Why are you interested in this company?
It’s a seemingly simple question that most people hurt themselves with during an interview. How? They make two classic mistakes.
1) They give generic answers that communicate I haven’t done my homework and don’t know how you differ from your competition; and
2) They don’t tie the differentiating features about the company to their own strengths or interests
Let’s take a look at these two sample responses to the “Why are you interested in this company?” question.
Karen. “Widget Inc. is an exciting emerging leader in the industry. The company attracts really sharp people and has a great reputation for its employee development and culture. I’m sure I would learn a lot at Widget and could make a valuable contribution.
Julia. “I’ve been following Widget Inc for the past 3 years since I first used the company’s product after seeing an ad. Even though the brand wasn’t as well established then, the product was so much faster and more intuitive for a user. I told my friends, and clearly others told theirs. It’s not surprising to me that the company’s market share has doubled to 28% in the past 2 years and international expansion efforts are underway. As you see on my resume, I’ve had multiple opportunities to develop and demonstrate my sales skills in various initiatives over the last few years. I believe I could immediately put those skills to use at Widget.
Which candidate seems like they really want to work at Widget? Which candidate is memorable and which forgettable? Karen doesn’t say anything inaccurate, but she could be talking about any company. She’s going to be sitting by the phone waiting for the call for a next round interview that will never come. Julia, on the other hand, communicates information that is unique to Widget, and she ties that information to her own skills and interests.
Whether you are asked “Why are you interested in this company” explicitly or not, it is essential that you communicate your interest in the company during the interview. The way to do that is to show that you know what is unique or differentiated about them, and why that feature appeals to you.
Of the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted, over 95% of the interviewees communicate generic information about why they want to work for the company they are interviewing with. The good news is that this is a very easy problem to fix in your interview prep. It takes only a little research to figure out what is really distinctive about a company. Here are a few categories you should consider when you do your research to identify those differentiating features:
Market Position – are they the market leader overall or in a specific market that interests you? Are they gaining share?
Products & Services – are you personally passionate about the products or services?
Culture – Does the company reward innovation, do people start their careers there and never leave, is it family-friendly?
– does the company have an excellent training program, provide opportunities for work in different areas of the company or parts of the world?
Take a look at Researching the COMPANY
and get comfortable answering the questions listed there about any company you are going to interview with. Once you`ve identified some distinguishing traits and tied them to your own skills and interests, make sure to bounce your pitch off of a few people who know the company.