Interview question of the week: why do you want to work here?

Your answer to this question should not be “because I need money.”

What does foosball have to do with this question, you ask? Read on! Photo by Ak Ka on Unsplash

The scene: You’ve sent out hundreds of résumés in the past week and this is your third interview today. The interviewer pops this question on you, and suddenly you realize you’ve forgotten what company you’re interviewing with. Oh, and what position is this for again? Because you sent in applications to four different positions…

The outcome: Turns out you should not have gone with “money can be exchanged for goods and services” as your answer. On to the next interview!

Alright, in all seriousness this is an easy question to answer well as long as you’ve prepared a little bit. Quite simply, make sure you’ve done a little research on the company you’re interviewing and think about why you want to work there beyond the paycheck and benefits.

But what does it mean to “research the company?”

At a minimum, you should go to their website. But you’re not the kind of person who’ll settle for the minimum. (I know this because you’re spending time reading this blog!) So, make sure to also go to sites like Glassdoor and Linkedin. And try Googling the company name with things that interest you personally, such as “Acme bank philanthropy.” Try to gain an understanding of the following:

What is their product? What service are they providing? What sets them apart from their competitors?

What technologies do they use, and do any of them appeal to you?

Is there anything on their site that interests you that is not directly work related, such as their core values?

Is there anything that makes you particularly well suited to work here?

Let’s use an example here. Let’s say you’re applying to a help desk position in the corporate headquarters of a bank you’ve previously not heard of. Your first stop is their website, where you find out that they do the usual bank stuff like issue checking accounts, mortgages, and other loans. But look – they’re an online only bank with no physical locations, so they’re able to give more competitive yields on savings accounts. That’s something that sets them apart from their competitors. If you’re following my advice from previous posts and preparing note cards for your answers to interview questions, add that tidbit to your note card for this particular company. Then, keep digging and see what else you can find.

In the “about us” section, you run across a program they have that aims to help low income families afford a home by financing 100% of the loan while not penalizing the applicant by charging them PMI (private mortgage insurance.) Helping low income families aligns with your values, so note down the name of the program in your note card and keep looking.

Let’s say at this point you’ve exhausted the information on their website. Now, go to Glassdoor. Look at the reviews that people have left for the company. These will be reviews from people who interviewed there and also people who have worked there. Some of the feedback can get quite… candid. You can also get useful tidbits here. For example, one person who interviewed for a System Administrator position mentions they asked a lot of questions about AWS, which is Amazon’s cloud solution. Funny thing is, you’re very interested in branching out into cloud security once you do your time in the help desk. Add that to your note card and keep looking. Now, you come across a review from someone who used to work there that really liked the atmosphere. They mention that the office has a game room with a foosball table, and you love foosball. It’s not work related, really, but add it to your note card anyhow and we’ll see if you can use it later.

Repeat the process with job sites like Monster and Indeed. See if you can find a list of the technologies they use in their job postings. And you guessed it: add anything you find that appeals to you or stands out to your note card.

Now, when you’re asked why you want to work here, you can use your findings to make your answer stand out from everyone else’s. Here’s a sample answer for our example company:

I’d like to work here for a few reasons. First, Acme Bank’s values align with my own. I really like what you all are doing with your “Rise Together” program that’s aimed at helping low income families get into a home they can afford. My parents were dinged by private mortgage insurance for almost ten years until they were able to refinance out of it, so this program hits close to home for me. I’m also excited by the technology you’re using here. I noticed that you leverage AWS, which I’d like to learn to administer. I’m planning on doing an AWS certification next, as a matter of fact. [But the main reason I’d like to work here is that I heard you have a foosball table here. I was originally going to go pro with that, but a hand injury lost me my college scholarship. IT was my fallback plan.]

Most of that answer probably made sense to you, but you may have arched an eyebrow at my inclusion of the foosball joke at the end. You’ll notice I put it in brackets – I did that to indicate that you should make a judgment call on whether or not to include it. Allow me a brief aside to talk about my feelings about including humor or non-work related talk in a job interview.

You should have many tools in your interviewing toolbox and rapport-building is one such tool. To continue the toolbox analogy, if rapport-building is a screwdriver, then humor is the screw. That is to say that humor can be a useful way to build rapport.

However, do not use it if you don’t feel it will be well received. Let the interviewer set the tone for the interview. If they don’t crack a smile and are completely formal, then do not use humor! If their tone is light and conversational, you can use very light humor (as in the foosball example) during the interview.

Needless to say, your humor should be in good taste, not offensive, and not over the top. The last thing you want is to come across as immature! Humor should also serve a purpose. In my foosball example, that purpose is to show that you are the kind of person who would fit in with the office culture. And who knows, maybe your interviewer plays foosball as well and you can bond over that?

Now, go out there and start researching the companies you’re applying to and one day you too can work in a place that has a foosball table!

With each post, I cover a new topic to help you get your start (or keep progressing) in your IT career. If it’s your first time visiting this blog, start here. And make sure to check out these top interview questions before you start interviewing!

Author: Silicon Wanderer

I'm a merry wanderer on the path to financial independence through IT. I'm doing it, and I want to show you how you can to!

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