Written by Steve Brennan
~4 min. read
I interview a lot of candidates on a regular basis, and one of my favourite questions to ask is:
“Why do you want to work here?”
Or in the case of recruiting for my client, “Why do you want to work for our client?” I usually receive a wide range of responses from those who do a great deal of research and have a clear career path to those who do enough research to get by with an acceptable answer. But the answer that most surprises me is when candidates say they know little about my company or my client's company, simply because they have been too busy to do the research and have no sense of what path their career is following.
I have had candidates tell me directly on occasion that they have been too busy or haven't had time to do their homework but usually, it's said in a diplomatic way with candidates flipping back the question to me:
“I haven't had a chance to review the job description in detail or find out much about your company, and I was hoping you could tell me more?”
This is, in itself a red flag. Why would anyone interview with a company they know absolutely nothing about? Then, on top of that, use up my time in asking to share information that is easily accessible through my website or a google search, or through other public sources such as Social Media. LinkedIn is usually an excellent source, in addition to, EDGAR, Dun and Bradstreet (Hoovers), and Glassdoor to research most companies. Fair enough, candidates are applying to a specific job they feel meets their skills and abilities. However, we don't work for jobs, we work for companies and specifically, people within those companies. Being a potential fit for a job is only part of the equation. And we all know the same position at two different companies can have a far different feel from one another.
Here are two things I want to know when I ask the question; why do you want to work for my firm?
Is the candidate someone who knows how to prepare?
This day and age, our access to information is unprecedented, and we can find out more about a company and its employees more readily than we ever could in the past. Doing basic research on a company in some cases is a simple as looking for the best pizza place near you. Using LinkedIn or other social media sources, a candidate can research the background of the individual they will be interviewing with. What experience do they have? What is their education? What groups do they follow? I am impressed when a candidate has taken the time to review my background and experience, and this research can quickly develop rapport. This is not just because I want to hear accolades fed back to me from social media; it is because it shows me the candidate knows how to do their homework and prepare. Which is what I will expect them to do when preparing for a call or meeting with a client.
What really motivates the candidate?
Is the candidate merely looking for a job to park themselves in? Or is the candidate looking to enhance their career, and use their past skills and experiences to build upon? While not always 100 percent aligned, the best-case scenario is that the candidate has enough experience to take on the role, and at the same time, the position has more scope than they have experienced in the past and will allow them to learn and grow for several years to come. This is a win-win situation.
As far as culture, that varies from company to company, so learning about the culture can be more difficult. We have a culture where we encourage learning, growing, and taking on new challenges. Does the candidate's answer reflect that they fit our culture? How growth-oriented have they been based on their career path so far? Have they been continuous learners? What I wouldn't want to hear is a candidate tell me; well, I heard you pay well, or you flex hours really work for my lifestyle, or this is an excellent stepping stone for my career.
I would argue that doing your research as a candidate is as much in their best interest as it is for the employer. What if a candidate finds out something about the company that they don't agree with? Such as consistently poor ratings from employees on Glassdoor. At the very least, wouldn't it make sense to bring that up with the Employer? The more you know about your potential new manager, the company and the job, gives you the opportunity to make an informed decision like you would make another life-changing decision. Given the amount of time we spend working each day and how it affects all aspects of our lives, it only makes sense to do your best to find the right home by researching and reflecting on what you really want in the next step in your career.