The question seems ludicrous at first glance and it is hard to believe the answer can’t be more complicated than “I need a job and I match the qualifications of the position.”

After all, what could they really expect?

That you are passionate about data entry? That you spent your whole life aspiring to sell widgets?

Okay, let’s can the sarcasm.

What exactly is considered a good answer to this question? What are interviewers looking for when they ask this question?

Interviewers already know that you need a job. You wouldn’t have applied for the position otherwise (unless interviewing is fun for you)! What they really want to know is more about you and your motivations. They want to know if you’ve really thought about your career and how their company fits into your goals.

They’re searching for any motivation that’s stronger than collecting your next paycheck. Really, this question is an opportunity.

1. Prove That This Job Is What You Want

You’ve thought about what you want out of your career, right?

This question is an opportunity to prove that the role you are applying for fits into your desired career path, your end goal. You don’t need to prove that you are passionate about selling their product, what you need to prove is that you are motivated to succeed.

Let’s consider this from another point of view. If you don’t have an end goal, then this role is your end goal. If you have achieved your goal what motivation do you have to perform well in that position?

To prepare for this question, sit down before an interview and really ask yourself how this role fits into your goals. Spend some time thinking about what your goals are and how this role helps you achieve them. If it doesn’t, it’s highly likely that this job isn’t a good fit for you.

2. Prove You Know The Company

This question is also an opportunity to prove that you did your research on the company. Responding with “You seem like a cool company and I want to be a part of that” will get you nowhere.

Most companies will have visions and mission statements of their own. These are the goals that they are trying to achieve and this question is really asking you to tell them how you fit into them.

Before interviewing with a company, do some research on who they are and what they stand for. Find out what their vision and mission statements are. Read about the history of the company or check out their social media profiles and see if they do fun things with their employees or have volunteer days occasionally.

Find something the company stands for that aligns with your values.

Following either (or better yet) both of these options will give you a better answer than most other candidates.

Now let’s go over some things NOT to do.
a. Joke

As hard as it will be, resist the urge to respond sarcastically with such responses as “I need a job” or “I want a shorter commute“. Though the question might seem silly, it’s likely that your interviewer is taking the question, and hopefully your interview, seriously.

A joke may be good for building rapport but if you’re going to respond with a joke, also be sure to address the question thoroughly.

b. Flatter

At face value, the question seems like it’s begging you to fawn over how great the company is, but over flattering can be a mistake. Of course, you’re interviewer will want you to like their company but it’s not likely they will believe that you’ve “always wanted to work for them ever since you were a kid”. Rather than flattering, compare your values to those of the company and describe how they overlap.

The question “why do you want to work for us?” has stumped candidate after candidate leading to some asking in forums what the answer should be and others complaining about how ridiculous the question is.

But if you come prepared with a clear idea of how this position fits into your career goals and how your values align with the company, you will stand out over the other candidates.

Written By
Jeremy Shreve is an entrepreneur and owner of Austin's top professional resume service, Executive Drafts. Mentioned by Forbes as one of the top 15 websites to help jump start your career, Jeremy shares the latest trends and best practices on getting your dream job.

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