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A couple of weeks ago I attended a job fair at my university. I graduate in April and was looking for opportunities for after I graduate. A recruiter stopped me as I was walking by his booth. We talked for a minute. I gave him my resume. He asked me if I would interview with his company the next day. The interview would be my fourth that day but I was a little intrigued by the company so I said I would.

The next day I interviewed with a different recruiter than I had previously talked to. One of the first questions that he asked me was, "Why do you want to work for 'X'?". I was a little taken aback because I didn't know if I wanted to work there. That was one of my main reasons for being in the interview was to feel out the company to see if I did want to work there. I gave some generic answer, "Good company, blah blah blah". I could tell he wasn't impressed.

The truth was that I already had another offer and my other interviews that day had gone well (They have all since offered or I ended the interview process). I was just there to scope out his company. Should I have been honest and told him that? He seemed like he wanted a deep sincere answer but I didn't have one to give him.

  • 4
    You should be honest and say you was interested in see the company enviroment. But you also should do some research before going to the interview. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Oct 27 '15 at 19:44
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    when you and the recruiter talked for a minute, what was it that the recruiter said that inspired you to apply? Or if you sort of handed your resume over without thinking, what made you say "yes" when the recruiter asked you if you wanted to interview? If you have a little "hook" - that you care what they make or you like what they are - that can be enough for this answer. But if you really didn't put any thought into it and just let the recruiter push you into it, then you have a problem when you get this question - and you will always get this question. – Kate Gregory Oct 28 '15 at 0:23
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The question isn't just "Why do you want to work here?" - there's an unspoken second part to the question "rather than somewhere else?"

As per this excellent comic, the reason you want a job is that you are willing to exchange your labour in return for money.

So, why do you want to work at Burger King rather than McDonalds?

Consider these answers - what do they tell you about the candidate? Who would you hire?

  • "This location is closest to where I live."
  • "I'm banned from McDonalds."
  • "I'm impressed with your recent commitment to only use organic potatoes in your chips."
  • "I want free burgers."
  • "You've had year-on-year growth above the market average, I'm keen to understand how you make superior returns."
  • "It's a condition of my parole that I interview for minimum wage jobs."
  • "I don't have experience of handling cash transactions - I know it's a valuable skill in today's workplace."
  • "You pay better than the other place."
  • "As someone with a background in food technology, I want to see how I can improve the efficiency of your internal processes."

You're given a chance to impress the recruiter with what you know about them, why you want to work with them specifically, and what you can bring to the table.

In your situation - I think it's fair that you interview them. Tell them that you want to understand what they do and what they have to offer you.

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The answer to "should I answer honestly?" depends heavily on your answer to the question. If your answer is "I want to make phat cash!" or "The chicks here are hawt!", then no it's not in your best interest to answer honestly.

This is a very common question though. Companies want more than passing interest when they hire. With the ubiquitous nature of consultants and contractors, companies often want employees to be more than "mercenaries". Going into any interview or application you should have at least researched a little and gotten an understanding of the company, it's products/services and come up with something that makes it interesting to work there. You don't have to be gung-ho about working there. Your answer can be as simple as "I haven't really decided that I do want to work here, but I'm intrigued by {X}, {Y} and {Z}."

Working at a place will be a mutual relationship, and if you've shown that you've done your homework and really looked into it (and you have the skills to do the job of course) then they'll be interested in doing what they can to get you on board. If it turns out your goals aren't in line with theirs it can be discovered in the interview process and there's no harm/no foul. But if it's just a passing interest or a lack of preparation, then the company is unlikely to want to continue because that doesn't show the kind of potential dedication and diligence they're looking for.

Honesty is good, but only if it's a tempered and informed honesty.

Note: I'm not advocating dishonesty in any circumstance. However, "blunt" honesty can hurt a candidacy if not delicately handled.

  • Or unsolicited honesty. – user8365 Oct 27 '15 at 20:01
  • +1 for your excellent examples (Although both ARE good reasons to work somewhere, you just don't SAY it). – Weckar E. Dec 21 '16 at 13:02
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In a similar situation, I was kicked out of an interview after I could mention what the other companies I was interested did but could temporarily not recall what the interviewer's company did. Companies in this situation expect you to do some minimal initial homework and have a partially formed idea about why you might want to work there. Even if you are a stellar candidate and it is a candidate's job market, you run the risk of being passed over without this. Without it, the interviewer will be wondering what will keep you interested in working there after you are hired.

  • It's the infernal paradox of the modern work enviroment: You are expected to embrace change yet not want to change when it comes to the job itself. – Weckar E. Dec 21 '16 at 13:03

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