How to Answer Why You Want to Work

“Why do you want to work for us?” The question crops up frequently in business interviews, and it should also become a standard in every pitch you write.

Knowing how to pitch why you want to work with someone (or for someone) is a valuable tool to have in your arsenal. It can help you land a gig that you really wanted, get you working for a better employer or help you become part of a team business.

So just how should you answer that question? It can be a tough one, because the obvious doesn’t really sound very good: You want a better job. Or you want more money. Or you want to be famous. Or you want more freedom.

You want, you want… Yes, true, it’s all about your wants, but your potential employer doesn’t want to hear what you want. He doesn’t really want to know why you want to work for him, either.

He wants to know how you’ll make his business better. He’s really asking, “Why should I hire you and not the next person? What are you going to get out of this, and why should I care?”

Here are tips to help you give a winning answer:

  1. Know who you’re going to work for. It’s a given that you apply for work or pitch a gig and you don’t know anything about the potential client or his business, he’s not going to be interested in having you on the team. Check out the company website, read the About page, and learn what you can.
  2. Know what the company stands for. Business owners love to hear that other people resonate with their mission. Mention that you believe in the same and compliment the mission of the company.
  3. Talk about a project you know the company has going on and mention how you’d like to be involved in its development.
  4. Demonstrate you know where the business problems might be and that you want to solve them. Even better, suggest a solution (which should involve your presence in the company eliminating the issue).
  5. Show ambition. Point out that you’d like to learn so that you can work up to a certain position in the company – and also point out you know you have a ways to go before you get there, so that no one feels threatened.
  6. Get excited. Show interest. Nothing makes a business owner feel better than seeing his or her passion firing up someone else’s passion too.
  7. Be honest and forthcoming. If there is something you want from this job or project, such as better skills or an opportunity, say so – but also demonstrate that this desire to improve benefits the company. They’ll have a go-getter on the team.

For more of an idea of answers you could try in your next pitch, here are some suggestions of what I’d personally want to hear from a prospective employee:

“You clearly know the business of writing. I know writing but not about the business. I also know that you could probably use the extra hands so you could work on your projects. I want to help you work less, and at the same time, learn more about the business side of things so that one day, I could have a business of my own.”

“You’re a growing business, and I know you’re not done growing yet. I think that’s fantastic, and I’d really like to get in on that instead of having to always be a solo. Plus, we can work together now and I’ll be perfectly trained for later when business gets crazy.”

Those are just my suggestions, though (but they did land Taylor a full-time job at my business). If you owned a business, what would you want to hear? And if you were a writer pitching a company, what would you say?

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4 responses
  1. Kathryn Lang Avatar

    Uncovering WHAT I’m applying for can be tough with some job posts. I like those that ask you to check out their sites before applying so I can tell if my writing interests and style will be a good fit. That way I don’t waste their time or my own.

  2. Michelle Kafka Avatar

    I always had trouble answering this question when I worked/work outside the home not just for writing (although I have not encountered this question for a writing job for sometime.)I’ll share what is my objective on my what I call the “outside the home resume,”

    My objective is to supply excellent quality service to the employer, to use my acquired skills, to gain valuable work experience, to share my knowledge, and to uplift and motivate. (Maybe it’s a little me focused but I wrote it awhile ago.)

    Also reading the company mission statement is a big help in reading the company’s website. People are generally impressed when they know that you have taken the time to read up on the company and can answer some company questions.

    And perhaps leaving out the I’s and focusing on the you’s and we’s of the company will help too.

    Thanks for the examples. I’ll try them and others sometime.

  3. Michelle Kafka Avatar

    If I owned a company I would probably want to hear some of the above you mentioned and more.

    This is my current writing job pitch I guess it’s called.

    Good afternoon,

    I, Michelle, am interested in the above position. The application date is April 10/09.
    I am a freelance writer and blogger. You have the opportunity to work with someone who holds an administrative assistant certificate including business communications. You can have peace of mind in knowing that you could be working closely with someone who can deliver the project on time, well researched, and original. The writing project can begin ASAP.


    Michelle Kafka

    Sometimes I’ll put in my URL’S but only if they ask for it.

  4. Omar Avatar

    I’ll definitely take this into consideration. Thanks James. Excellent post.

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