This question can come in several different forms, such as:
- "Why this company?"
- "What specifically drew you to this company, and why?"
- "Why are you interested in this company?"
As a career coach and hiring manager of 15 years, I've seen so many candidates thrown off by this question and try to wing it.
Let's start with what not to say:
- "I am ready to take on more responsibilities, and working at this company will be a great stepping stone for my career." This might sound like a good answer, but it indicates that you just want a promotion. The manager will also be concerned that you lack passion for the company and may be quick to leave as soon as a "better" opportunity comes your way.
- "I've heard amazing things about your company, and the benefits are great!" This is such a generic answer, and managers get turned off by it because it tells them that your primary motivation is all about money and perks, rather than an eagerness to add value to the company.
I always tell candidates that this question isn't so much about how much work experience you have.
What managers really want to know is how knowledgeable you are about the company — and that you really, really want to work there. One of the most effective ways to show that is to give what I like to call a "connection story."
This is a personal story that tells the hiring manager 1) your personal values are aligned with the company's values, and 2) the position will help you develop meaningful qualities in both your professional and personal life (because it means you'll be more committed to your job).
Here are three examples that I helped my clients craft (and yes, they did get the job!):
- For a marketing associate position at a fashion retailer: "I've always admired your commitment to giving back. When I read that you are working with your manufacturing partners to product fabric masks in your own facilities for local healthcare workers, I thought: That's the kind of company I want to work for! Giving back is a big part of my personal philosophy, and I was excited to see that you feel the same way."
- For an account manager position at a cruelty-free skincare company: "I've been purchasing your products for years — I especially recommend your [X] product to all my friends — so I was thrilled to see an open position that perfectly matches my skills at your company. I believe the key to a brand's success is making the customers happy, and based on my experience, I can tell that's a top priority for you."
- For a wealth advisor position at a financial services firm: "In my [X] years of working in the finance industry, I've crossed paths with many of your current employees. And I've always been impressed by how genuine, personable and knowledgeable they are. I imagine that your clients feel their money is in good hands. I want to work for a company that not only helps people better understand their finances, but also gives a true feeling of safety and community."
Your connection story will vary depending on your own values and what industry you're in, but the main goal should always be the same: To show that you understand the company, and how you fit in.
The most important task is to do research on the company, and ask yourself:
- What are the company's values? How will your interests and skills complement the company's organizational culture?
- What's happening within the company and its industry? Has it recently changes its product or service offerings?
- What qualities do you find most appealing about the company? How do they fit in with your values and what you strive for, personally and professionally?
- Do you know people who work at the company? Ask them what they love about the company and why they enjoy working there. Oftentimes, the most useful details can't be found on the Internet, and it's best to go to a real source who has actual experience.
J.T. O'Donnell is the founder and CEO of Work It Daily, an online platform dedicated to helping people solve their biggest career problems. She has more than 15 years of experience in hiring, recruiting and career coaching. For more career tips, follow her on TikTok @jtodonnell.