When the question “What interests you about this position?” comes up in a job interview, it can be a little bit of a curveball. Mostly because your mindset at that very moment is going to be very forward thinking. You’ll be getting questions related to the job, your experience, and you won’t be thinking as introverted as you might be thinking you are. And in reality, that’s the purpose of the question being asked by the interviewer. They are somewhat intentionally trying to throw you off track. It’s not as though they are purposefully trying to harm you, they are legitimately going through an exercise with you at that very moment. The purpose of the exercise for the interviewer to see how well you can communicate when you are having to think on your feet. And how well you can be prepared when you are coming to the interview in the first place. So take the question with a high spirit and this guide, in particular, will help you to understand how you might better prepare for the question to come up. Because most likely, the question will come up.
Before we jump into ways of answering this question, lets first try to understand what the interviewer is trying to get from the question itself. That will help us to determine what type of answer is best in this scenario. First, you should be thinking about your initial interview session. For example, have you already gone over your previous experience? Have you already discussed what your personal and career goals are in life? These are important prerequisites to answering the question because if the interviewer doesn’t know these things yet, then you’ll want to use those as opportunities to inform him or her. I’ll explain a little bit on why. If the interviewer doesn’t know anything about you yet, meaning your personal goals or your career goals, then the answers they are looking for is something related to why you are interviewing for that particular position as it correlates to your life or career goals. But then if the interviewer doesn’t know that information yet, they actually may be asking you the question on the defensive. Meaning, they aren’t entirely sure if you are a true fit for the position. And they are looking for some type of information that is going to help them determine that. See how drastic of a difference the outcome to the question can be based on the initial conversations you may have had with the interview will be.
Other guides will tell you that you have to be enthusiastic and that the delivery of your answer needs to carry a specific tone. And while that is true, you really have to strategize your communication, like in the examples above. Really think to yourself, what is the interviewer trying to understand about me? Remember that in interview sessions, interviewers are going to be limited to the types of questions that they can ask. Because of that, they sort of has to go around the direct question and be a little more indirect. And your goal should simply be to try and secure as much confidence in you being the perfect fit for the position so that they pick you over the other candidates.
So let's go through a mock answer to the question but let's go ahead and presume that you haven’t told the interviewer about your passions yet. Remember that the passions include both personal and career-related passions, they want to know both. If you are expressing information about your personal passions that show you really don’t have any willingness to develop above and beyond what the job is asking, then you won’t be heavily considered for the position. Think about it, would you hire someone who doesn’t really have their heart in what they’re doing? Work shouldn’t be work, it should be something you love to do, something you are passionate about. Interviewers will be looking for that.
What interests you about this position?
There’s a long list of reasons for why this position interests me. But let's start from where my heart is. I have a personal passion for this industry, if I weren’t working within the industry I would be spending all of my free time trying to learn more about it. Its something I just can’t put down, like a good book. So, first and foremost the ability for me to learn is what interests me about this position. I get to utilize my talents as well as be involved in a space which I have a high degree of passion about and learn above my current skill sets. The position as a whole fits in with my personal desires to have career mobility, allowing me to blossom into a manager one day. To me, the experience of this position is almost as if I’m gaining another type of compensation.
In that mock interview answer, you can see how it was answered in a way that really shared part of your personal goals. Because I don’t know exactly what job you are applying for, it would be best if you replace industry commentary with the particular functions of the job you will be doing. For example, if its graphic design, then is sure that you are expressing how graphic design is a passion of yours and that even on the weekends you are always playing around with the opportunity to create and be creative. Try to think about aligning yourself with the functions of the job.
Speaking to the particular problems that you might be facing inside the job is also another great thing to bring up here. Because you can be just as passionate about the types of problems you’ll be solving as the job itself. Try to describe it as if you are addicted to puzzles and the act of solving the puzzles is rewarding and gratifying. That’s how you’ll want to deliver your answer.
Now let's go through an example where you already told the interviewer about your personal and career goals. The interviewer here, as a reminder, will be a little bit more on the defensive. They aren’t entirely sure if you are a fit for the position and are looking for a reason that you are. The most important task right now would be to understand who you are speaking to, think of it almost like a poker game. You are playing the opponent. So with that in mind, try to think about who the person is before you answer. But let's go through an example.
What interests you about this position?
I can understand how my prior experience might not exactly communicate a perfect fit for the position. Or even with some of the ways I’ve answered questions in this interview. But what I can say is that my passion for the story that this Company is developing is deep and that I’m looking to provide any sort of contributions I can to display my excellence. My heart is with the vision and mission of this Company. And I’d be happy to share my personal and career goals with you and explain how that fits in with my personal passion for this position.
See how we answered that slightly different? We want to allude to the fact that we understand there are some communication gaps that need to be filled. If you have personal experience which doesn’t exactly line up to the position, this question is absolutely going to be asked in your interview. Being upfront about that is going to be far more helpful for you in the long run. A way that we could have improved the answer to this question would have been to have research prepared about the Companies missions. You probably should do that in advance. Learn about the CEO, learn about why the company was started, learn about where they are going. If you can share an anecdote that’s related to the origins of the company, then you’ll be increasing your odds that the delivery of the answer is going to be taken well. Because simply showing that you’ve done your homework and have a deep passion for that particular business, in itself, sort of answers the question about what interests you with regard to the position. See how that works?
Mistakes you can make
The biggest mistake you can make when trying to answer this question is to have pretty bland answers. If you just say “I have a strong passion for this position because I’m a problem solver” then you aren’t going to do very well. That, most likely, will be what every other candidate says. And that’s exactly the purpose of the question for the interviewer, to find out on a deeper level who is willing to go above and beyond. Because that person will be the best fit and perform the fullest. Most other guides on answering this question provide pretty bland answers. Absolutely, do not use those. Express your self-interest, be personable and try to consider what other candidates may have said. Be different from those.
Preparing & Last Tricks
Any type of early preparation for this question can be done through a simple google search. You should be able to find the founding story of most companies by simply searching for the company itself or the parent company that it may be part of. Recent press or news articles are also very helpful in understanding where the company is trying to go, where their mission lays. You can also simply ask that right up front. Just be very forward and say, “I’ve done a healthy amount of research about the company and I feel like I understand what the mission is but can you help me to understand on a deeper level?” The manager you are interviewing with will absolutely appreciate that question and will be extremely likely to answer it. And that will also provide you with the platform to better explain how the mission fits with your personal life story. Just remember that all of these curveball type questions are there to gather information about you and how that relates to the fit of the company, not just the position.
The only other trick I can mention is something you have to be willing to read the room on. And that’s answering this question with another question, “What wouldn’t interest me in the position?” — this is a little sales-like of the answer, yes. But what’s really critical to this delivery of an answer is that you are confident enough that you can then ramble on about all the reasons why you would be interested in the position. For instance, you would say “What wouldn’t interest me in the position? I get to work with Matt, I get to handle graphic design requests, I get exposure to Adobe Illustrator, I get to be involved in new initiatives.” See what I’m doing there? I’m putting together almost a checklist. Now in my example, I used some pretty vague scenarios. You’ll want to be very specific and almost scientific about the scenarios. And that can be hard to do. The reason this works is that you are showing just how confident you are as it relates to knowing exactly what the position requires. And that in itself, answers the interviewer's needs. But be careful with this, it can go horribly wrong if you are using vague scenarios as I did above, it will make you seem arrogant and difficult to work with. So the only time of which I would recommend this delivery is when you feel you can slightly playful with the interviewer and that you are feeling the friendship chemistry develop.
If you have any other thoughts about this question, please feel free to contact me. Understand that you’ll need to practice your delivery with a friend in advance. Though, for this type of question, you’ll need to be reading the room. Meaning, really trying to place your efforts into an empathetic point of view and connecting with the interviewer on a much deeper level.