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The 'why' questions

The 'why' questions

Joanna Glanz

At law firm interviews, the most frequent question you'll get asked is 'why?' – knowing how to answer could be an advantage, writes Joanne Glanz.

So, you’re looking for a job. You’re not alone, if that’s of any comfort! If you’ve submitted your resume, completed the online testing and been invited in for an interview, you will inevitably be faced with the 'why questions'.

Whether it’s in law, banking or pretty much any job, the questions will invariably run along the lines of:

• Why do you want to work in this field?
• Why do you want to work here at this firm/bank/company?
• Why should we hire you?

But even though these questions are routinely posed, the reality is that very rarely is the interviewer actually interested in your answers, ridiculous as that may sound!

Let’s look a little more closely at the questions:

• Why do you want to work in this field?

Law, banking – in fact, any professional career – is demanding. The employer wants to ascertain whether you have the passion, energy, commitment and interest for them to invest in you. Your response needs to be original (no easy task) and to explain what your drivers are, what motivated you to study law and what attracts you to this particular career.

In some cases, you will have to read between the lines and explain why, for example, you want to work at a smaller firm (as opposed to a medium or large firm), why you prefer a career in banking over legal practice or why you are interested in a role where extremely long work hours are a given.

• Why do you want to work here?

This question requires not only in-depth research but also an 'angle' that sets your response apart. Read up on the employer, any deals, legal or other matters that have been reported on. You can try contacting current employees for information about what it’s like to work there: ask them about the type of work, the structure and culture of the organisation, opportunities for career progression etc.

Also, up-skill in a general sense about the particular market the employer operates in. This will offer an interesting – and different – point of conversation for you to bring up, particularly as markets are invariably undergoing change of some sort. Your response to this question should by virtue of your research be able to demonstrate not only your interest in working for the employer but also your intellectual rigour and proactive work ethic.

• Why should we hire you?

This question is the clincher. What the employer is interested in is what YOU bring to the table – both experience and personality wise. Your response is all about demonstrating fit:

o Can you point to experience that shows you have the skills, or at least a base to build on, that would add value in the role? Point to what you have done in the past – in ANY job – that will stand you in good stead for performing well in this job.

o Are you a cultural fit with the organisation? Demonstrate you have similar values. If it is a more conservative employer, dress the part. If it is a not-for-profit or NGO, bring up any voluntary work experience or relevant organisations you are a member of or associated with.

o Do you get on with people? Here, you need to point to examples of working as part of a team, taking direction well or dealing with clients, the public etc. Remember to engage with all the interviewers present. A smile and a firm handshake also go a long way.

o Do both your long- and short-term goals align with those of the employer? Obviously, if this role is only a short-term stepping stone to something bigger and better, it is best to keep these aspirations to yourself. On the other hand, a longer-term objective to "possibly go to the Bar”, or experience working overseas, does not necessarily sound the “death knell” for a job offer.

At the end of the day, remember: to your own self be true, and the best of luck!

Joanne Glanz is the manager for career services at UNSW

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