Certain questions in a job interview can make candidates (and even recruiters) roll their eyes because of how overplayed they are. “Why are you interested in this position?” is pretty high on that eye-roll list.
But this question is not a hurdle. If anything, it’s an opportunity for you to shine through and showcase your skills and resourcefulness.
All it takes is a bit of preparation and background knowledge on why they ask this question and what you should cover in your answer.
In this article, you’ll get to know:
- Why interviewers ask “why are you interested in this position?”
- How to prepare for this question and ace your answer
- Common mistakes to avoid when answering “why are you interested in this position?”
Don’t waste days compiling overused interview techniques. Get original answers to every single question you could expect.
What Are Interviewers Looking for When They Ask “Why Are You Interested in This Position?”
These are variations of this question the interviewer might ask you:
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why do you want this job?
- What interests you about this position?
- Why are you applying for this position?
And they ask these questions because they want to know:
- If your career goals are aligned with the position
- If you’re sincerely motivated
- How you can contribute to the team
- If you’ll stick around or jump ship at the first opportunity
When answering this question, it’s important to highlight your specific interest in the position rather than the company. Sure, you can’t escape talking about the company, especially if it’s your dream place to work, but this question is more about the day-to-day duties in your potential new job and your ability to do them well.
“Why are you interested in this position?” is a very similar question to “Why do you want to work here?” — but the angle is slightly different. Read this guide to know how to answer the latter: How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?” (Examples)
And don’t forget to prepare for all other interview “classics:”
- “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” Top Reasons, Examples, How to Answer
- “Describe Your Current Job Responsibilities:” Sample Answers
- “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” (Sample Answers + Tips)
- How to Answer: “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” (+ Examples)
- “What Are Your Strengths (and Weaknesses)”: Example Answers + Bonus Tips
- “Tell Me About Yourself” 20+ Sample Answers + How-to
- How to Answer “What Are Your Salary Expectations?” (+3 Templates)
- “Why Should We Hire You?” Best Answer Examples
- “Tell Me About a Time You Failed”: How to Answer + Examples
- “What Accomplishments Are You Most Proud Of?” 6 Examples
How to Prepare for the Question
In summary: Research the company starting from browsing their website and social media, to checking platforms like Glassdoor and forums like Quora or Reddit for first-hand information from past and current employees. You can also get in touch with these people to ask about company values and other significant information.
Then, carefully read the job description to spot key responsibilities and skills needed for this role and figure out if and how your experience and skills match the role.
Finally, make sure you’re genuinely interested in this role and that it fits into your career plans and interests, as that’s the only way you can be successful and satisfied in the long run.
Unless you prepare in advance, you won’t give them a good, informative answer that conveys your enthusiasm and qualifications. To prepare, you need to:
- Research the company
- Know how your skills align with the role
- Understand how the role fits into your career plan
Research the company
Having a solid grasp of the company will help you figure out if the role is right for you, if you’re a cultural fit, and if you can be successful and contribute in a meaningful way.
Here’s a little checklist to start researching the company:
- Visit their website (look for their mission, vision, values, and typical employees).
- Check out their social media accounts to feel the tone and figure out the culture.
- Look for the latest news about the company to stay in the loop.
- Check out platforms like Glassdoor to see the experiences of current and past employees.
- Check forums like Reddit or Quora, as they’re often full of relevant information you wouldn’t be able to find otherwise.
- Ask around and talk to current or past employees.
Doing this will help you figure out what the company needs, how you can help with them, and if you even belong in that position/company.
If you want more ideas on how to research the company and get ahead of your competition, check out this guide: The Job-Seeker’s Guide to Company Research.
Know how your skills align with the role
Study the job description carefully and then figure out how that role fits into the company’s system. Look for keywords that reveal key responsibilities and skills needed for the position and figure out what daily work in that role looks like, to whom you would report, and the team(s) you’d collaborate with.
Take a look at the job ad for a Customer Service role below, where we underlined keywords that inform candidates about the basics of the position.
Although this is a CS role, it’s different from a CS role in a call center, for example, where a person would need to take calls and handle customer problems or inquiries.
Finally, do a self-assessment to figure out if your skills align with the job requirements. Write down a list of your key hard and soft skills and how they might help you solve problems and be successful in a new role.
Understand how the role fits into your career plan
During the interviewing process, address growth opportunities within the company you’re applying for. Check if the skills and experience you’ll gain in the new role align with your long-term career objectives, and make sure you’re happy with the compensation and benefits package.
For this, you’ll need to do a lot of self-reflection to assess your goals and values. Do you want to be a leader? Or are you happy with deepening your expertise? What are the strengths and values you deem important in the workplace?
How to Answer “Why Are You Interested in This Role?”
In summary: Show your genuine enthusiasm and start your answer on a positive note.
Single out your main motivation for applying for this job: it can be the alignment between the job and your skills, your passion for the industry, interest in the company, career progression, and similar.
Bring up specific pieces of information you obtained during your research to showcase your interest and resourcefulness.
Finally, make sure this role is relevant and connected to your long-term career goals and emphasize that in your answer.
Now that you’ve run a background check, done a self-assessment, and have the relevant info, let’s see how you can best answer the question “Why are you interested in this role?”
Start on a positive note
Start your answer on a positive note, expressing your excitement about the job.
Besides your experience and skills, what will help you stand out from the competition is your sincere enthusiasm. Make sure to mention what excites you about the position — bonus points if that motivation is intrinsic (personal satisfaction or sense of purpose or achievement) instead of extrinsic (salary or benefits).
Open with one “main” motivator
For a snappier intro to the answer, choose one main motivator for your interest in the position and bring it up.
Examples of motivators are:
- The alignment between the job requirements and your skills
- Your passion for the industry or field
- Your interest in the company, alignment with its values or mission
- The impact you can make through your experience
- Growth and development opportunities; your career progression
- Any other factor, as long as it’s sincere and realistic
Here’s what Nate Nead, the CEO of RecruitersCO, had to say about his favorite answer to the question “Why do you want this job”:
My favorite answer was given by a candidate who was applying for the role of Chief Compliance Officer at an investment bank. He said, “Well, I never remember telling my mom when I was a kid: ‘I want to be a Chief Compliance Officer when I grow up.’ But I’ve truly gained a passion for working in regulation and compliance, and your opening just ticks all the boxes for me.”
See? Your answer doesn’t have to be glossy or exaggerated. Keep it simple but honest and you will do a great job.
✅ Pro tip: In addition to one “main” motivator we discussed above, include all the other relevant reasons that make you want the role. The more genuine you are, the better.
If your main motivation is career growth and development, you can talk about how the position is the perfect next step for you. Then, you can throw in all the relevant skills you have that will help you get up to speed and develop quickly, and how you’d like to contribute to the company. If their values resonate with you, explain why.
Or, if the position simply ticks all your boxes, explain why it is so. Emphasize your experience and why it aligns with the job, talk about your motivation, explain why you like the benefits the company offers, and express your enthusiasm.
At the end of the day, the best answer will be a truthful one. Sure, you could wing it and go with something generic, but nothing will beat genuine motivation.
Show your research and understanding of the role
Now is the time to show off all the information you have.
If you do your research properly, you’ll be able to prove why you’re a good fit and showcase your understanding of the role.
✅ Pro tip: When doing your research, keep your mind open to new ideas. If you see a gap that you could fill in for the prospective company, or something that can be fixed or improved — bring it up. It will show not only that you’re resourceful, but also that you have enough knowledge and relevant experience to spot areas of improvement and make strategic decisions on how to do it.
For example, imagine you’re a Social Media Manager who applied for a role in a B2B SaaS company. During your research of their social media channels, you noticed a lack of content variety (say, they mainly post textual product updates and their audience doesn’t engage with it). During your interview, you could bring it up and elaborate on your ideas on how to fix this.
A “green flag” for me is when a candidate talks about how they can contribute to our team. If they speak about specific strategies or ideas they have for our marketing or sales processes, that’s awesome (even if the strategies aren’t really viable, it shows they’re proactive).
Briefly connect the job with your long-term career objectives
Even if this isn’t one of your key motivators, find a way to briefly describe how and why the job fits with your long-term career goals.
Interviewers want to know that this is the right path for you, and they want you to feel in place and fulfilled — because happy employees are usually the best.
“Why Are You Interested in This Job?”: Sample Answers
No experience, HR
Why we like it: The candidate emphasized the alignment between their formal education and the role. They expressed their eagerness to learn, displayed they did their research and knew about the company and its initiatives. Finally, they elaborated on their internship experience to show what kind of knowledge they are bringing to the table as a starting point.
Why we like it: The candidate emphasized their competency for the role and backed it up with their biggest professional achievement. They also mentioned shared values and enthusiasm for the company’s product, as well as openness to learning and acquiring new skills.
Why we like it: The answer checks all the boxes because the candidate connects their experience to the new role’s duties, emphasizes their specific strengths, and displays knowledge of the brand as well as their personal attachment to it. As a cherry on top, the candidate displays knowledge of company’s reputation and culture, proving the candidate did their research.
Career changer, Accountant to Graphic Design
Why we like it: Although their previous career is in no way related to the new one, the candidate found a way to prove their skills by placing focus on their hobbies and having a portfolio of their work. Completing several courses and obtaining a certificate is a smart move because they don’t have a formal degree in graphic design, and a personal story about how their passion came to life is a nice touch, demonstrating their talents and values.
“Why Are You Interested in This Job?” Popular Opinion vs. Expert Advice
You might be bored of our advice and want to see what “real” people have to say.
This is why we picked some of the most upvoted pieces of advice for answering “Why are you interested in this job?” Let’s see how the tips stack up against expert advice.
Mukesh from Quora says:
“I am very interested in this position because I believe it would be a great opportunity for me to utilize my skills and experience to contribute to the success of the company. I have done my research on the company and the position, and I am impressed with the company’s commitment to innovation and its positive reputation in the industry.”
Career expert comments:
On the face of it, this seems like a decent answer. However, if you think about it — it’s full of buzzwords that convey no information about the candidate’s experience, skills, or information obtained from the company research. If I was this person, I’d make sure to list a few relevant skills and even a proud accomplishment, and then describe how I can apply my skills to contribute to the success of the new company. I’d also make sure to bring up several specific pieces of information I discovered during my research and describe why I’m impressed by it.
u/Cheesboyardee on Reddit had this to say:
“All depends on the job and the interviewer. I have also had luck with flat out honestly saying, “I like to eat and have a roof over my head.” But I recommend against this if you aren’t 100% sure you can get away with it, and doubly so if you don’t use it to segue into another reason.”
Career expert comments:
There is some merit behind this technique. Although this is a bit harsh and not appropriate for all companies, as a hiring manager myself, I would get a good laugh out of it. But the key here is that it absolutely should be used as a segue into a personalized other reason. Do not just say “well I need to live” — that would be a big red flag. But with a good follow-up that’s personalized to the company and the position, this could be a joke that would make me remember the candidate. — Briana Dilworth, Head of Content with 7 years of experience as a Hiring Manager in software and hospitality industries.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “Why Are You Interested in This Position?”
Giving a generic answer
As with any interview question, giving a generic answer will show that you haven’t done the research and you don’t know if the position is a good fit for you in the long run.
❌ What’s wrong with it: There are no details or specificities to back up or prove any of the claims in the answer. What skills will you develop? What kind of success can you contribute to? These are all things that need to be expanded on.
Focusing too much on personal benefits
Avoid focusing on yourself too much, as it will come across as selfish.
❌ What’s wrong with it: While it’s reasonable that you want more vacation days or a better salary, you won’t look good if these are your main motivators for the job. It’s better to make the main focus of your answer a mutually beneficial factor, like the alignment between the job and your skills or your passion for the industry.
Not showing an understanding of what the position entails
This is the worst mistake you can make in a job interview. Not knowing the responsibilities and requirements of the position you applied for will raise so many red flags and prove you haven’t read the job ad properly, let alone researched the company.
❌ What’s wrong with it: This answer displays a misguided understanding of the role, focusing on surface-level social interaction instead of customer care, problem-solving, and building relationships that last.
Summary of the Main Points
- Interviewers ask “Why are you interested in this position?” to understand if your experience aligns with the job duties and how you can contribute to the company.
- They also ask to understand your motivation and dedication.
- To properly answer this question, you need to research the company, know exactly how your skills align with the job, and understand how the job fits into your long-term career plan.
- In your answer, be positive and enthusiastic, open with your main motivator and support with secondary ones, showcase research you did on the company and understanding of the role, and explain the reasons you want the job.
- Some great motivators for your answer: alignment between your skills and the role, your passion for the industry, your interest in the company and alignment with its values, the impact you can make, and career development.
- Avoid generic answers, ones that are focused on perks and benefits, or answers that display a lack of understanding of the role.
Need a hand? There are 3 ways we can help you:
- Learn how to turn more job interviews into job offers. (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
- Learn about 9 ways to sell yourself in an interview.
- Learn how to prepare for an interview.
What to say if I want the position mostly because of the paycheck?
You shouldn’t lie, so if you’re interested in the financial side of things, you can bring it up — but we recommend demonstrating your alignment with the job beyond the financial reasons. There must be something that made you apply for the role besides the paycheck. For example, astronauts have a nice salary, yet you didn’t apply for an astronaut position. That’s because you don’t have the education and experience. If you applied for a certain position, it’s because you have at least some experience related to the field. This is the easiest way to answer the question — demonstrate the alignment between the position and your experience, and then tactfully acknowledge that you’re also attracted by the stability and financial security, which would also contribute to your enthusiasm and performance.
For some roles, notably sales, it’s fine to talk about how money motivates you because your performance will usually directly affect how much you make in sales. So talking about the paycheck basically means “I want in because I know I’ll perform like crazy.”
For more tips, check out the video below:
Can I add a personal anecdote to illustrate my motivation?
Yes, it might help you display your motivation and stand out. However, you need to emphasize how your skills and experience align with the role, as that should be the primary part of your answer. A personal anecdote can be used only to spice your answer up. For example, if interviewing for a vintage car dealership role, saying “It took me 15 years to save up for my vintage Saab 900, and it’s still the favorite thing I own. I want to help make other people’s dreams like that come true,” is relevant and nice — as long as you’re honest. But you should also bring up a few skills or professional experiences to prove you’ve got what it takes to be successful in that role.
How to explain my interest in a position when, in fact, I just need a job?
Technically, the sole motivation behind anyone wanting a job is that they need it to pay their bills and live their lives. But things are rarely this simple and the reality is, if you applied for a certain job, there must be other reasons. Either it’s in line with your education or degree, or you already have relevant experience in that industry or role, which you want to continue or level up.
Do I need to flatter the interviewer’s ego in my answer?
No, you don’t need to flatter the interviewer’s ego when answering this question. Be sincere and show genuine interest by saying how the role aligns with your skills and career goals, and display your enthusiasm and resourcefulness by showing you already did some research on the company. Your goal is to provide a relevant and honest response without resorting to insincere flattery.