This can be a perplexing interview question, particularly if you are applying for jobs which are closely connected to your internship/work experience and degree area. If you’ve spent the last three years studying marketing, for example, as well seeking out marketing work experience, it might seem obvious that you’re interested in marketing. In addition, we all need to pay for food and somewhere to live, so the answer ‘well, I need money’ might be on the tip of your tongue.
To answer this question, it helps to know why the employer is asking it and what they’re looking for:
- Genuine motivation: People who care about and are interested in what they do tend to go the extra mile – they often suggest new ideas and bring energy and enthusiasm to teams. Employers would rather hire people who have a real interest in their jobs. Remember that enthusiasm is conveyed not just by what you say but how you say it – show your interest through your body language and tone of voice.
For example: ‘I’m applying for this role because I learnt from my work experience placement that I relish the challenge of inventing innovative ways to reach new customers, and I find that I’m motivated by the buzz of meeting regular targets.’
- Understanding of what the role involves: Make sure you’ve done your homework and have a realistic understanding of the position, its role within the team and its day to day duties. This shows you’re keen and that you are aware of the purpose of the job and its function in the organisation.
For example: ‘I’m applying for this role because it involves an interesting mix of data analysis and client-facing work’.
- The self-awareness to reflect on your skills and strengths: Show the employer that you understand what you’re good at, and that your abilities match up with those the role requires.
For example: ‘In the exams at the end of my second year, I got 80% in an exam which required me to notice tiny differences between very similar cases under time pressure. This made me realise that attention to detail is one of my key strengths. As this role involves a significant amount of copy editing and checking of small details, I think it would be a good match for my skillset.’
- Understanding of the company: are you interested in this particular company or organisation? Show that you have researched them and that you know what makes them different from their competitors (even if the differences are quite small!)
For example: ‘I am keen to work for [your company] because of the emphasis on multi-disciplinary teams. During my work experience, I had the opportunity to work alongside people from the marketing and business strategy departments, and I enjoyed the diversity of perspectives and innovative solutions this produced. The fact that this role would involve working with colleagues from across the organisation really appealed to me. I was impressed that the company encourages this style of working; I also think that collaboration tends to create the most interesting and cutting-edge ideas, and so I think my approach to work is aligned with your values.’
Don’t forget to visit the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus for our top interview resources.