Guardian Careers tips on answering the £22,000 – £30,000 a year (ish, I imagine) question “Why do you want to work here?”

God, I hate this question. It’s so loaded. I feel like I’ve gone up to someone I’m attracted to in a bar and they’ve said, “So, why do you want to date me?” WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I want to yell, WHY CAN’T WE JUST BANTER COYLY UNTIL YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT ME? If this sounds familiar, Jenna Allcock gives very level-headed advice on Guardian Careers on how to answer that all-important question, with no references to having a meltdown in a bar…

Presumably this man is Googling, "Why do I want to work there?" Photograph: Stephen Hird/REUTERS

Whether on an application form or at interview, the question “why do you want to work here?” is one that you will undoubtedly encounter in any job hunt.

Every employer needs to know that you really want to work for them; a new recruit who is enthusiastic about their company will work harder, be more productive and ultimately stay longer.

While it seems like a fairly innocuous question, “why do you want to work here?” can be difficult to answer really well; it’s easy for a reply to be too short or generic.

Here are some pointers for making your answer stand out from the crowd:

Research

As with many aspects of the job hunt, the key to success lies in thorough research. While the company’s homepage is a great place to start, you’ll need to go beyond basic facts and figures to really impress.

Look for news articles about the company – what recent successes and challenges have they faced? Has there been anything in the press about the industries they work in? Search to see if the company has aYouTube channel; if so watch some of their recent videos and see what information you can glean. Sites like Glass Door and The Job Crowdprovide great insights into a company’s culture.

Avoid simply regurgitating everything you have read. Your potential employer will want to know that you have taken the time to research their organisation, digested and understood your findings.

For example, if a company describes its culture as progressive, don’t say: “I like the progressive culture of the company.” Instead, say: “At company X, you aren’t afraid to try new ways of doing things and always strive to stay ahead of your competitors. That’s something I really admire.”

Topics to talk about and ones to avoid

There are five main topics that you can talk about when answering the question “why do you want to work here?”:

• What the organisation actually does – the product/service it provides and what interests you about it.

• The organisation’s culture – what it’s really like to work there.

• The organisation’s recent successes and the challenges they face.

• The philosophy and mission behind the organisation.

• The training and development they offer.

Rather than spreading your efforts too thinly and reeling off every possible reason you can think of for wanting to work there, focus on two or three of these topics and go into more detail.

There are several things that you definitely shouldn’t talk about when answering the “why here” question. Anything to do with how fantastic the salary, commission or holiday entitlement is – in the majority of cases – are off the menu; it paints the picture of someone who is more interested in the perks than the organisation.

If on researching a company you are struggling to find anything that piques your interest, it could be time to look elsewhere. Remember that finding a job is a two-way process; as well as the company needing to find out if you are right for them, you must also assess if they are right for you.

Taking your answer from average to outstanding

Once you have some solid answers for why you want to work at a company, it’s time to take your answer to the next level by adding your reasoning.

Giving reasons adds credibility to your answer and is an excellent chance to show off, albeit it in a subtle way, about what a fantastic candidate you are. Remember that your application and interview are personal sales pitches – you must weave into every answer why the potential employer should choose you.

Continuing with the example above, rather than simply saying you admire a company because it strives to find new ways of doing things, you should also talk about how your skills or preferences match this philosophy.

For example, you might say: “Through interning at company X and fundraising for charity Y, I developed the ability to think of innovative and cost-effective solutions to problems. I know that your company values the ability to find new ways of doing things, so this is one of the reasons I think I would be a great fit for you.”

It’s this reflection on what you’ve researched, and your ability to match up the company’s needs and ideals to your own skills and preferences, that will truly impress.

Jenna Allcock is a marketing and communications executive for GradTouch. You can follow them on Facebook here.

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