It’s Nothing Personal

Being asked why I want to work for so-and-so. Is replying, “I need to pay my rent” or “I need to buy new glasses” too honest?

What’s the hardest questions you had to answer during an interview?

Many of you have your own list based on your past job-search experiences. I have a few of my own, one being “if you were a tree, what type would you be?” (my answer was “Willow, because I’m flexible”). In fairness, that particular question was hard to answer because it’s meant to try to rattle you.

Another on my list was hard to answer for a different reason:  Why do you want to work for [insert company name here]?

At first read, it looks easy to answer, but it’s a question you actually need to think about before answering.

In this jobless recovery, the unemployed are discovering that it’s tough to find work, so they are being less choosy in where they apply  (especially if feeding their children is an issue).  People are willing to do any sort of work, even work outside their chosen career path. One need only ask a taxi driver what his or her previous employment was before taking up the glamorous life of a cabbie — from my own inquiries, I’ve come across a doctor, programmer, and an accountant. They didn’t become a cabbie because they liked being one, or because they liked the cab company. They did it because they had no choice and needed money.

Yes, there was a time people chose their profession based on what they liked to do. I was one of those people: I loved computers so much I wanted to enter the career of information technology. Mind you, that was back then when there was hope for the future, jobs were more abundant and the terms “down-sizing” and “austerity” were not as commonly used.

Thanks to the new economy everyone is trying to make sense of, I now look for work because I was raised not to be lazy (my half-Irish half-Scottish work ethic), I want to feel like I’m doing something for society, and yes, dag-nabbit, I do need the money. Contrary to the interviewer’s viewpoint, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s honest and admirable. It certainly speaks better of a job-seeker’s work ethic and character than not trying to find a job and mooching off welfare. I want to earn my keep in life and so do most people who are out of work, yet want to work.

But that’s not what you are supposed to say at the interview. There are games to be played in order to earn that coveted seat at the interviewer’s desk, so an honest compromise must be found. In other words, find another reason that is a selling point yet truthful. For example, maybe it was a pleasant shopping experience at one of the company’s stores, or perhaps the corporate ethics are fairly congruent with your own personal beliefs.

As I stated before, that’s not as easy as it sounds. If you are applying for a job where you are verbally (perhaps even physically) abused by customers and must clean vomit off a staircase (for minimum wage, no less!), saying you applied because you find customer service exciting or you are a “people person” is one heck of a sales pitch.  It’s likely going to set off every B.S. alarm not just in the interviewer’s office but throughout the company. No one likes a brown-noser.

Let’s not mince words. We know job security is as mythical now as unicorns and fairies. The days where we would be rewarded for sacrificing our personal lives in favour of our professional work life are long gone. Today’s generation have seen how their parents were treated in past recessions and thus learned the lessons very well. Millennials think about work-life balance, not work-as-life devotion, when considering their career choices.

Based on the above, why is the question of wanting to work for a company even valid? Employees come to work with skills needed by the company to get things done. It’s not a party. It’s not to make friends.

Succinctly put, it’s just business.  Nothing personal.

Thanks for reading!



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