loading...
Cover image for "Why do you want to work for us?" - Interview Question (Demystified)

"Why do you want to work for us?" - Interview Question (Demystified)

skaytech profile image skaytech ・5 min read

Introduction

Thanks to Jack Domleo (@jackdomleo7 ) for asking the question on twitter which triggered a lot of discussions and debates. I thought, hey, this needs to definitely be shared as an article and so here it is.

I'm sharing my thoughts as an engineering manager on what I'm looking for as a response to the question, "Why do want to work for us?" from candidates.

Disclaimer

Before we get into the details, I want to first state that I have an overall experience in the software industry of around 16+ years working in Service, Product, and Start-up industries. This is to state my credentials upfront.

The second point is that by no means, I'm in support of or against asking the above-mentioned question in an interview.

The opinions expressed in this article are to clarify what I would want to know from the candidate when I ask them the question 'Why do you want to work for us?' and also provide resources for any candidate looking to research a company.

What I am looking for when I ask the question?

Alt Text

As an engineering manager, I'm looking for the following things when I ask the question:

  1. How much time did the candidate spend on researching the company?
  2. How much the candidate understands in terms of what is listed in the roles and responsibilities section of the job description?
  3. Is the candidate aware of the company's products or what businesses they are into?
  4. How much time did the candidate spend on general research beyond what his technical skills can showcase?

Researching the Company

With the advent of the internet, literally anyone can find a multitude of information ranging from when the company was founded to what was the last destination the CEO had vacationed.

Alt Text

I've listed a couple of resources that'll be helpful for research:

  • Company's website - What are their product offerings are? What are their mission, vision, and values? Where do they have offices located? Any news/press related information?

  • LinkedIn - It finds out from your current contacts who had previously worked or are currently working in the company. This information is 'GOLD' since you can directly reach out to them to get to know the internal workings of the company. Other than that, they also publish information about the company.

  • Glassdoor - Contains reviews and ratings about the company and it can be filtered by role, ratings, average salary, etc.

  • Crunchbase - If you are planning to join a start-up, then you MUST research the company on Crunchbase. It provides comprehensive information about the company such as when was it founded, their investors, the number of rounds of funding, the last funding date and amount, stage of start-up (Seed, Series A, B or C...), etc.

  • AlternativeTo - If you have an idea about the product you'll be working on, it'll be good to research this site. This is a unique website that provides information on alternate products that exist to the ones that the company offers. Most often, the companies building the alternate products are the direct competitors.

Job Description

The job description published by a company mostly would seem overwhelming. But, the trick is to focus on identifying your strengths and match them with the requirements listed in the job description.

Alt Text

For example, If you are applying for a company that makes software for the Insurance industry and if you happen to have prior experience working in the Insurance domain, it is important to highlight the following:

  • While technology might be your primary interest, how your knowledge of the insurance domain will sufficiently help you to ramp up on the domain understanding.
  • Since you already have the familiarity of the domain, you'll be able to build more efficient solutions.

X-Factor

Today for every developer position, there are thousands of resumes that are being sent for the position and the hiring panel has to scan through each of them, shortlist and finally schedule them for an interview.

Having made it so far, what can really tip your candidature in the favor of hire is the ability to showcase that you have something to offer that the company cannot resist saying no to.

Alt Text

Research and the ability to showcase what you understand about the company's products, what was the latest news release, etc. showcase to the interviewer that you have put in the time to go beyond applying for 'a' job.

While doing research, often you'll encounter a few questions that will be good to present at the end of the discussion when the interviewer asks, 'Are there any questions for me?'

Outliers

A couple of points that were brought about during the discussion on Twitter, which I thought needs to be mentioned:

  1. As a complete newbie to the industry, I don't know how to navigate through the amount of information available on the internet.

    • This is often the most common cause. I would start off with what my skills can offer and look for what matches with the company. If there's no fitment with skills, then look for the commonality in terms of values, vision, etc.
  2. As a newbie, when I look at the job description, it contains a long list of skills and often I feel I'm not good enough.

    • I hope the industry looks at correcting this at the earliest and I acknowledge that this is an issue that exists.
    • My recommendation would be to look at how your skills can add value to the company & focus on your strengths. As for things you don't know, you can always say that you are a fast learner and you'll be able to pick it up on the job.
  3. Should I be worried, if I don't answer this question well?

    • One of the candidates answered, 'Joining this organization would reduce my commute time a lot'. As you would have guessed, the candidate did not make it. While it might be a correct answer, it's not the one the company is looking for.
    • This question focuses more on the behavioral aspect of the candidature. If you aren't very confident after the extensive research you've done on the company, a simple alternative answer could be something like "My friends who are working/ have worked in this organization have/had recommended me to interview for the position, due to your outstanding work culture."

Closing Thoughts

As an engineering manager, I will certainly NOT make a hire/no hire decision solely based on this question.

However, if the candidate has done the research and is able to articulate the findings in an efficient manner, it will certainly tip the scales in the candidate's favor to be hired.

Personally, I've been surprised a few times when a candidate mentions a specific feature or a product that has been published on the company's website and how the candidate was interested to be part of joining the team that builds such exciting products.

In such cases, it gives the hiring manager an idea of the kind of output he can expect out of the candidate. I personally, make a note of it in my hiring feedback that I submit back to the organization.

It'll be interesting to find out what other engineering managers think of this question and whether they find any value to add this to their interviewing process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do let me know your feedback/comments on your thoughts about the article.

Posted on by:

skaytech profile

skaytech

@skaytech

Engineering Manager/Product Manager & an amateur Musical Keyboardist...

Discussion

markdown guide
 

I totally follow your reasoning but for me it's walking a very thin line - you're basically asking to be lied nicely. Even a well researched answer wouldn't be trustworthy enough to use for a decision. They might tell you all excited things about product X while in the end it's still the commute time behind their motivation. Then what do you do? You said it - if you're not google, chances are your insurance products never made a programmer's wishlist so seeing somebody overly excited might even raise a flag. As somebody pointed out, there might be real interest in the tech stack used but I'm sure that will come up much stronger during the technical discussion (and the tech stack excitement is rather something for beginners). I mostly agree to the point of asking about the company, what do they think about what they read... even there there's enough room for nonsense but at least it's less direct.

 

Disclaimer: I'm not a recruiter or HR professional.

I'm with Sorin on this. IMO the answer to this question in most cases has questionable value.

I understand the interviewer is looking for a good fit, and so should the candidate. To ascertain this I believe there are better methods.

Two examples, without trying to be comprehensive:

  • Fitness for a specific role is to ask about soft skills and technical competence. It will be apparent whether the candidate has cultivated an interest for the skills required. If this is the case, chances are it is a good choice.

  • Fitness for the company's goals and core principles is to ask about personal interests, motivations, and passions. I should be able to tell whether someone is telling the truth, especially if I too believe and am committed to those same values.

Of course nothing is so black and white. Thankfully we still have humans conducting the interviews.

 

Agreed mostly. The only caveat is maybe I wouldn't give the same leverage to senior profiles. Your argument sits fairly with junior Devs. However, having said that your next point resonating Gary's comment to rephrase the question sounds more likely to be the path forward.

 

Agree with most of your points. Again, the intent is figuring out to what extend the candidate makes effort to know about the company or product. Ultimately, technology is an enabler.
As also stated in my article, I would definitely not solely base my hiring decision on this question, but it'll definitely give me a chance to figure out how well the candidate is able to percieve a question that's not direct and make sense of it. In the real world, often solutioning and designing of things not exclusively stated in the requirement is far more valuable than just do what was told.
But, your points are totally valid and several of them had pointed out in twitter as well. In such a case, I would rather look to hire a person who takes the effort to find out more about the company and the role, rather than just turning up for the interview.
Thank you taking the time to read the article and share your views on the same. I appreciate it!!

 

I did not ask this question either (I'm retired now...), instead I always asked it straight: "so, what do you know about the company?"

The candidate doing a homework and researching about the company was crucial to me. How could you be interested in working for company ABC and not bothering to spend some time learning about it? This simple attitude showed a lot about the candidate's planning/preparing skills.

 

I think it's mostly because it is the companies that show interest in hiring me nowadays, not the other way around, but I usually don't do this.

Even when I wasn't a senior dev and had to hussle for an opportunity, I used to fire hundreds of resumes to hundreds of companies through several different platforms and never had the time to meticulously analyse each one of them.

What I would do, when the e-mail/call about the interview came, was just scroll their website to have a vague notion about what they did (and decide if that even interested me at all), but I would hardly call that "research" or "doing the homework". During the interview, if that question was asked, I would just say "I know you're an X company, but tell me a bit about what really happens around here", and I never felt it had a negative impact on how the interview went.

 

Great point Mathews!!

 

I definitely recommend this more than "Why do you want to work for us?" It makes the intent clearer to people like me who struggle to understand subtext.

 

:) And who struggle with giving 'correct' answers...

 

Great! Thanks for sharing this Lior!!

 

I get it, and I'd like to think most qualified candidates (who have been taught to do so - an astonishing number don't even know to send a cover letter, or have given up on writing one because recruiters don't bother forwarding it) want to do proper pre-interview recon, but sometimes the work week (and personal life surrounding it) leading up to the interview is a blur and they just don't have the time to properly research your company. Quite frankly, sometimes they do, wait for weeks, and then forget by the time they actually get an interview. Again going back to (staffing agency) recruiters, sometimes it's hard to figure out what a company even does when a recruiter is playing gatekeeper, and you're lucky if you even get a useful job description.

With as long as I've been playing this game, I've gained (worked my @$$ off for) the luxury of being choosy. If I haven't honestly answered that question in my own mind beforehand, I don't bother applying (I also don't bother with gatekeeping recruiters who refuse any of the critical details I ask for). If that answer doesn't include seeing immense potential in not only personal growth, but product direction (market share and new verticals/spinoff products, which I'll even propose and possibly create on my own if you don't hire me), I don't bother applying.

Like it or not, though, a lot of devs don't have the luxury of being as choosy as I am. Sometimes the honest answer is "the job and the pay can't be worse than what I've got."

 

Brilliant Mike!! It's very sad, yet quiet true about the hiring process that exists today. I can both empathize with the pain and frustration you've gone through (having been there myself) and applaud you for that fact that it has made you much stronger through the process.
Thanks for your comment. I've met a few folks who are extremely driven and explain to me in an interview what the current product offerings lack and how they can contribute to make them better. Whether that actually happens, is a different thing altogether, but that sort of conviction is what more or less seals the deal in an interview!!

 

I think more than anything, I just got old and crotchety. Get off my lawn!!!

Kidding. But I did learn to value myself along the way. People talk about compromise like it's a good thing. It's not. It's literally trading a value for a lesser value (or non-value). If the relationship is right (whether business, friendship, romance, etc.), there shouldn't be any compromise - just mutually beneficial exchange, playing off each other's strengths, and improving rather than exploiting each other's weaknesses.

Ok, I'll stop philosophizing now.

 

I don't ask candidates why they want to work for us, but I do ask them what got them interested in the role. If the answer is "I need a job", then that's not a good enough answer. I'm trying to get an understanding for their passion in terms of the tech stack, and why they are specifically drawn to it.

If they aren't passionate about the tech stack and building on their skills, they won't work out. We're not doing anything groundbreaking or technically disruptive, but we do want to continually improve for the benefit of our customers.

 

IMO, this is a much better question. It gives room for different profiles, and the answers should be very informative.

 

That's a good point Dave. Thanks for sharing your view points. Something for me and others out there to think about rephrasing this question. That's why I love this blog medium. Great platform to learn from others. Thanks again!

 

I could not agree more. I couldn't have expressed this any better than you have Gary! Thanks for sharing your insights :-)

 

Very well written and articulated article! I, however, have the opposite point of view as I don't believe there is any reason to ask this question, at all. It's even less reasonable to ask it when the candidate is invited in for an interview.

Sure, as a candidate I am actually interested in doing the basic Google search (note it's a search, not a REsearch) to understand if your industry is minimally interesting, if the product market fit is there and if it makes sense to pursue an opportunity for a risky startup (if applicable) that, statistically speaking, is going to flop.

I have gladly been on both sides of the interviewing process multiple times and I never asked this question. Much rather the opposite: I tried to sell the company idea as much as the time allowed me to.

As anecdotal as this may be, it was quite measurable the difference in interview quality I experienced when compared to my other peers that followed the "standard".

A good rule of thumb is: Imagine if the candidate asked the same question (e.g.: "Why would I work for you?").
If that sounds weird or awkward, then you, as an interviewer, shouldn't ask it.

 

Thanks for reading the article. I appreciate your comments.. your views are also echoed by several others in the comments below. I've responded to them in detail.. thanks once again!!

 

It's a bad question because you assume I do. The interview is a 2 way street. I'm also trying to find out if the company is a good fit for me.

The question is even worse if the company reached out to me to invite me for an interview.

Last few times I got this question I just answered: I don't know yet, that's what I'm here to find out.

The question is presumptuous, makes people feel awkward and likely will give you false negatives.

 

"It's a bad question, because you assume I do." Actually the premise of my article is to state that the question isn't what it actually means and hence the title "demystified" :-)
Having said that, your comments are valid and have been echoed by several others on twitter as well.
I do acknowledge that the question definitely needs to be rephrased. However, the intent of my article is to explain the layers behind the question and provide resources to research on the company before going in for an interview.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read the article and share your comments.

 

The answers I gave on Twitter to Jack, match above answers, as in do research, use glassdoor try to sell your good points. With so many years of experience and being asked this question often, I am in a good position to know what is being targeted by the interviewer. @Muniro2

 

I don't ask this one. But I do expect a discussion of the company you're applying for to come up during the interview, and I do expect some hints that the applicant has done their homework. Nothing worse than being an also-ran application...

 

Good to know Dave. Thanks for sharing this.

 

Why do you want me to work for you again? "Get out!"

 

I don't typically ask it, but I've sat next to my peers as they've asked candidates. I think there's a responsibility on the interviewers part to approach to wield questions responsibly. If you, as an interviewer, don't care. Don't ask it.

I highly suspect, "Well working here would reduce my commute." wasn't the reason they didn't get the job. Either the rest of the interview was poor, or the interviewer was looking for a reason to say no. I've sat next to a number of peer interviewers who asked questions like this, because it's a standard question to ask and not because they were using it to perceive much of anything.

If they answer poorly, follow up. There's nothing wrong with a candidate being honest. Reducing a commute from 1.5hrs to 30minutes is understandable, relatable, and a potential point for learning more about the candidate and their goals outside of work. But it's the interviewers job to wield the question responsibly.

 

Totally agree on this. To be honest, conducting interviews are hard and you need to be in the right headspace rather than go through the motions.
A lot of folks especially the senior ones, don't realise that they personify the company's image and that's the first taste of the company's culture the candidate gets to experience and it is extremely important to ensure it isn't a bad one.

 

The question is designed to determine whether you have done your due diligence in researching the company. Your answer should include verbage suggesting you grok their shortcomings and have ideas how to resolve them.

 

I thought I did exactly that in this article.. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜Š

 

This is super important!! Love the article especially as I am looking for career opportunities in the next couple of months and this question is always asked. Thanks!

 

I'm glad you enjoyed it 😊 Please do share it with others who you think will benefit from this.

 

Really nice! Thanks for doing this! Insightful. πŸ’‘

 

I just say I wasn't looking until your recruiter contacted me. Which has happened before. Funny thing was the interviewers don't know much about their own recruiters.

 

Thanks for sharing your insights.

My go-to response is something vague like "I like what [the company/project] is doing and would like to contribute" lol

 

As long as it's not something like 'It makes my commute time shorter.' you are good to go :-) In my opinion, even that's a valid reason. The only thing is that it cannot be the only thing you can think about when you want to work for the company. Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Cheers!