38

I've always given the standard bullsh** answer to the usual interview question: Why do you want to work for us?

  • To work at your company is an exciting opportunity for me to exercise the immense knowledge I've gained so far, and to progress further in my career.

Would it reflect badly upon me if instead I replied honestly:

  • To be honest... I just need to earn some money with minimum effort that's fair to me and the company.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jan Doggen, gnat, Chris E, Philipp, Michael Grubey Nov 26 '14 at 9:46

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 30
    Fair answer if you apply for the job of a janitor. Or you decided the job isn't for you anyway. – gnasher729 Nov 24 '14 at 17:15
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    The first example about working for them is an exciting opportunity is only bullsh** if it's not true. If you can't honestly say that then you might want to take a closer look at your long term priorities and look for something where you could honestly use those words. – NotMe Nov 24 '14 at 19:05
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    Honestly the "standard bull**** answer" wouldn't come across much better to me as an interviewer. What I want to hear is that you specifically have done some research into my company and think we are a good fit for you personally, and conversely why you are a good fit for us. Just giving that answer above would be better than the "minimum effort" answer only because of the obvious stupidity of saying "minimum effort" - if you just said "I am looking to earn the most money" I think it would be basically identical. – Joe Nov 24 '14 at 19:46
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    As a hiring manager, either answer would put you at the bottom of the list. – Pete Becker Nov 24 '14 at 19:47
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    It's an acceptable answer if you apply for grunt work - nobody wants the guy who shovels the shit to be a prima donna in any case. If you want qualified work you might want try to rephrase this as "I want regular pay for regular hours". The problem is not honesty, the problem is suggesting to the prospective employer that he cannot count on you and investing in you is not worth it. Things might be different if you apply to a temporary position where you and the interviewer agree that you won't stay long in any case. – Eike Pierstorff Nov 25 '14 at 10:26

13 Answers 13

53

Yes, it would reflect badly.

To understand why, flip the scenario around. Pretend that you're representing a company, and your task is to find someone that will be able to perform certain duties. You have two options in front of you, both at least minimally qualified. One claims to be excited to work for the company, and expresses interest in progressing in that industry. The other just wants to put in the minimum possible effort and get their paycheck. Which do you think will go the extra mile when something goes wrong? Which will put in the effort and energy to perform the job, not just adequately, but well? Which will be willing to take on more duties if the company expands, or to work overtime if something goes horribly wrong? Which will bring energy and passion to the job?

Why would you ever want to hire someone who says outright that they're going to do as little as possible when there's always someone else who is willing to, at the least, lie about it?

Philosophically, I've heard two viewpoints about engagement at work: the one where if you take a job you enjoy you'll never feel like it's "work", and the one where work is what you do to earn money to pay for the things you really love doing. From a personal growth standpoint, I can't say one or the other is a better attitude; however, companies will always prefer the former over the latter. There's nothing really wrong with just wanting to do a day's labor for a day's pay, but it's not going to convince a potential employer that you're the best choice to start out with that attitude. You should try to find some way to present yourself that will convince the company that you will be an asset; if you're not excited and passionate, you might be steady and dependable, or perhaps knowledgeable about your field, or in some other way a good fit for the company.

A note: I view this question as essentially different from whether or not it is taboo to say that you want more money. If someone is in a position where they are undervalued, of course they will want to look for a new position that pays better. What I'm objecting to is the bald statement that you will need to work in order to eat, so therefore are seeking the minimum amount of working required to sustain your livelihood.

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    "Why would you ever want to hire someone who says outright that they're going to do as little as possible when there's always someone else who is willing to, at the least, lie about it?" -> Conceivably, the company could value the honesty of the blunt candidate more that they would value the chance that a more enthusiastic one is truthful. Yet, I don't think it would often be sensible to judge things in this way. – a3nm Nov 24 '14 at 19:26
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    This is not absolute. I've said in many interviews "I'm here looking for more money" and the honesty of that can be a positive. I make sure they understand that I also like a challenge and take pride in my work, but "I want more money" is a perfectly legitimate reason to leave a job and search for a new one. It just can't be your only reason. I have a 15-year work history in the field though, so they aren't worried about my skills. – Jasmine Nov 24 '14 at 19:35
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    @Jasmine "I want more money" is different than "I need some money and want to put forth the minimum effort to get it" though. – Yamikuronue Nov 24 '14 at 19:49
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    Yes. Absolutely. You never say that, even if it's true. – Jasmine Nov 24 '14 at 19:54
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    @Jasmine: As someone who has hired people with far more than 15 years history in the field, I can tell you that — due to my experience doing so — I absolutely worry about your skills. Time served does not automatically make you good at your job. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 25 '14 at 11:31
45

When you say:

To be honest... I just need to earn some money with minimum effort that's fair to me and the company.

I hear:

To be honest, I'm really not interested in working hard and it seems like your company gives me the best ability to not work hard and yet make money.

I'll probably slack off, after all, since I don't really want to work and so you can reasonably expect me to put in the bare minimum.

I really don't care about anything other than making the most money for the least work possible. You can be sure I'll quit at the first opportunity for more money and an easier job.

I was way too lazy to even look up your company or figure out what I want to work for, since I pretty much hate working so it really doesn't matter, it's going to suck to work for anyone might as well be you.

I'll be a terrible team player since I don't care about helping others unless it's explicitly stated to me.

When there are people who actually do want the first of your bullets, yes, yes it will reflect poorly on you.

13

Like most of the others say, it's likely to put people off. I once interviewed someone who told me "Well... It's a job?" when I asked the question. Of course, I offered the job to the enthusiastic, friendly person who did seem interested.

A more honest way to more positively state the same thing might be:

I'm looking for something stable and steady where I can comfortably settle down for a few years.

To me, that's making it pretty clear you want to come to work, sit down, do some work, and go home, but it doesn't sound nearly as negative as your suggested option.

  • Note, however, that they may be more interested in investing in someone who plans to stay more than "a few years". – keshlam Nov 25 '14 at 4:34
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    @keshlam I suppose that is possible. But again, if someone told me they wanted to stay in a job for longer than a few years, I'd be rather skeptical of their truth telling abilities – yochannah Nov 25 '14 at 7:14
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    You're young. The folks running businesses generally aren't. Replacing people every few years is EXPENSIVE for the business, in more ways than financial. Given a choice between someone who might want a career (and is at least reasonably convincing about that), and someone who says they only want a job, which do you think they will choose? – keshlam Nov 25 '14 at 13:41
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    I absolutely see your point - turnover is expensive, and high turnover is a serious warning sign that something is wrong. I think the point I'm trying to convey is that in some industries, staying put for a long time can lead to stagnation, which is also a very bad thing. Specifically, I work in IT, surprisingly ;) – yochannah Nov 25 '14 at 19:06
  • I've been with IBM long enough to be in the Quarter Century Club, and I've had a fair number of fairly different assignments over the course of my career. Bouncing between companies is one model; it isn't the only model, and it isn't the one most employers want to encourage. – keshlam Nov 25 '14 at 20:41
10

As an employer, my response would be, "No Sh*t." Does anyone really want a job making less and being required to do more than humanly possible?

Focus on the job and not your life's work. You like the salary. There's nothing wrong with that. Tell them it's in your salary range. The job requirements seem like something you can handle. It could be too much or too little, but why bother disclosing that? You're willing to do the work relative to what you're being paid, that's good enough.

You may see this approach as the non-bullsh*t answer, but it's really just the obvious one with nothing extra added to make someone want to hire you.

6

As some people have noticed in the comments, not only would your intended answer be unacceptable, but so would the standard bull-- answer. When you apply for a job, you want to be able to honestly say that you think you will really and truly love the work you're doing.

For example, let's say three people apply for a job engineering new frobnicators for Gadzooks Gadgets Ltd. At the interview, all three are asked, "Why do you want to work for us?" The first person comes in and says,

You know, I just want this job because I want some more money. It looks like the pay is alright, and making things isn't that hard, I guess.

The second person comes in and says,

I want a chance to improve my professional career and learn about new opportunities.

And the third person says,

I went to school and studied frobnication engineering for four years. I started out in electrical engeering, but when I learned that frobnicators use gyroscopes, I realized I was truly interested in them. Since I got my degree, I have taught volunteer summer camps teaching kids about precession and have attended every frobnication trade convention I could afford to go to. At these conventions, Gadzooks Gadgets kept on coming up as a great place to work, so when I found out you had a position open, I knew I had to apply right away.

Who cares whether person one wants to make money or person two, deep down, truly wants to grow professionally? Person three's desires for his or her job line up perfectly with what the job involves, meaning that he or she is both going to be excellent at it and he or she is going to love the work, which is good for everyone involved.


So let's say you're not person three. You're applying for a lot of jobs that you can't honestly say you get fired up over. Why not? More specifically, why aren't you looking for work in the field that interests you?

Suppose our third person started learning about electrical engineering in school, decided to switch to fronbication, and then later switched back to electrical engineering, deciding that circuit diagrams are much more enticing than gyroscopes. At this point, the work that's going to keep this person the most motivated and effective is working with electrical components, not frobnicators. If he or she then applies for the position at Gadzooks Gadgets, what is he or she going to say about frobnicators? Probably something like,

I want this position because I think it will be a chance to improve my professional career and learn about new opportunities.

And then if person three gets the job, he or she will be stuck working on frobnicators all day, wishing he or she could go home and play with curcuit diagrams instead. If he or she had applied for the position designing new products for the company manufacturing power plant equipment instead, he or she would have been much happier and would have had an easier time with the interview.

So the long-term answer for your question is, what is it that you would really enjoy doing as work? What kind of job would you be able answer the question, "Why do you want to work for us?" with, "Because the stuff you're doing truly excites me"? And is there any particular reason you can't focus your job search in that field?

4

A very similar, but not the same, response could be understood if you were applying for a seasonal position.

I am looking for a short-term job where I can make some extra cash

This is okay because there is an expectation that you will only be around for the season. Note that you still don't want to say, "with minimum effort." Like other answers have said, that part of your response is just saying, "I plan on being as lazy as possible", no matter how fair you may be.

However, many companies that do have seasonal positions may actually use them as test runs for future (non-seasonal) employees, in which case they still may prefer somebody who is looking for a job that won't end with the season.


@AE has made a good point in the comments I'd like to add here, be sure to upvote him if you like the addition.

"This kind of answer might be good for a sales job where most of the salary is commission-based. There's an expectation in a lot of those roles that candidates are highly money-motivated. If you give the impression that you want to bust a gut doing the job in order to earn a truckload of money, they'll probably want you. (Unfortunately this isn't a good fit for the laziness factor).


In most other cases, I wouldn't use cash as a reason for your employment. Everyone needs money. It doesn't make you better than any other candidate...

There is one exception: If you are a highly reputable mercenary they won't care so long as you get the job done. ;) But then... you wouldn't be applying... they would be contacting you.

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    Also, if you're looking for short-term cash, it suggests you might work hard for more money, e.g. if they need someone to put in (paid) overtime. You have a motivating factor, in other words. – starsplusplus Nov 25 '14 at 10:01
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    Right, if you're highly reputable and they're contacting you then the answer to "why do you want this job" is "because it's what I do and you're asking me to do it". Easy ;-) It's like, you don't normally go into Starbucks and ask them why they want to sell you a coffee. – Steve Jessop Nov 25 '14 at 10:06
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    This kind of answer might be good for a sales job where most of the salary is commission-based. There's an expectation in a lot of those roles that candidates are highly money-motivated. If you give the impression that you want to bust a gut doing the job in order to earn a truckload of money, they'll probably want you. (Unfortunately this isn't a good fit for the laziness factor). – A E Nov 25 '14 at 13:59
3

Everyone else's response is right, you're showing a lack of desire to work hard. You're also showing that you don't care about making widgets, and that you like money.

That's not bad, but what if the thing you care about (making gadgets?) comes along and offers you money! Why, you'll be out of there!

No company wants to put effort helping an employee move somewhere else, if only because almost all companies are run by people who believe passionately in whatever they are doing. They want to make the best widget out there, that's why they got into the widget making business. They're not in the business for you (although you should certainly not forget about yourself!). They don't want to invest time teaching you how to make the widget sandwich, only after 6 months to find you've upped and left to make gadgets.

Now they need to find a new widget sandwich maker, and they wasted time training you up.

Also, if you're a passionate widget sandwich artisan, you might well do your own work on your own time and help the company grow! How much more will they want you to work for them in that case!

In the very worst case, your response shows you incapable of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It also shows you as a little selfish, and naive. None of which make you a good hiring choice.

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    The last paragraph is gold except I would say it shows you as a lot selfish. – HLGEM Nov 25 '14 at 17:41
  • "No company wants to put effort helping an employee move somewhere else" - that's unfortunately true, and it's the wrong way of thinking. No company hopes it's employees to retire there, so why don't help them for their next gig. LinkedIn is a company that realized this, and this is something I advocate for. If the job you offer is something that will help the person advance his/her career, you get extra-motivation and easy hiring. – Maxim Krizhanovsky Nov 26 '14 at 6:47
3

You seem to be missing two important concepts in interviewing. First you are there to sell yourself and saying you aren't interested in their business is not an effective way to sell yourself. You have to give them a reason to hire you and saying you want to put in minumum effort and don't care about what they do is certainly not going to make anyone want to hire you. If you have ever sat on the interviewing end of things, you would understand this better because you see people shoot themselves in the foot over and over. And while you sometimes feel symapthy for them, you don't want to take on a problem employee either. Hiring is a huge risk for a company, it is your job to convince the company that the risk will work out well in your case.

The second thing you are not thinking about is that all interviews are a competition. Yes you can give a poor answer and they might even accept it if everyone else did the same. But if you show as lacking real interest in the job, someone else shows a genuine interest, which one is the interviewer more likely to be interested in?

Now you don't have to be perfect on every answer. Pretty much every person I have ever interviewed except one (and he was a stellar hire.) had some less than perfect answers. But you need to at least try to have good answers. One of the main things we are assessing is attitude and how you will fit in. No interviewer is going to think that someone with a "minumum effort, don't care" attitude is going to be the best candidate unless the other candidates are equally lackluster. The places like that tend to be the ones that hire the only mediocre and incompetent and they tend to have mediocre (or worse) salaries and benefits and in general be miserable places to work. Why would you want to be at the top of the heap only at the places where the good candidates don't want to work?

  • +1 for "Competition". It's not just about what you say, but what everyone else interviewing for the job is saying. – cdkMoose Nov 25 '14 at 20:08
1

To play devil's advocate for a moment here, I'll say that the honest answer is a fine, if poorly worded answer. Don't use the "minimum effort" bit, as it makes you sound like you're planning on slacking your way through the job, if not life in general. If you want to take this approach, phrase it more along the lines of wanting to work for them because you need the money, and they seem to offering you a deal you see favorably.

Of course, a "fine" answer is still beaten by a "good" answer, and if you take this approach, you'll be putting yourself at a disadvantage to every sycophant who gives the "correct" answer that they have a passion for the industry or love the job, or always had dreams about working for the company. In my experience, that's OK. You are who you are, and most people are not happy working a job where they have to pretend to be something they're not (such as a gung-ho, enthusiastic zealot for some company that only exists to make some rich people richer). Personally, I find that fake enthusiasm and forced team building and culture to be offensive, so I'd never want to work somewhere that sees that artificial and shallow loyalty as a desirable trait anyway.

So, being honest, even when it puts you at a disadvantage can be beneficial in keeping you from getting a job you won't be happy with, but of course, that only matters if you can afford to be choosy and wait for a good job that's a good fit for you to come along. There is also the consideration that anyone doing job interviews hears the right answer all day, and giving a well phrased, but honest answer can even be a way to distinguish yourself from the pack of sycophants they've been interviewing their way through. For me, that's typically been that I'm a techie, I love working with systems and so on, been doing it since before I was in grade school, and would be an asset to any team... an asset who don't much care who I ply my trade for, so long as they let me do the job I love and treat me fairly.

If you can manage something like that - positioning yourself as a passionate employee, without spouting the same trite sycophantic garbage everyone else is spewing, you've found your sweet spot. Portraying honesty or genuineness and passion to a potential employer is better than just portraying one or the other.

1

Yes, it will cost you the job.

Depending on where you live, and what skills/qualifications you have, there are probably ~100 jobs you could apply for each day. All of them would give you money, and yet you are applying for this one, and probably passing on 90% of the jobs each day without even submitting an application.

Your main reason is money, that is a given. It is everyone's main reason for applying for the sorts of jobs you are likely applying for. It is so obvious it needn't be said.

But you can still provide the additional reasons for why you chose McDonalds over KFC, or Wallmart over Target.

And if you honestly can't think of a reason, probably apply for one of the other 90 jobs instead.

0

Do not assume the question “Why do you want to work here?” means the interviewer wants to know why you want to work there. They really want to know why they should hire you. Answer that question.

0

I was in this situation once. New to a country, had a wife and a baby and a second coming out in a few months, I needed a job really badly. And I made it clear in my interview that one of my primary factors for getting a job was "supporting myself and my family" and "finding gainful employment".

When you say "you just want the money" you sound greedy. That doesn't sound like the kind of guy you want.

When you say "supporting myself and my family" you sound caring, prioritized and motivated. That does sound like the kind of guy you want.

It also shows that you have an understanding of how you're perceived, which means they can trust you in more social situations (for example, you need to be careful what you say in a sales position. Being too blunt will cause you to lose some sales.)

0

Unfortunately neither the interviewers nor the candidates understand the meanings of those common interview questions, like what is your biggest weakness, or as the questions says - why you want work for us.

If you give me an answer like "I need to earn some money", I'd follow up with a question: given than you earn enough money, what you want to do. I need those answers to understand how to keep you around and how to develop you. And there's nothing wrong if you are applying for the job because you need money now, but you're actually going in some other direction, e.g. for you this will be something temporary. At least you give me something to work with; there would not be unmet expectations, and I can decide if I can offer a fair deal (like stay here for a year, do this and that, and I'll help you in this way to advance towards your goal), or I can say "sorry, but I really need someone who will advance in this job, not in something else". It's a "win-win or no-deal" situation.

The most common scenario in which you would answer "you pay better" if when you are applying for similar position to the one you currently hold, but with better remuneration. While this may be a valid reason to apply, you better ask yourself what other things would make you happy. You'll get used to your new salary too soon and the chances are your life won't be affected as much as you thought. If you are kinda underpaid in your current job (or you need to make more money because you are planning to have a family or something else), than your answer becomes "I want to make extra money, so I can ...", and this already reveals some motivation beyond the money.

In short, money are never the motivation, unless having a lot of money is your idée fixe. Always go beyond them to reveal your true motivation, this will help you live happier life.

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