We all have different reasons for why we work where we do. Some want job security. Others want to serve the American public. Still others just need a paycheck. There’s also those who want work-life balance. And, admittedly, others work where they do because that was the first agency that gave them an offer. The question becomes: How honest should you be when you’re asked the interview question about your motivation to have applied to this particular job?

Having been on the hiring panels I can honestly say that candidates say the darnedest things.

Some of my favorite answers to “Why do you want to work here?” are:

  • It’s really convenient to where I live.
  • It’s a promotion from where I currently am.
  • I’ve heard there’s a really flexible work schedule and telecommuting policy.
  • I really want to have a federal job.

Oh my.

Here’s the thing. Those things may be true. But hiring managers ask this interview question is to gain some insight into how engaged you’ll be. They are trying to assess how long you’re likely to stay. They want to determine how well you understand what you’ll be doing on the job.

Here’s what they really want to know when they ask, “Why do you want to work here?”

  • Are you excited about this specific job or will any job do?
  • Do you know anything about the agency? Have you done your research?
  • Do you want to grow, learn and stretch? Or will you do exactly what you’re asked – no more, no less?
  • Do you have a good understanding of what the job likely entails?

An answer I might give would be: “It seems like this job will include three broad areas. Over the course of my last few positions, I’ve gotten to focus on just one or two of those areas at a time. I think it will be exciting to put those experiences together all in one job.”

However you answer the interview question, demonstrate that you are be dedicated to the job. So, as you prepare your answers for an upcoming interview, ask yourself “Why this job over any other?” Then, when you’re asked this seemingly simple question, you’ll be ready!

Once you get the job, you can share how excited you are about your great commute.