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Recently, a company recruiter reached out to me about a job opening in their company (which is not the company I work for). The recruiter asked if I could set aside 30 minutes to talk about a position and see if I was a fit. As it was a well-known company, I said yes. The first thing the recruiter asked me was

"Why do you want to work for this company"

to which I replied

"That's going to depend on the type of position I'd be filling"

I heard the telltale pause on the other end of the phone that means I said something wrong. What's a more socially acceptable way to say this?

EDIT: While I technically had several hours to prepare, it was same day, and preparing would have cut into work time. I don't remember the exact quote, but something like "informal 30 minute talk" was what it was billed as. Except for the first question, things went will otherwise.

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    Frankly, the recruiter shouldn't have asked that question in the first place. They called you, not the other way around. It's probably just on their generic list of questions they ask everyone about every job. – David K Nov 30 '16 at 17:50
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    I would just have said "You contacted me about a position I know nothing about yet and asked me if I would be willing to hear you out, so that is what I am doing" – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 30 '16 at 17:53
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    My answer: "You contacted me about the position. Why should I want to work for this company?" - The recruiter is supposed to be selling the position to you, at this point. – Wesley Long Nov 30 '16 at 18:11
  • Was this a company you've previously applied to? If so, the answer may have shown that you weren't interested enough to remember. – Kokiomot Nov 30 '16 at 18:33
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    If you were more optimistic you could also think that they paused because they only just realised how absurd their own question was, given the circumstances ;) – AllTheKingsHorses Nov 30 '16 at 18:34
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You answer with why you're interested in the company.

Sure, the recruiter reached out to you, but this was a scheduled call. You had some time to prepare. You also mentioned that the company is well known, so, even without research, you should know at least something about why you would want to work there.

Examples

  • The company has a great reputation as an employer
  • The company provides products you regularly use and enjoy
  • They solve interesting problems
  • You believe in the company mission and values
  • You know people who work there and they speak highly about it
  • etc.

I would expect question 2 from the recruiter to start to dig into the kinds of work you like to do. This isn't necessarily about a particular role, but more of a "We have positions available. sevensevens' LinkedIn profile seems like a match. Does his experience and interests match any of our available reqs? Does he seem like Company material?"

Edit: As others mentioned in comments and answers, it would be good interview judo to give a reason or two and follow up with, "However, you're the expert on Company, why do you think I should want to work there?"


(I started to put this as a comment, but decided to include it in my answer)

You didn't describe a cold call, but a scheduled introductory interview. The LinkedIn message, email, call, etc to see if you were interested was the cold call. You are now a warm lead (you agreed to a 30 minute meeting). Now they are attempting to qualify the lead (in sales terminology) to understand if you're a good fit. That may be questions about your past experience, your future goals, and your interest in/opinion of the company. If they like you, they would tell you about the opportunity they think matches.

A cold call would be something like

This is Chris G, I'm a recruiter with Google, do you have 30 minutes to discuss an exciting opportunity? Great. Why do you want to work for Google?

and that would be asinine

  • You claim that it was a scheduled call, and that there was plenty of time to prepare, but it sounds like they were called out of the blue for this 30 minute talk. Are you recommending that people prepare for an interview with any large company, just in case they happen to get a call? – Kokiomot Nov 30 '16 at 18:31
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    @Kokiomot "The recruiter asked if I could set aside 30 minutes to talk". That indicates multiple transactions. An initial cold ask for 30 minutes and a future "set aside" 30 minute conversation. If that's not the case, OP should clarify the question. – Chris G Nov 30 '16 at 18:40
  • That doesn't imply to me multiple calls. For that, they would have asked to set up an appointment; "set aside" indicates more immediate. He also said it was a cold call, not somethibg scheduled. I agree that this could use clarification, but if multiple transactions were involved, this would hardly be different than any other interview (as you say in your answer). – Kokiomot Nov 30 '16 at 18:46
  • @Kokiomot an update to the question has included the text "I ... had several hours to prepare" – AakashM Dec 1 '16 at 8:50
  • I'm not sure I agree. If someone reaches out to me because they're interested in me, the onus is on them to make the running, I think. If I'm happy where I am, they need to sell themselves to me. – Rob Moir Dec 2 '16 at 17:34
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You did nothing wrong. It's your first time hearing about that company, and you haven't been given any details regarding the job, so why exactly should you want to be employed there?

This recruiter seems to not have thought out this scenario too well. If he or she is stupid enough not to see the all too glaringly obvious fault in asking that question when cold-calling, then you're better off not working with them.

My reply would have simply been:

Why don't you tell me?

Or maybe I'd just laugh. I'm really torn between the two.

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    He said it's a well-known company. If a Google/Apple/Facebook/Intel/Microsoft/etc recruiter asks me why I want to work there, I have answers, even if they reached out to me. Especially with a little time to research between cold-call and scheduled 30 minute chat. – Chris G Nov 30 '16 at 18:19

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