Why Are You Applying?

By Shannan Buckley

“I need a job, so I’m applying to positions in legal.”

“I’m willing to work in marketing.”

“I’ll do anything.”

Since the pandemic hit, I’ve heard a big uptick in phrases like this, often from recent grads, as well as from some people who lost their jobs. Unfortunately, these are some of the least compelling things you can say when an interviewer asks you why you are interested in a position or a field.

Finding a job in a tight economy can come down to a numbers game: more applications translates into more interviews, which means a higher likelihood of an offer. For new grads or out-of-work professionals, this may mean casting a wider net to increase your chances of finding a job faster. However, more applications won’t help you unless you put some thought into the process! Each time you speak with a potential employer, you must be able to articulate why you want this job or you’re not going to make it past the first interview.

We always tell candidates not to focus on who else is applying because the only competition is yourself. You don’t have control over who else applies, but you do have control over the way you prepare for each interview and the way you craft your message. I guarantee you that for every job you apply to, at the very least you are going to be competing against someone who can convey why they want it.

Before you apply to a role, and again before you interview, take a moment to think about why you would like that job and what you could bring to it. Your interview game-plan doesn’t need to be overly complex (a lot of people really love law firms just because they like working with smart people), but it does need to feel real. If you take the time to come up with a compelling reason why a job is of real interest to you, you will be able to convince your interviewer.

Replace words like “willing,” which make it sound like you consider the job or the field a consolation prize, with works like “excited.” “I’d be excited to learn that.” “I hadn’t considered that career area before, but I’d be excited to explore it.” Small changes in how you speak make a world of difference to how your message is received.

Sharing a little uncertainty with your recruiter, especially if you are early in your career, is fine. If someone tells me they are looking at marketing roles in more than one industry, that’s great as long as I can tell they did their homework and can make a case for why legal would be a good fit. Same thing if somebody tells me they think they could be a fit for both BD and recruiting and can explain to me what skills they could contribute to each area.

Conveying genuine enthusiasm doesn’t require you to be one hundred percent certain about your future. It just requires a little thought before you hit submit and before you sit down for an interview. During these times of uncertainty, this is something you do have control over – take advantage of it!

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