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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

Why do you want to work here? The best and worst answers to this common interview question

23 min read
Why do you want to work here? The best and worst answers to this common interview question
Artwork by:Lizabeth Zaft
The notorious "Why do you want to work here?" question can feel like a high-stakes moment in any job interview. It's a chance to demonstrate your genuine interest in the company, but it can be tricky to articulate an authentic and engaging response.

Don’t worry—this common interview question is your chance to shine! It's an opportunity to demonstrate your research, passion, and how your unique skills align with the company's goals.

In this guide, we'll break down the purpose behind this question, provide a framework for crafting a compelling answer, and offer practical tips to help you stand out from the competition. We'll also share real-life examples to inspire your response.

Alongside our online CV builder, expert tools and CV examples, we'll help you confidently navigate the interview process and secure your next job role.

Professional tip

When being interviewed, go beyond generic answers like "I want to make a difference in the world" or "I'm really hard-working." Research the company's mission, values, and recent projects, and tailor your response to show how your skills and experience can contribute to their specific goals.

Why do employers even ask this question?

You might roll your eyes at the classic "Why do you want to work for us?" question. It can feel like a pointless formality – after all, you wouldn't be interviewing if you weren't interested, right?

But beneath the surface, this question is a powerful tool for hiring managers. It's a glimpse into your motivations, preparation, and potential fit within the company. 

The question offers a unique opportunity for both you and the hiring manager:

  • For you: It's a chance to showcase your proactive nature. Did you take the initiative to research the company beyond the job description? Sharing what resonated with you – the company's mission, values, innovative projects, or its positive impact on the community – demonstrates your genuine interest.
  • For the hiring manager: It's a window into your enthusiasm. Are you genuinely excited about contributing to this team and company, or are you simply seeking any available job? Your answer reveals your passion and highlights the aspects of the role that truly spark your interest.
  • For both of you: It's a conversation about alignment. Do your personal career goals align with the company's vision and values? A thoughtful response will illustrate how your unique skills and ambitions complement the company's culture and objectives.
Statistical insight

According to Stats NZ, the employment rate in New Zealand was 69.2% in Q4 of 2023, meaning around 69 out of every 100 people aged 15 and over were employed, a significantly higher result than in previous years. 

The interview danger zone: three answers to steer clear of

We've all heard the adage, "There are no stupid questions." But when it comes to job interviews, there are some answers that can make you look... less than brilliant. The seemingly innocent "Why do you want to work for us?" is a prime example.

Let's explore three responses that are more likely to steer you towards rejection than a job offer:

  1. "I just need a job right now."

While feeling excited about a job opportunity is natural, it's crucial to avoid conveying desperation during an interview. Responding with "Because I really need a job" can paint you as someone merely looking to fill a gap in their resume rather than actively seeking a meaningful career move. This can be off-putting to potential employers, as it suggests a lack of genuine interest in the specific company and role.

Moreover, this type of answer implies that you haven't taken the time to consider whether this company is the right fit for you. It raises concerns about your motivations and whether you're genuinely interested in the company's mission, values, and culture. This lack of consideration can make you appear less invested in the company's long-term success, which is a red flag for many hiring managers.

Remember, a job interview is a two-way street. It's not just about the company assessing your qualifications; it's also an opportunity for you to assess whether the company aligns with your individual career goals and aspirations. 

By avoiding desperate responses and focusing on demonstrating your genuine interest and alignment with the company, you can leave a lasting positive impression on employers and increase your chances of securing a fulfilling and rewarding career move.

Professional tip

Instead of focusing solely on what the company can do for you, emphasise how your skills and experience can benefit the company. Explain how your unique strengths align with their needs and how you can contribute to their success. This shows that you're not just looking for a job, but a place where you can make a meaningful impact.

  1. "I just need the money."

Honesty is usually a good thing, but saying "I need the money" bluntly during a job interview can backfire. This answer raises serious concerns for potential employers, suggesting that your motivation for wanting the job is purely financial rather than a genuine interest in the company or the role itself. This can make them question your commitment and dedication.

If your primary focus is on the paycheck, the interviewer might worry that you'll jump ship as soon as a higher-paying opportunity comes along. This lack of loyalty can be a major turnoff for companies seeking employees who are invested in their long-term success. Furthermore, it implies you might not be passionate about the work itself, which could lead to lower engagement and performance.

Remember, a job interview is about finding the right fit for both you and the company. While financial stability is important, it's equally important to show that you're excited about the company's mission, values, and culture. By highlighting your genuine interest and enthusiasm for the role, you present yourself as a motivated candidate who is more likely to stay engaged and contribute meaningfully to the team over the long haul.

Professional tip

Don't just memorise a scripted answer. Practice your response out loud, focusing on natural delivery and enthusiasm. Use confident body language, make eye contact, and speak with conviction. This will help you convey your genuine interest and passion.

  1. "I think this job would be a good stepping stone."

Finally, while ambition is a positive trait, expressing during an interview that you see the job primarily as a "stepping stone" can have unintended consequences. This type of response can signal to potential employers that you're not genuinely invested in their company's long-term success. It can raise concerns that you're more focused on your individual career trajectory than contributing to the team and company growth.

Hiring managers typically want to invest in employees committed to growing with the company, not those who view the position as a temporary launchpad to something else. If you frame the job as a stepping stone, it can make the interviewer wonder how long you'll stay, how dedicated you'll be to your work, and whether you'll genuinely be invested in the company's mission and values.

Focus on how your skills and experience can benefit the company now and in the future, and express your enthusiasm for being part of a team working towards shared objectives. By showcasing your commitment to the company's growth and development, you'll present yourself as a valuable asset worth investing in.

Professional tip

To make your answer even more compelling, weave in a personal anecdote that illustrates your connection to the company's values or mission. 

For instance, you might share a brief story about how a company initiative resonated with you, or how a particular product or service positively impacted your life. This personal touch demonstrates authenticity and helps you stand out from other candidates.

Master your interview: 5 best answers to help you impress employers

With the interview pitfalls behind us, it's time to unlock the potential of the "Why do you want to work for us?" question. Consider it your spotlight moment – a chance to illuminate your genuine interest, careful preparation, and how your values align with the values of the company. 

Here are five approaches that can leave a lasting positive impression:

  1. "I've been following your company's journey for some time, and I'm genuinely impressed by [specific accomplishment/innovation]."
  2. "I'm excited about the opportunity to contribute my skills in [specific area] to help [company name] achieve [specific goal]."
  3. "Your company's commitment to [core value] strongly aligns with my values and professional aspirations."
  4. "I've heard great things about your company culture from [source], and I'm eager to be part of a team that values [specific aspect of culture].
  5. "Your company's reputation for [positive trait] is something I admire, and I believe my work ethic/skills would be a strong fit."

Let’s begin with the first example:

  1. "I've been following your company's journey for some time, and I'm genuinely impressed by [specific accomplishment/innovation]."

This approach is all about demonstrating your proactive interest in the company. You're not just another applicant but an observer who has taken the time to learn about the company's successes, contributions, and overall trajectory. 

Referencing a specific achievement or innovation shows that your interest goes beyond generic admiration. You've done your research, and you're genuinely excited about the specific work the company is doing. This level of engagement can be highly appealing to potential employers, as it signals a candidate who is likely to be invested in the company's future.

Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a teacher: "I was inspired by the recent article about Kāwhia Point School's community outreach program and commitment to Kapa Haka. It's clear that you prioritise creating a holistic learning experience and culturally diverse space for students, which is something I truly value." 

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Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a lecturer: “I've been closely following Massey University's groundbreaking research in microbiology, particularly the recent advancements in population treatment. Your team's discoveries have not only expanded our understanding of microbe behaviour but also have the potential to revolutionise the field of medicine. I'm deeply impressed by the university's commitment to cutting-edge research, and it’s something I’d love to learn more about.” 

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  1. "I'm excited about the opportunity to contribute my skills in [specific area] to help [company name] achieve [specific goal]."

This approach is all about showcasing your value proposition. You're not just looking for any job; you're looking for a place where your specific talents and expertise can make a real difference. By linking your unique abilities directly to the company's objectives, you demonstrate a clear understanding of how you can add value to the team and contribute to its overall success.

Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for an architect: “With my experience in parametric design and BIM software, I’m confident I can contribute to Beca’s efforts to streamline the design process for clients and deliver projects more efficiently. I'm confident that my skills and expertise would be a valuable asset to the team, and I'm eager to contribute to Beca's ongoing efforts to push the boundaries of architectural design.”

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Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a structural engineer: “I’m keen to collaborate with Tonkin + Taylor's talented engineers and contribute my expertise in engineering to create innovative solutions that not only withstand the effects of climate change but also enhance the well-being and safety of our communities."

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  1. "Your company's commitment to [core value] strongly aligns with my values and professional aspirations."

Highlight a shared value that resonates with you. This approach is about more than just getting a job; it's about finding a company whose mission and values resonate with your own and discovering a workplace where your personal beliefs and career ambitions intersect harmoniously with the company's core principles. 

By highlighting a shared value – whether it's a dedication to sustainability, a passion for community, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, or an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction – you're not simply expressing admiration for the company's achievements. You're revealing a deeper connection, a sense of shared purpose that goes beyond merely wanting a paycheck. 

This resonance with the company's ethos can be a powerful differentiator in an interview. It demonstrates that you're not just seeking any job but a place where your work will be personally meaningful and fulfilling. It signals to potential employers that you're likely to be a passionate and engaged employee who is deeply invested in the company's mission and long-term success.

Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a dentist: “Manawatu Dentistry’s commitment to patient-centred care aligns perfectly with my dentistry philosophy. I believe in building strong relationships with patients, listening to their concerns, and tailoring treatment plans to their needs. I'm excited about the opportunity to be part of a team that shares my dedication to providing exceptional, personalised care that goes beyond simply treating dental issues."

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Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a doctor: “I’m passionate about addressing health disparities in the Wellington community, and I’m impressed by how Tuteremoana Health Clinic serves vulnerable populations in the Wellington region.  It would be an honour to be part of such a dedicated team that shares my passion for making a positive difference in the lives of those who need it most."

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  1. "I've heard great things about your company culture from [source], and I'm eager to be part of a team that values [specific aspect of culture]."


If you've networked with current or former employees or read positive reviews online, this is a great opportunity to mention it. Be specific about what aspect of the culture appeals to you—whether it's collaboration, professional development, or a supportive environment. 

By referencing your interactions with current or former employees or positive reviews you've read, you demonstrate a proactive approach to understanding the company's culture beyond what's presented on the website or in the job description. 

Be specific about what aspect of the culture resonates with you. Is it the collaborative work environment where ideas are openly shared? The focus on professional development and growth opportunities? The supportive and inclusive atmosphere that encourages diversity? Whatever it may be, tie it back to your own values and preferences. Explain why this aspect of the culture is important to you and how it aligns with your work style and career goals.

Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a caregiver: “I’ve spoken with Nolene, a current caregiver at Lincoln Care Village, and they raved about the supportive and collaborative team environment. I’m eager to be part of a team that values open communication and mutual respect, as I believe this is crucial for providing the best possible care to clients.” 

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Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a nurse: “I’ve had the pleasure of working with several nurses who currently work at Starship Hospital, and they spoke highly of the hospital’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, collaboration and patient care. I’m excited about working in a collaborative environment where everyone’s expertise is valued and respected.”

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  1. "Your company's reputation for [positive trait] is something I admire, and I believe my work ethic/skills would be a strong fit."

Identify a quality that the company is known for, such as its cutting-edge technology, commitment to customer service, or industry leadership. Explain how your strengths and experience align with this aspect of the company's identity. By identifying this quality and explaining how your own strengths and expertise align with it, you demonstrate a clear understanding of what makes the company unique and how you can contribute to their continued success.

Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for a lawyer:  "Sylvester Law Firm's track record of achieving successful outcomes for clients in complex litigation matters is truly remarkable. I believe my experience in immigration law and my ability to develop creative legal strategies would be a valuable asset to your team."

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Example

“Why do you want to work here?” sample answer for an executive: "Fonterra's focus on data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement aligns perfectly with my own management philosophy. I have a strong analytical background and a proven ability to leverage data to drive growth and profitability."

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The importance of researching the company

These responses are just a starting point. To truly shine, you need to do your homework! Before any interview, immerse yourself in the company's world:

  • Explore their online presence: Before any interview, take the time to thoroughly explore the company's online presence. Delve into their website, paying close attention to their "About Us" section, mission statement, values, and company culture pages. Comb through their social media channels, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, to get a sense of their brand personality and how they interact with their audience.
  • Leverage LinkedIn: Connect with current or former employees to gain insights into the company culture, day-to-day experience, and potential challenges or opportunities within the role.
  • Check employer review sites: While these platforms often provide a mix of positive and negative feedback, they can give you a broader picture of what it's like to work for the company.
  • Understand their industry: Research the company's competitors, market trends, and challenges. This broader context will enable you to demonstrate a well-rounded understanding of the company's position in the market and the potential opportunities and obstacles that lie ahead.

Remember, by preparing thoughtfully and answering with genuine enthusiasm, you'll leave a lasting impression on the hiring manager.

Professional tip

Show, don't just tell. Use specific examples from your research or past experiences to illustrate why you're a good fit for the company. 

Instead of saying, "I'm a problem solver," describe a time when you went above and beyond to achieve a goal that aligns with the company's values. This adds credibility to your claims and makes your answer more memorable.

Key takeaways

Mastering the art of answering the "Why do you want to work here?" question is crucial to leaving a positive impression on potential employers. It's your chance to showcase your passion, preparation, and alignment with the company's values and goals. 

By understanding the purpose of the question and avoiding common pitfalls, you can craft a compelling response that sets you apart from the competition.

To help you navigate this crucial aspect of the interview process, here are five key takeaways:

  1. Research is key: Go beyond the surface level and thoroughly research the company's website, social media, news articles, and employee reviews. This knowledge will help you tailor your answer to showcase your genuine interest and understanding of the company.
  2. Showcase your value: Don't just explain why you want the job; emphasise how your skills and experience align with the company's needs and goals. Be specific about how you can contribute to their success.
  3. Authenticity matters: Avoid generic or insincere responses. Show your passion for the company's mission, values, or specific projects. Share personal anecdotes that illustrate your connection to the company's culture or values.
  4. Avoid pitfalls: Avoid negative or self-centred answers like "I need a job" or "This job is a stepping stone." Instead, focus on your positive attributes and eagerness to contribute.
  5. Practice and refine: Rehearse your response beforehand to ensure smooth delivery and confidence. Practice varying your answer for different companies and situations.

Ready to land your dream job but unsure how to make your CV stand out? Don't let a lack of experience hold you back! With cvapp.nz, our intuitive online CV builder guides you step-by-step, offering expert tips and customisable templates to ensure your CV leaves a lasting impression. 

We’re here to help you confidently navigate the New Zealand job market and unlock exciting career opportunities. Visit cvapp.nz today and experience the difference a professionally crafted CV can make!

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