We’re creating a series of content to provide tips and tricks for job seekers to answer common interview questions. 

We’ve all sat in an interview trying to think on our feet about the ideal answer to the interviewer’s question. What do they really want to hear and how can you make yourself stand out from other applicants?

In this article, we’ll be focusing on the interview question: ‘What attracted you to apply for this position?’ and how to answer it. It may be worded slightly differently, from ‘why do you want this job?’ through to ‘what was most appealing to you about this job?’, but the content of your answer will be fundamentally the same.

At what stage of the interview is this question likely to be asked?

Early on. However, it’s quite likely that the interviewer will ask you a more general question first, such as, ‘What do you know about our business?’ / ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ (more on that specific question later). This will allow them to flow seamlessly into the question in focus for this article… ‘What attracted you to apply for this position?’.

How to answer it:

Use the job description to your own advantage. The interviewer asking ‘What made you apply for this position?’ presents the perfect opportunity to pick out some of the key responsibilities and skill requirements from the job description and match them to your own skills and experience in your answer.

Heather Lynn, from recruitment experts, Volt International, who uses their expertise to support candidates with interview coaching –  explains this tip in further detail:

“Make sure you read through the job description, why do you think you would be good at this job? Pick out points from the job description and relate them back to jobs you have done before, examples are always good. Think about your experience and how that relates to this job. If you have experience with a certain type of system, like Excel, make sure you say.

“If this is your first job, think about any part-time jobs you have had, all experience is good experience. If you worked in a pub for example, think about how you managed your time to make sure everyone had been served. This is still an example of good time management. Never be afraid to use other jobs as examples.”

Be broad at first then focus in on the little details of the role

Sarah Walker, Marketing Manager at insurance advisors, Future Proof, recommends the following:

“Start large i.e.. ‘I really want to join the industry / this type of role because there is scope for me to grow and develop’. Then focus small – look at what the role requires and tell them how fired up you are about that part.

“Give an example of why you will be good at the role. For example, for a customer services role: ‘I enjoy working with and helping people and will do my best to give them a great customer experience, one that matches what I would expect if I needed help’.

“Let the employer know how the role fits with your plans for career progression within their company, i,e. ‘I really want to join your company and work my way up to becoming XYZ’ / this would be a great start to my career to eventually become a XYZ’”.

Impress them with your career plan and how you see the role fitting your goals

Companies love employees who are going to show an ambition and desire to learn and develop over the long-term. Afterall, if you have a plan to progress as high as possible within your chosen career, or develop your skills as far as you can, you’re going to become more of an asset to the company over time.

As well as matching the specifics of the job description to your own skills, detail how the role fits into your career plan. Talk about how you see it as helping you gain valuable skills to help take the business forward and to allow you to gain a greater understanding of the sector as a whole, not just that of your own position.

Of course, only do this if you have a genuine interest in doing so and don’t see this role as a stepping stone to another company – as that never goes down well!

Mahesh Odedra, Resourcing Business Partner at Osborne, recommends including the following in your answer:

“Aim high but also be honest, no one will hold you to a career aspiration if later on you change your mind. Taking Osborne as a specific example, we want to understand what motivated someone to apply for a role with us. We like to see that people can describe what in particular about the role was of interest and then how it relates to what they have previously done, and just as importantly what they want to do next”.

Be honest about your skills and areas you’d like to improve further within the role.

It’s not a weakness to admit that one or two of your skills are areas you’d like to develop further. A job should be a two-way street, one where if hired your skills help the company to deliver their products / services successfully, while giving you the opportunity to become the best you can be.

Before the interview, have a good think about your existing skills and note down a couple of areas – as applicable – where you see the role helping to develop you as an individual.

This forethought and desire to get even better at what you do over time, is highly appealing to employers, as they know you’re unlikely to get the job and simply go through the motions, so to speak.

This question also links closely into the interview question: Why do you want to work for this company?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the question ‘what attracted you to this position?’ is likely to be preceded by the more general ‘Why do you want to work for this company?’

Volt International’s, Heather Lyn, offers her advice on how to answer this:

“Make sure you read through the company profile for inspiration. Look at any videos that have been posted on Linkedin or other social platforms and think about the company culture and message. Consider the company values and make sure you can relate to these.

“Don’t be afraid to say that you want to work for the company because it’s the best company in the local area and I want to work for a company close to home. Don’t be ashamed to say that you don’t want to travel for two hours i.e.: ‘I’m a working Mum and this job really fits in with what I want to achieve in my life’. The majority of companies have diversity and inclusion high on their agendas, so you should never feel like you have to hide anything in an interview.

“Be up front and honest in an interview, don’t bend or embellish the truth because in the long-term it won’t work for you or them”.

People buy people.

This is a common sales industry phrase that is equally applicable to an interview situation, where you are, for all intents and purposes, selling yourself as a person to a prospective employer.

You don’t solely have to talk about professional qualifications and experience when explaining why the job appeals to you. Interviewers want to feel assured that you’ll fit their culture too. Do you have a good sense of humour? Are you understanding of others and willing to step in to help when needed? Do you have a hobby or interest that will add an interesting dynamic to their existing team?

Softer skills and showing you’re a human being, not just a well oiled machine with all the experience in the world, will endear you to the interviewers and help to make the interview process a little less stiff.

So there we have it, some great advice on strategies and talking points to answer the interview question: ‘What attracted you to apply for this position?’ (and all of its subtle variants!).

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