Interview Insights | Key Question: “Why do you want to work here?”

When you are asked this question, it absolutely behooves you to carefully think through your response.

Chances are you are applying to multiple organizations. This isn’t a secret because after all it doesn’t make sense to put all your eggs in one basket.

For example, if you are applying for a leadership development program with GE then it’s likely that you are also considering other high-profile organizations.

You may also be gunning for other leadership development programs.

I know your peers certainly are so how do you answer this question in a way that puts you centuries ahead of the competition?

It is not by pointing to how the firm is global, a cauldron of leaders, or that the organization provides for a myriad of attractive opportunities that will help you accomplish your professional goals…this is typically what interviewers have come to expect and frankly it’s boring and dry.

Instead, to stand out you need a shift in perspective. When an interviewer asks you why you are interested in working for an organization…I want you to covertly hear this question instead:

Why are you interested in bringing your talents to this firm and not our competitors (or the other firms that you are likely also applying to)?

The best way to respond to this common interview question is by leveraging this framework or thinking through questions like these:

  • In what ways is this company different from its peers?
  • What products or services are the firm’s flagship offerings and what’s coming down the pipeline that’s not proprietary but is momentous.
  • What specific reasons would compel you to decline an offer from its peer (s).
  • What stories have you heard from my network as to why they decided to say yes to the firm and ultimately why they choose to stay with the firm.

The key insight is that your answer must be unique to that organization i.e. it should not be general enough to be applicable to its competitive set (at all). The only way to accomplish this level of specificity is by conducting your due diligence on the firm and figuring out a way to showcase that you absolutely did your homework!

For example:

Aside from the fact that GE attracts, develops, and promotes leaders, what really stands out for me are two aspects.

The first is that GE is light years ahead in innovation verses its competitors, such as a Caterpillar. For example, the first thought that comes to mind is the GE Tier 4 locomotive engine. It’s a heavy haul freight that meets a EPA stringent Tier 4 emissions standard. GE didn’t just put out a product that meets the standard instead it made a product that lowers emissions by 70%. You produced the single largest emission reduction in the rail sector’s history. I want to work for GE because I want to lead the market rather than trail behind.

The second reason that I want to work for GE is your evolution of the GE service model which includes contract service agreements where GE shares both the risks and rewards that come as a result of implementing its products and/or services. So rather than build SLAs that are project-based for instance, you’ve partnered with firms over the longer-term than some of your peers by offering a pay-for-performance fee structure. I pride myself on being accountable to my client’s results and GE as an organization is widely known for embracing this value. Ultimately, I’d be incredibly proud to join GE in X capacity for these reasons and others.

Are you struggling with the best response to this typical interview question? Leave a comment below and I’ll provide the guidance you need to get unstuck.

Originally published at on January 19, 2015.