"So why do you want to work here?" Eventually this question comes up in every interview. Over the course of the last 30 years, I have been and I continue to ask this question all the time.

I have learned there is a limited set of answers applicants give in response to this question and one particular answer is so much better than all the others. It leaves me with a much more favorable impression than any of the other answers.

When I ask this question, here are some of the more common responses and what I am thinking when I hear each answer:

Response 1

"I have heard the work is challenging and that your company truly invests in providing training and development of its staff."  I hear: This candidate values us giving her challenging assignment. And she wants us to invest in her development.

Response 2 

"I have heard about your company's great team and positive corporate culture."  I hear: This candidate wants me to make sure her peers are people she appreciates and wants me to make sure she becomes part of corporate culture she values.

Response 3

"I see your company is growing and creating much opportunity for advancement."  I hear: This candidate wants the company to provide opportunities for her advancement.

There are other responses like these, but some variation of these statements embodies the typical responses I hear from most people. Fundamentally, the candidate is explaining what they think they are going to get as result of getting this job.

Then, I get that special interview -- that rare and wonderful moment when I am so glad I started my business.

Response 4 (The perfect response)

"Simple really. I have read your mission and vision. I have gleaned information about you and your company through social media, engaging my professional network, and exploring other publicly available information. As a result, I think I can clearly state four things and I would like you to validate my thinking."

This is where research and preparation will make an interviewee stand out in a sea of other candidates. Job candidates need to demonstrate that they understand:

  1. What the company is trying to accomplish.
  2. What is making that hard.
  3. Why this work is so important to the company and to the interviewer personally. 
  4. Specific ways to help the company achieve its mission.

When a candidate responds with this kind of answer, as an interviewer, I hear --This candidate is not here to get something for herself. She is here, well researched and offering specific ways she can give value to me.

In response number four, I quickly become inclined to believe good things about this candidate including:

  • Solid communication skills.
  • Diligent. Worked hard and creatively to understand my situation.
  • Knows at least the basics of social media.
  • Has and actively manages a professional network.
  • Understands my business and my goals and vision.
  • Realizes what's at stake should we fail and the possibilities afforded us when we succeed.
  • Understands what is making my path hard.
  • Has made a compelling case that she has some or part of what I need to be successful.

When applicants answer in line with number four, I believe we share some common values like:

  • As employees we show up and do what the business needs us to do. Not necessarily what we want to do.
  • We become and do what the business needs rather than make the company become and do what we need.
  • We, the employees, are here to serve the business and the business is here to service the customer. If all that goes well the business will take care of us.

If you are interviewing candidates, try screening for applicants whose response most closely matches number four. And if you are interviewing for a job do your homework and try answering the "So why do you want to work here?" question as close as you can to number four and be ready when the interviewer says, "How much salary do you need and when can you start?"