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How to Answer this Impossible Interview Question: Consider Motivational Fit

June 13, 2017
interview preparation

If you’ve ever been through a job interview, then you’ve probably endured your fair share of questions that may have seemed pretty pointless. And while we can’t vouch for every interview question—“What’s your favorite color?” is definitely pointless—there are some questions that have more value than you may think.

“Why do you want to work here?” is probably the most commonly dreaded question that comes up in interviews. It might seem like there is no right way to answer it or that you can’t be honest in your response. But there is a right way to handle yourself if this comes up in a job interview. That’s because when you get asked, “Why do you want to work here?” you’re actually getting asked, “What motivates you?”

The difference here may seem slight, but motivational fit has been shown to be a crucial component to many business-related outcomes: how productive an employee is on the job, how happy they are in their role, and how long they’ll stay at the organization. The science shows that there is much more to a “good employee” than simply finding someone who can physically perform the job duties. That’s why top organizations don’t just look at a resume when they hire: your skills and abilities tell us a part of the story, but your motivation tells the rest.

So, the next time you are asked this feared question, think of the question as having three parts that help to evaluate motivational fit:

1. What parts of this job overlap with things you enjoy? No matter how odd, dangerous, repetitive, or difficult a job may be, there is someone out there who would do it with a smile every day. That’s because different people have different motivators. This question of “Why do you want to work here?” helps to identify if you will be energized by the job’s demands or if you’ll be burned out after one week. For example, if a job requires you to help customers all day and you love to be on your feet, then that has the potential to be a great match. Or, maybe the job involves a lot of phone calls and you’re the type of person to strike up a conversation with anyone. Don’t be afraid to be honest here: as long as it’s job-related, then it’s a good answer.

2. What parts of this job overlap with goals you have for yourself? This might seem like another loaded question, but the root of it is simple: what is this job going to help you achieve? Maybe you’re hoping to gain experience, and this role is perfect for that. Or maybe this job allows you to make a difference in a way that’s important to you. Big or small, you should be able to speak to at least one goal you have that overlaps with this opportunity. No matter your answer, showing this kind of future-oriented thinking demonstrates that you’ve given real thought to the job’s fit.

3. Do you share similar philosophies with the organization? Maybe the organization mirrors your “work hard, play hard” mentality. Or maybe they donate to a charity that you care about. These big picture values are important because research shows that an organization’s overall culture and philosophies can have a meaningful impact on employee job satisfaction. Hiring managers will appreciate that you know about the company’s core values, and you can also mention ways that those values overlap with your own. To make sure that this is an organization you’d be excited to work at, remember to peruse the organization’s website before your interview so that you can fully understand their mission and philosophy.


I hope this information will help you craft an honest and insightful answer to the impossible interview question: “Why do you want to work here?” While it might be a dreaded question, at least now you’re able to avoid an equally dreaded response: “Because I need a paycheck.”

Interviewer Tips

Jaclyn Menendez, PhD Jaclyn Menendez, PhD is a Project Consultant at PSI based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include testing, assessments, and project management. Jaclyn has contributed to the development, validation, and implementation of assessments with various clients. She has managed, analyzed, and presented data analyses for content and criterion validation studies.