Applications / Job market

How to answer “Why do you want to work for us?”

It’s always there…on every application form… usually right at the top.  “Why do you want to work for us?” It needs an answer, and it’s really tricky. You’ve decided on your sector but you don’t necessarily mind too much which employer within that sector offers you a job. You definitely can’t say this to an employer and you need to demonstrate an enthusiasm for each company you apply to. Here’s what to do.

Forget “copy and paste”.

It’s really important that you don’t use the same answer for each company you’re applying to. Always start this question from scratch on each application form. That way you’ll help yourself to avoid the generic answer which is very likely to hamper your chances of success. Don’t be tempted to copy and paste and give each answer a quick “tweak”. Your answer will be both more coherent and more convincing if you start afresh each time for this question.

Check out the website.

Go to the home page or the About Us page and start really looking at what the company says about itself. Is it “innovative and forward looking” or perhaps “reliable and traditional”? Is the environment “fast paced” or perhaps “friendly and relaxed”? This should set the tone for your response. Your answer needs to be persuasive both in terms of convincing the employer that you know a lot about the company and in suggesting that you are a good fit for it.  If you say that you are “driven to succeed whatever the odds” this doesn’t look like fantastic synergy with the company which talks about its culture as  “laid back, collegiate and supportive”! Try to link your past achievements with the company’s culture:

“As an executive committee member of my subject society, I know that I work best in a team and want to be part of your supportive culture and to have the opportunity to work with and learn from the experienced members of your team.”

“My outstanding academic achievements, including winning a subject prize last summer, demonstrate my personal ambition, I want  to be part of your organisation which (like me) seeks constantly to build on its existing successes.”

Talk about your contact with the organisation.

We’re privileged here at Warwick to have so many employers coming onto campus; you should seize every possible opportunity to engage with representatives of your target companies. Lots of employers are on campus more than once and you can go along to see them more than once! You’ll be able to collect different information at different events, careers fairs, presentations, skills sessions, each will allow you to collect additional nuggets useful to your application forms. Make sure that you ask the right questions of the right people. Graduate trainees will be able to tell you about their jobs, recruiters will can give you an overview of the application and training processes and what they’re actually looking for. Take the names of the people you meet, ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn and refer to them by name in your applications. Most graduate training schemes are expensive for companies running them, they’re going to invest in you and they like it if they can see that you’ve invested your time in finding out about them before putting in your application.

Use information on company websites selectively and intelligently.

Your answer will need to show that you’ve read a bit more of the company website than the Home and About Us pages. It’s tempting to think about copying chunks of the employer’s website into your answer to “Why us?” Beware! It’s all too easy to use up a substantial proportion of the words you’re allowed citing the awards or the business the company has won. Make sure that you’re not simply regurgitating something it has written (and which it therefore knows all about)! Be both briefer and more subtle in how you use information to craft your answer.

“Your numerous awards for staff development are testament to the excellent training you will offer me.  I have a keen interest in China following my gap year experience there and would relish the chance to work in your expanding Beijing office.”

Is a much better way of demonstrating that you have done your research than:

“I was delighted to see that you won Employer of the Year and Graduate Trainer of the Year at the recent XYZ Industry Awards ceremony held in London. I am also pleased to note that you have just been awarded the ABC contract for work in Beijing. This is securing the expansion of your Chinese operation and generating additional profits for your organisation.”

The first example here continues to answer the question, the second sounds a bit like a school report!

And a few final tips:

1.  Use the  Word Count.

Most employers give you a word count for the answer to this question, it’s always good to use it! If you are asked to give 250 words it is unlikely that you can fit in everything they’re hoping to see in 100 words, even if you are really good at writing clearly and succinctly!

2. Check what you’ve written before you submit.

Always proof read what you have written really carefully and if possible get someone else to look over it too.

3. Don’t copy a successful answer from a friend!

It probably won’t work second time around!

4. Be enthusiastic.

Last but definitely not least! Sound as if you want to work for the company. Enthusiasm is infectious and can shine through to help you progress.

2 thoughts on “How to answer “Why do you want to work for us?”

  1. Pingback: Game of Thrones – Careers’ lessons | The Careers Blog

  2. Pingback: How to answer “When have you worked well in a team?” | The Careers Blog

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