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How to Answer: ‘Why Are You Applying for This Position?’

Interviewer asking why are you applying for this position

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When it comes to common interview questions, “Why are you applying for this position?” is one of the questions you can always plan on the hiring manager asking. That makes it one of the easier questions to prepare for, but you have to understand yourself professionally and personally first.

In this guide, we’ll explain why employers ask this question and what kind of answer they’re looking for:

Why Employers Ask, ‘Why Are You Applying for This Position?’

Asking, “Why are you applying for this position?” seems like a trick question. Obviously, you’re applying because you want the job! However, there are three general reasons an employer asks these questions, and none are meant to trip you up.

First, the employer is trying to find out if you researched the role and can explain why you want the job. “Employers tend to ask this to assess if a job seeker has thought about their fit for the role,” explains Laci Baker, MEd, CCMC, CPRW, NCOPE, and career advisor at the University of Phoenix. Some people apply for a job without knowing much about the position (or being qualified for it) because it “sounds cool” or it’s in a field they want to work in. 

Likewise, employers ask why you’re applying for the position because they want to see if you’ve done your homework on the company. People often apply for roles at a well-known company because it has an excellent reputation, pay, and benefits. But those things alone don’t mean the company is the right place for you or that you should work there.

>>MORE: What Is Company Culture (and Why Does It Matter)?

And finally, employers ask why someone is applying for the role to find out if the job seeker knows themselves. Whether it’s your first job, a step up, or a career change, the employer wants to see if you have a career plan and how this job at this company fits into those plans.

Other Ways Employers Ask This Question

While “Why are you applying for this position?” is one way to ask, be on the lookout for other ways it can be rephrased:

  • Why are you interested in the role?
  • Why did you apply for the job?
  • What about the job description/posting excited you?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why do you want to work for us?

Basically, anytime an interviewer is asking what your motivations for applying are, they want you to explain how the job fits into your short- and long-term career goals.

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How to Answer ‘Why Are You Applying for This Position?’

Knowing why employers ask why you’re applying for the job is half the battle. The other half is preparing an answer that makes sense and explains not just why you want the job but how the job is a good fit for you.

1. Know Why You Want the Job

This may seem somewhat obvious, but it’s important to know why you want the job. Is it a step up in responsibility? A job that exposes you to a lot of industries? A chance for you to hone existing skills while developing new ones?

You can discuss the opportunity for skill development and growth the position offers. Explain how the role aligns with your desire to expand your knowledge, learn new job skills, and take on new challenges.

Or, you can talk about the importance of cultural fit and how it played a role in your decision to apply for the position. Elaborate on how the company’s culture resonates with your own values and working style, creating an environment where you know you can thrive and make a meaningful impact.

Expert Tip

To truly stand out, make a connection between your past experiences and how they align with the future potential of the position. This shows the interviewer you not only have the necessary skills and experience now, but also a clear vision of how you can contribute and add value to the company in the future.

2. Do Some Recon

Because you can pretty much count on being asked why you’re applying for the position, do some recon before the interview to help you prepare your response.

While you’ll likely remember your initial motivation for applying, review the job description and company’s website to get a deeper understanding of what the role entails and what the company is all about. Pick out a few details that excite you, and figure out how those details fit into your career goals.

Conducting thorough research on the company, its values and culture, and the specific role you’re applying for. This research can help you tailor your answer and demonstrate your genuine interest in and understanding of the company.

>>MORE: 5 Common Interview Questions for All Careers

3. Give Specific Examples

As you frame your answer, make sure you include specifics. For example, you might be excited about the company’s mission because it aligns with your career goals or even personal beliefs. However, simply saying, “I applied for the job because I like the mission,” likely won’t be enough to impress the interviewer.

Try to be more detailed. Explain what you like about the mission and how that aligns with what you do and why you do it. Aligning your personal goals and aspirations with the company’s mission, values, and long-term prospects can showcase your motivation and commitment to contributing to the company’s success.

For example, you could say, “I was researching the company and discovered that a big part of your mission is social impact. I really like the idea of working for a company that donates 20% of every sale to the XYZ charity because that’s a cause I believe in and want to support.”

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‘Why Are You Applying for This Position?’ Example Answers

Here are a few sample answers to help you answer, “Why are you applying for this position?”

Example 1:

One thing that really excited me about the role was the opportunity to work with a global client base. I love traveling and immersing myself in new cultures. However, I am not cut out for a nomadic lifestyle! This job would allow me to continue meeting people from other cultures and learn from them without having to pick up and move every few weeks.

Example 2:

In my current role, I’ve done all I can do. It’s a small company that’s stable, but there’s no way for me to move up or expand my job duties so I can learn more. Because this company is bigger, I’ll have more long-term opportunities that align with my career plans. And this role is a step up for me since I’ve never managed more than two accounts at a time, so I’m looking forward to the challenges that will bring.

How Not to Answer ‘Why Are You Applying for This Position?’

While answering “why are you applying for this position?” requires you to frame the answer around yourself (your reasons for applying, your career goals), the trick is to keep your answer focused on the professional aspects of the company and the job, not the personal benefits you may receive.

“The one way I see things going sideways is when job seekers answer it by saying something like, ‘I applied to this job because it’s remote and I wanted a remote job,’” warns Baker. “That level of interest in a role might put off hiring folks because it’s focusing on the setting and not, say, the culture of the company or [the job] being the natural next step in a job seeker’s career.”

Other ways to not answer the question are:

I really, really, really need a job!

My parents/partner said I should apply here.

I think you’re a really cool company and would love to work here.

I don’t know.

For more guidance on the job application process, explore our Job Application Basics series below. This five-part series will show you how to increase your chances of getting hired. Start with the intro, then check out all five parts:

Prepare for other common interview questions:

Image credit: Wavebreakmedia / Depositphotos.com

Rachel Pelta is the Head Writer at Forage. Previously, she was a Content Specialist at FlexJobs, writing articles for job seekers and employers. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, The Ladders, MSN, and Money Talks News.

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