10+ Answers to "Why Are You Interested in This Position?" (+ How to Answer) [2020]

When employers ask, “Why did you apply for this position?” or "Why are you interested in this position?" it might seem obvious to the job seeker. Of course, the job seeker applied to the position because they need an income. But that’s not what the employer is looking for nor asking. This standard first interview question initiates the conversation between the candidate and the hiring manager and can guide the remainder of the interview.

Variations of this interview question that can be asked on a phone interview, Zoom interview, or face-to-face job interview include:

  • “Why are you applying for this job?”
  • “Why are you applying for this position?”
  • “Why are you interested in this position?”
  • “What interests you about this position?”

Tip: Don't confuse this with other common job interview questions like, "Why do you want to work here?" or "Why do you want to work at this company?"

Jared Brox describes, "passionate employees are engaged employees. They believe in the work they do and that they have a vested interest in the success of their company." As Jared alludes, passion is precisely the reason why this interview question is prompted to candidates.

Why do employers try to gauge the passions of their employees before hiring them?

It comes down to employee turnover or “churn.” In human resources, turnover is the act of replacing an employee with a new employee. And hiring managers and human resources teams often measure employee turnover rate or employee turnover ratio. Anja Zojceska of TalentLyft describes employee turnover as “a measurement of how many employees are leaving a company.”

Anja Zojceska goes on to explain this problematic issue for employers, “A high employee turnover rate is an expensive problem. When employees leave, a company has to replace them with new hires. Replacing employees costs a lot of money. According to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research, direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary.”

This problem is precisely why the hiring manager or recruiter asks this interview question, to prevent employee turnover.

what interests you about this position

Why This Question is Asked

When the hiring manager asks this question, it’s about gauging interest and passion. Interest and passion help prevent employee turnover rate within the company. If an employee has a high degree of passion for their work, it’s far less likely that they will become frustrated and feel the need to resign.

Suppose the interviewer hears a calculated answer from the job candidate. In that case, they can feel more comfortable and confident knowing that the candidate and potential employee has intention with their work and with the employment opportunity. Also, the reason should be sufficient to show long-term commitment to the business, rather than learning a skill quickly and moving onto a new job opportunity, resulting in more employee turnover.

Suppose a job candidate hears this interview question. The candidate should think of the keyword’s passion and relevance.

How to Answer “Why Did You Apply for This Position?”

To answer this interview question correctly, the candidate must have two pieces of relevant information to compare and contrast. The first piece of information is career aspirations. The second piece of data is the job description or work culture (or company culture).

Career aspirations

The first step in answering this interview question is understanding career aspirations as a candidate. The goal of the aspirations is to have a career path in mind that the candidate will share with the potential employer.

For example, knowing that the employee has career goals and aspirations can become an executive-level manager one day. The purpose of becoming an executive-level manager is not what’s going to be shared with the hiring manager.

Take time to consider how this job will align with those career aspirations and the career path. Write down one to three bullet points that describe career goals that are 5-years or more from the current date.

Job opportunity

The next step in answering this question and structuring the right answer is to determine what the job will provide the candidate along the way of the career path uncovered in the first step. Look through the company website, LinkedIn, and other brand assets to determine what opportunities are available within the company.

Review the job description or job advertisement to get a sense of what the job title and role will expose the future employee to. Use that information to assist in structuring a contrast and comparative.

For example, presuming the employee wants to become a CTO. And the position is a software engineering management position. Here is what the answer might look like:

“One day, I’d love to become a CTO. I’ve worked with several CTO’s that have become mentors to me. And I would love to become more like them. To do that, I have to start small. And gaining experience in a software engineering management position will expose me to communication, coordination, and goals that I have not yet been held accountable for in the past. I feel ready for that.”

Another example, presuming the employee wants to run their own business someday. And the position is a retail position. Here is what the answer might look like:

"A substantial career aspiration for me is to develop a brand with a healthy amount of customer loyalty. And do so by executing what I see this company doing. That includes great customer service, knowledge of products, customized and tailored ways of addressing the customer problem, and building a long-lasting relationship with the customer through high-quality services. While it's an aspiration of mine to become a manager or maybe one day have my own business, I see a long road ahead where I need to gain proper knowledge, experience, skills, and expertise in the field. This position will expose me to some of those skills and the proper knowledge to start my career path. I'm able to use my knowledge of the products and services to provide an optimal experience for the customer. And then in return, learn more about how to operationalize and commercialize a business of this kind."

Another way to think about this step is to consider what the particular position will allow the candidate to gain, allowing them to gain work experience, soft skills, hard skills (like a specific technical skill), or other intangible assets.

Putting it all together

To structure a great answer to this question, it’s about finding the employer and the employee’s aligned opportunity. The employer will ask qualifying questions that will help them gain further insight into what value they will receive if they choose to provide a job offer.

But to get that step, the candidate must display conscious reasoning for why they are applying for the position. The reason needs to consist of career aspirations, an opportunity to develop skills or experience in the job opportunity, and a shared understanding between the employer and employee.

Once the candidate has demonstrated their reason for applying to the position, it is optional, but encouraged to ask the interviewer a question. A great question to ask is, “Do you feel like this job opportunity aligns well with those career objectives?”

The question won’t distract from the remainder of the interview. And can encourage a more informal discussion between interviewer and interviewee.

A job candidate should answer the interview question in under 90-seconds to keep the hiring manager or recruiter engaged. To achieve this, the job applicant should perform a “mock interview” with a friend or family member to help recite the interview answer more effectively.

Good and Bad Example Answer

Here is an example of a wrong answer and a good answer to this question to put the method to use.

Wrong answer: “This is my dream job. I noticed this came up on my job alerts. And I noticed how much compensation the position was providing. I have a family at home, three young children, and a wife. And I have to say; it’s costly to have kids these days. This position is going to provide me the opportunity to give my family a new life. And that’s something that I can’t pass up.”

This is an example of answering this common interview question the wrong way. It focuses on employee benefits and compensation rather than an exchange of value between the employer and employee. Job seekers should avoid speaking about company or employee benefits (healthcare, free food, or other benefits) when answering this question.

Strong answer: “I’ve had the opportunity to be mentored by several medical professionals in my career. A hospital administrator who was very passionate about patient care: she worked closely with the nurses to provide optimal care guidelines for us to follow. I learned so much working with that hospital administrator. One day, I hope to begin to advance myself toward a management position that allows me to mentor others much as she did for myself. To get to that point in my career, there are skills and abilities that I need to develop. The only way to do that is by being exposed to them and making mistakes but learn from them. This job opportunity provides me the chance to use my current knowledge and skillsets while gaining some managerial experience.”

Tip: Explaining to an interviewer or hiring manager how an interview answer was "arrived at" is a great way to show the level of thought put behind each interview answer. In addition, it can assist the interviewer or the hiring manager with more clearly comprehending the answer. Since it provides the "background" on how the interviewee arrived at the response. Be sure the explanation doesn't push the interview answer past a 90-second response.

There is no “perfect answer” to this interview question since a candidate can’t predict what the hiring manager is seeking from an ideal candidate. But the example above displays a more robust way to position the candidate for the opportunity and answer the job interview question appropriately.

Example Answers to “Why Did You Apply For This Position?”

Below are sample answers to the interview question, “Why did you apply for this position?” and "Why are you interested in this position?"

Sample answer: “If you take a look at my previous experience, you can see that I’ve had a long history of working within the software engineering industry. And I’ve been an individual contributor for several years. I was working closely with CTO’s and other Vice Presidents. I’ve received a healthy amount of mentorship. And I feel ready to move onto the next steps in my career. One day, I would like to become a CTO myself and mentor other software engineers who have the same passion for the industry. To get there, I believe it’s going to be crucial that I learn to manage software engineers using the mentorship I’ve received. And apply my skills. I noticed this job during my job search, as it has the opportunity to work with a small engineering team. And that seems like a great fit for me and my skills.”

Sample answer: “I’ve spent many years as a Product Designer. I was working closely with companies like Apple, Netflix, and Facebook. I’ve learned a significant amount while working with these great companies. But unfortunately, with my current job, there is a lack of upward mobility that would provide me the opportunity to be in a managerial position. And this is something that I desire to do with my career. This position appeals to me because it has several opportunities to work closely with other designers, marketers, managers, and seems like a good fit for my skills.”

Sample answer: “I was thrilled with my previous job. I was exposed to multiple departments, the marketing department, the sales department, and more. But I started to feel as though I’ve learned all that I could from the job. And I decided I needed to be exposed to a new industry. I want to join an industry where I have more passion for the mission and the problems being solved. I noticed this opportunity during my job search and decided to apply. This job opportunity would allow me to use my skill sets while applying them to a new industry, allowing me to make a career transition more smoothly.”

Sample answer: "This position is one that will expose me to retail experience that will be pivotal in my career. When I think of this company, I think of being able to provide a world-class customer experience and high-quality product with short and minimal wait times for customers. When I enter the retail location, I'm always taken care of quickly. And addressed as a customer almost immediately. This tells me the coordination and high caliber of training that each employee receives is something that I will be able to benefit from in my career."

Sample answer: "When I see how many customers are loyal to this brand on social media, it's inspiring to me. The brand is clearly resonant with multiple people across the country. Multiple lives and stories. Building a brand like that is something that's very difficult to do. If I can be exposed to maintaining a brand of that caliber, maybe one day I can learn how to develop a brand of my own. While I don't have those aspirations in the near-term. I would like to start my own business one day. And this experience can be very helpful in me learning how to establish trust with customers and provide them a service they're happy with."

Sample answer: "When I visit one of the store locations, I notice a great deal of teamwork amongst the associates and the employees. I notice that each person coordinates with the other colleague efficiently and with ease. This tells me that the work environment is about providing value to other associates, working together, team building, and ensuring that effort pays off for the customer. I'd like to be around others who are passionate about the same things I am, which includes the products at the store. Assisting customers seems like tapping into passions, rather than "doing a duty," I'd really like to be around others who are like myself."

Sample answer: "I have always had a passion for the products offered here. For me, I've been a customer for a number of years. And I've admired the work environment, customer experience, and the end product. If I can be around products that inspire me, this would be a true gift. I can learn great cash handling skills, retail skills, and customer service skills. While being able to use my knowledge of the products and services to my advantage. And provide the customer with a wonderful experience. I feel this is a great exchange of value between me the employee and the employer."

Sample answer: "A substantial career aspiration for me is to develop a brand with a healthy amount of customer loyalty. And do so by executing what I see this company doing. That includes great customer service, knowledge of products, customized and tailored ways of addressing the customer problem, and building a long-lasting relationship with the customer through high-quality services. While it's an aspiration of mine to become a manager or maybe one day have my own business, I see a long road ahead where I need to gain proper knowledge, experience, skills, and expertise in the field. This position will expose me to some of those skills and the proper knowledge to start my career path. I'm able to use my knowledge of the products and services to provide an optimal experience for the customer. And then in return, learn more about how to operationalize and commercialize a business of this kind."

Sample answer: "Currently I'm a software engineer at [XYZ Company], but I'm not exposed to much of the marketing department or sales department objectives. For me, this is a significant loss in being able to gain upward mobility in my career. Without being able to see where my work gets applied. Or trying to connect with stakeholders about how my work needs to be utilized, I'm not able to fully develop software that can be assistive to my teammates. In this position, it sounds like a key part of it is having a multidisciplinary experience and communicating with teammates across multiple disciplines. This will be a value for me. And I will be able to apply my senior engineering skills to the company and hopefully achieve great results together."

Sample Answer for Customer Service

Sample answer: I've had customer service issues that I've addressed with this company in the past. I've always experienced something wonderful from the team. While other customer service issues I've had at other companies were not as optimal of a customer experience. It's clear the training, teamwork, and collaboration are world-class here. That's why I want to work here.

Sample Answer for Software Engineering

Sample answer: I'm interested in this position because it appears like the engineers will have to work closely with other disciplines in the business. In my prior job, I wasn't exposed to other disciplines and departments. This didn't let me understand how my work was being utilized, which could have allowed me to advance the software or engineering efforts. Being exposed to other departments will force me to write better software, communicate effectively, and deliver a result for the teams in a more direct fashion.

FAQ’s

Common questions from job seekers.

What part of the interview process is this question asked most frequently?

Most commonly, this question is asked as a qualifying question during the phone interview. When the employer decides to invite the candidate to a face-to-face interview (or the “second interview”), the employer should understand the candidate’s underlying passions and reason for applying to the position.

Is this a behavioral question?

No. A behavioral interview question starts with “Tell me about a time..” and presents the opportunity to share a structured story that helps employers predict future work performance. The interview question “Why did you apply for this job?” is more closely related to an icebreaker question, where it initiates a conversation.

What should I do if my interview answer isn’t clear?

While answering the interview question, if it feels as though the hiring manager doesn’t clearly understand the reason for applying to the position, start over. It’s okay to say, “You know what, this doesn’t sound like I’m communicating this clearly; let me start over, is that okay?” The hiring manager will accommodate this request and appreciate that the candidate is listening to themselves communicate and desiring to start over.

What if the question is "Why are you interested in this company?"

That's a variation of this question. And while the answer structure should be the same, the response should contain details of the work culture, products, services, history of the company, or objectives of the company. And then how those objectives will serve the candidate well in their career. Remember, this is not the same question as "Why are you interested in this position?" Because the keyword is position and company. The interviewer is asking about a different set of requirements from the candidate. If this question is asked, only speak about why the company is unique, not what the position can provide in terms of career path development.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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