How to Answer, “Why Are You Applying for this Position?”

After searching for what seems like an eternity, you’ve finally found a posting for an opening that not only ticks off all of the boxes on your list of wants and needs in a job, but that you know that you’re qualified to fill. After submitting your resume and sending over your portfolio and references, the employer has reached out to you and invited you to an interview

While being invited to an interview for a job that you’re really interested in, that you could really see yourself turning into a fruitful career, and that you’re confident you know you will excel at is certainly exciting, it can also be nerve-wracking. No matter how well-spoken you are, how qualified you are for a position, and how many glowing references you have, interviews can be intimidating. That’s totally understandable, as you’re meeting your (hopeful) future employer for the first time and you want to make a good impression. 

What’s the best way to overcome any trepidation that you may be experiencing? Why, by preparing for your interview, of course! By taking the time to prepare yourself ahead of time, you’ll feel more confident meeting with the interviewer. Part of that preparation is familiarizing yourself with how to field out potential questions that you may be asked so that you can devise informative, articulate answers ahead of time – and so that you won’t be completely blindsided and fumbling to formulate answers when the interviewer presents you with questions. While there’s no way to know exactly what the employer or hiring manager you will be meeting with will ask, there are some key questions that, no matter the employer, the industry, the position, or the size of the business, you can pretty much guarantee will be asked, and one of those questions is:

“Why did you apply for this job?”

Just like any other question you’ll be asked during the interview process, answering this one correctly is crucial; however, it can be argued that getting the answer to this one right may be more important than any other inquiry a prospective employer may ask. Why? And what would an appropriate answer be? Let’s explore…

Why do Employers Ask This Interview Question? 

Before we dive in and explore how to go about devising an answer for this question – and what an appropriate answer would be – it’s important to understand why employers ask it in the first place. 

So, why do they? There are two valid reasons to explain why, “Why are you applying for this position?”

  • Firstly, they want to ensure that job candidates have taken the time to do their research and that they know what the job entails. Why is that important? Well, because business owners want to be certain that the person they hire has a firm understanding of the role that they will play in the company; that is, why the position that they are applying for is important and how the applicant will apply their skills to the job. 
  • Secondly, employers and hiring coordinators want to find out if applicants have taken the time to think about their careers. What type of job they are looking for, what kind of responsibilities they are interested in being tasked with for work, whether or not the position will actually be a career, if they intend on working in the position for a prolonged period of time, and if they would want to advance their career and move up the company ladder. Or, if the applicant is just looking for a job-filler; that is, the job really isn’t anything more than a paycheck, because if that’s the case, there’s a good chance that the interviewee will be looking for another job in the future and thus, will likely be leaving the position at some point. 

In other words, employers ask this question because they don’t want to decide to hire someone who has applied to every job listing, because if that’s the case, chances are the applicant isn’t really going to be passionate about the job, and as such, may not put much effort into excelling. Employers want to hire individuals who have thought about and defined goals for their careers, and who want to hold a specific type of position – and that they applied for that job because it is the type of the position that they are hoping to secure. 

In short: by asking this question, employers can gauge whether or not you are sure about what you want, and if the position is something that you want to hold. If you seem to be unsure of what it is that you want, the employer that you’re interviewing is going to be concerned that you’ll change your mind, that you will end up not liking the position, and that you’ll end up quitting and leaving them high and dry. 

To Illustrate…

Picture this scenario: An employer is looking to hire a sales associate. They ask, “Why are you applying for this position? “, and one applicant responds by saying that they are looking for all kinds of work and that they aren’t very sure what it is that they want to do. The applicant doesn’t know a whole lot about sales, but they saw the listing for the employer’s sales position, and he or she sent in an application and a resume because they needed to find a job. 

The employer asks the next applicant the same question, and their response is very well thought out, articulate, and informative; for example, “The reason I applied for the position with your company because I have always had an interest in sales. Over the years, I have held many jobs in sales, and my experiences were always so enjoyable that I decided that it is something that I want to pursue as a career. I enjoy the challenges and the rewards that are associated with sales, helping others is something that I am really passionate about, and I am a goal-setter and goal-getter – traits that I believe are very beneficial for a career in sales.”

Out of the two examples provided above, which applicant do you think is going to be more appealing to the employer? The second one, of course – and the reasons are self-explanatory. 

This is why it is so important to know how to answer this question and to devise a thoughtful response – and to practice your response – before the interview, so that when you’re asked this question during an interview, you’ll knock the answer out of the park and will improve your chances of landing the job. 

How to Answer, “Why are you applying for this position?”

So now that you know why employers ask this question and why your response is important, let’s take a look at some potential answers that you could provide when you’re asked, “Why are you applying for this position?” at your upcoming interview. 

Devising Your Response

There are three key steps that you should take when formulating a powerful response that will capture the attention of the interviewer and leave a positive impression. 

  1. Describe something in particular that you’re seeking in your search for a job. Being asked this question provides you with an excellent opportunity to advance to the next phase of your career; a chance that will allow you to build your skills in a specific area, such as project management, human relations, finance, programming, search engine optimization, sales – or whatever position you’re applying for. An opportunity that will allow you to get involved with something new, such as making the change from an associate to a manager.

In other words, you should explain to the employer what it is that you’re looking for in a job, and why it is that you believe the job the employer is looking to fill meets those needs. In short, instead of just saying, “I need a job” – something that no employer wants to hear – you can discuss your career goals, and how the position you’re interviewing for aligns with those goals. Examples of specific things that you could reference include the industry that you would like to be working in for your career, the kind of role you will be filling, the type and/or the size of the company that you would like to work with (a start-up, a nonprofit, or a Fortune 500 company, for example). The truth is, there are a wide array of things that you can talk about, but you want to make sure that you can demonstrate to the employer that you have taken the time to think about what it is that you want to do for work, and how the position they are looking to fill relates to what it is that you want to do. 

  1. Explain why the job description the employer posted caught your attention; what it is that you liked about it and why it appealed to you. Once you’ve demonstrated that there is something in particular that you’re looking for in a job, talk about what it is that made you want to apply to the position. 

Not only could you discuss something that appealed to you in the job posting; you could also mention something about the company that appealed to you when you went to the company’s website to learn more about them, or that you saw glowing reviews from customers or from current or former employees of the company on Glassdoor. 

  1. Do a recap of what you said in the aforementioned steps. Doing so will demonstrate how the position that you are hoping to fill is something that you are actually looking for. This is how you tie everything together. You’ve discussed what it is that you’re looking for, you’ve told the employer why the position appeals to you – now you just need to wrap-up your response with something like, “And that’s why I decided to apply for this position, as it seems like it would be an excellent opportunity to allow me to build the skills that I want to hone, while working in a field that I could see working in for a long time.” 

With this final step of your response, you might also want to think about adding in some details that relate to your previous employers that you will be able to apply to the role that you are applying for, and how using those skills will allow you to succeed in the position – and how your skills will be beneficial for the company. 

An example of how you could wrap-up the question might include, “And that’s why I decided to toss my hat into the ring for this position, as it seems like it would be an excellent opportunity to hone the particular skills that I want gain in my career, while I am working in a field that really appeals to me. Furthermore, because I have experience in this field and with this type of work, I would be able to make a seamless transition to this position, and I would be able to start making contributions to your company right away.” 

Examples of Responses That Will Impress the Employer 

Using the tips that were outlined above, we have formulated some examples of responses that you could provide prospective employers when they ask, “Why did you apply for this position?”

  • “ I decided to apply for this position because I am looking for an opportunity that will challenge me more, and that will allow me to develop my skills and advance my career. The posting for this job particularly appealed to me because your company is highly-esteemed and has a proven track record of success, and I have always been impressed by the work that you do. I would love the opportunity to take part in the work that you do and to help to advance the success of your business.” 
  • “Your company is a well-known player in e-commerce and I am a huge advocate of your platform; in fact, I use it myself on a regular basis, and I have purchased many wonderful products from the site. I believe that I can offer a tremendous amount of value to this position and I am very much looking forward to learning more about the opportunity to fill a position as a customer support representative with your company. “

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