 8 years of management experience to develop a new vertical from the ground up. I’m highly organized, and one of my priorities moving into this position will be to establish operational procedures that set clear expectations for my team and facilitate productivity.
At my previous position, I increased our product supply by 35% in just one year; I’m excited to apply the same strategic thinking and project management skills to this directorship role. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, and that’s why I’m drawn to this position and want to work with [Company Name]: I’m thrilled by the idea of launching a new department, and I know I have a lot to contribute.
It seems like [Company Name] offers a unique environment for me to expand my professional skills, and I love taking on a new challenge to make something great even better.”
Putting It All Together: Final Takeaways
Hiring managers like to see that a candidate has spent time researching the company and preparing for an interview. This shows that you’re invested in the position and have already identified concrete ways that you can contribute to an organization.
During the interview, don’t read your responses off the page, but instead focus on key talking points. You want your answers to be organized and intentional but unscripted. Feel free to reference notes if that will make you more comfortable, but look up to meet the interviewer’s gaze and try not to look too stiff.
Steer the conversation toward a shared future.
Spend an equal amount of time talking and listening for the duration of the interview, and incorporate the information you learn into your responses. As you set the scene, keep the tone positive; spend as little time as possible discussing what you don’t like about your current or previous role.
You don’t want to project negativity or resentment, because this can seem like a red flag. If an employer asks a follow-up question about what prompted you to look for another job, try to frame your answer so that it reinforces what you like about the interviewer and their company.
In a similar vein, you also want to avoid making your response too personal. There might be circumstances in your personal life that make it imperative for you to find a new job—for example, an expected layoff or income gap. No matter how pressing, don’t discuss these problems with a potential employer.
If you respect the professional boundaries of a job interview, employers will be more interested in working with you.
Don’t talk about the compensation.
What goes unsaid is just as important as the information you relay to a potential employer. When an interviewer asks why you want to work with them, don’t discuss the compensation or benefits package. Although these are obvious motivating factors, this response doesn’t explain why you’re the best fit for the company.
Every interaction with a potential employer should set the stage for an offer. Until you receive a formal offer, focus on convincing the hiring manager you’re the best candidate for the position. By following this approach, you’ll generate more leverage for a salary negotiation down the line.
Be honest and focus on the real, human connection you have with the interviewer.
Show them your personality.
Choose one of these approaches that truly reflects how you feel about an opportunity. Your response needs to be warm and unreserved. Even though you might be nervous during the job interview, don’t fall into the trap of sounding too rehearsed or emotionally removed.
Answering this question doesn’t have to be about what differentiates you from other candidates based on skill—it’s about showing the interviewer what matters to you. If you answer this question effectively, it will help to make the experience positive and memorable.
At the end of the day, your response to this question should speak to what resonates with you about the employer. Be honest and focus on the real, human connection you have with the interviewer.