Job Search Tip of the Week #20 (2018)
Caressa Moy | May 14, 2018 | 9:00 am
How to Ace Your First-Round (or Really, Just About Any) Interview
Think Like an Interviewer – Q14
Remember all that research you did on the company when you were applying? Here’s where it really comes in handy.
“Why do you want to work for x?” is a question often asked by interviewers to assess how much thought you’ve given to working at their particular company or organization. As such, you want to provide tailored responses that not only show you’ve done your due diligence, but also emphasize how well you fit culturally and functionally. You’ll definitely want to avoid:
- Sounding desperate. Anything along the lines of “I need the job and you’re hiring” does nothing to make your case for employment.
- Being vague. Generic statements like “X seems like a great company to work for” don’t take advantage of the opportunity you have to show how much research you’ve done on the company. And “It looks like you guys need a .NET Software Developer your team right now and I’m a great one,” not only comes across as cocky but doesn’t explain why you want to work for them.
- Kissing up. A little flattery goes a long way, but don’t overdo it, otherwise you’ll sound insincere. Briefly admire the company’s achievements, but focus more on selling yours to your interviewer!
- Mentioning salary or anything related to benefits, like in-office perks or a shorter commute than your current job. Yes, money is a great incentive, but it shouldn’t be your only one. Saying “The pay is great” sends up a red flag that you may job hop the moment a more attractive compensation package pops up on your radar. Hiring managers want to hear that you’re in it for the long haul for the right reasons.
So how do you answer this question? Keep in mind again that when they ask “Why do you want to work here,” interviewers want to:
- Make sure you’re genuinely interested in the job and company.
- Determine your motivations and priorities.
- Learn more about your aspirations and how this position fits into your five-year career plan.
The good news is that you’ve already done most of the legwork (or you should’ve, if you’ve been following CareerJuice!) needed to respond to this question the right way. For everyone else, follow these steps:
- First, identify your short- and long-term career goals and interests. How does this job and company align with your passions and future plans? Perhaps this position will allow you to develop experience with a particular technology or work in an industry you’re interested in. Or, it offers an opportunity to work with experts in your field or obtain certifications. Maybe you’re interested in extra responsibility and one of your goals is to lead a team of software developers, and this position has more room to grow than your current job.
- Research the company. The foundation of your answer is built on your knowledge of the company you’re interviewing with. Go back to the basics, and don’t forget to check out their social media. If you’ve done thorough research, you should be able to answer questions like: What’s the history of the company? What’s the company been up to lately? What do past and current employees think about the company? What are the latest trends in its industry? How is it fairing against its competitors? What does the company hope to achieve in the short and long term? What does it need to attain those goals?
- Do some self-reflection. First, why do you want to work for this company? Your reasons should reflect the knowledge of the company and industry that you obtained in step 2. Reasons could include the reputation of the company and/or its management team; the company’s success and growth; the company’s mission, vision, and values; the company’s culture; the company’s management philosophy and software development methodology; the company’s product/service offerings; and the company’s community involvement, employee training programs, marketing campaigns, or other initiatives.
Second, why do you want the job? Take a look at the job description to remind yourself why you responded to the posting. What about the work appeals to you? How has your experience prepared you to excel in this position? You should be able to clearly communicate both your interest and ability. Remember, the goal is to show your interviewer why you’re the perfect fit for this job at this company, and that begins with being aware of what resonates with you.
- Determine your value. If you’ve successfully completed step 3, you’ll be able to draw conclusions about how you could contribute to the company. For example, do you have a skill that the company needs? Knowledge that could help the company through a transition, like if they’re moving from PHP to Java? Experience that could help the achieve its goals? Is the engineering team building a product for an industry you’re passionate about?
- Tie it all together. The best answer addresses not only what you could get out of the experience, but also what you have to offer the company. Begin by mentioning the company (using information from step 2), then relate working for the company to yourself (using information from step 1 and 3). Finish by bringing it back to the company (using information from step 4).
For example, “I’m a fan of the educational software this company creates, so I’ve been following you on social media. I just read an interview with the CEO and CTO on TechCrunch where they said they were considering branching out to video games. I’m interested in this company because of the ground floor opportunity to take leadership in building a new team and products. As a software engineer turned video game developer, I have personal experience making this transition and the technical skills you’re looking for. In fact, my current company specializes in music education, and I was an integral part of the most recent piano learning game we released…”
Breaking down this sample response:
“I’m a fan of the educational software this company creates, so I’ve been following you on social media. I just read an interview with the CEO and CTO on TechCrunch where they said they were considering branching out to video games.” –> Step 2. Shows you’ve done your homework.
“I’m interested in this company because of the ground floor opportunity to take leadership in building a new team and products.” –> Step 1 and 3. Simultaneously makes it clear that you’re interested in working on greenfield projects and eventually attaining a management role, and this company offers both.
“As a software engineer turned video game developer, I have personal experience making this transition and the technical skills you’re looking for. In fact, my current company specializes in music education, and I was an integral part of the most recent piano learning game we released…” –> Step 4. Details why you’d fit in within the current organization and the value you’d bring. Even addresses the step you’ve already taken towards your goal of a leadership position (“I was an integral part of…”).
Remember, your answer to “Why do you want to work for this company/organization” should indicate that you’ve carefully considered where you want to work and aren’t just submitting your résumé to every company with a job opening (which isn’t an effective job search strategy anyway). Use this formula to frame your response and win your interviewer over: company research/self-reflection + your career goals/interests + your value.
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