Targeting an employer - Making it personal

Employers use the recruitment process to find out if you have the skills, knowledge and experience that they require, but they also want to test your enthusiasm and motivation for working for them.  The employer will want to determine how you will fit with the culture, aims and values of their organisation.  The application and interview process may include the questions:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why have you applied?
  • Tell me something about the company that you couldn’t find on our website.

In response to these questions avoid telling them facts and figures that they already know.  For example:

"You were a family owned business founded in 1928 in the United States.  You have grown to employ 17,000 people in four countries.  You make components which you sell to 20 countries worldwide."

This doesn’t really explain why you have chosen them. Avoid being light on detail and instead tell them why you like them and why you want to work for them.

To prepare for these questions you need to research the employer and think about what you have to offer: 

  • Start with what is important to you and how the company links to your values.
  • Reflect on your studies - how have your topics, dissertation and projects sparked your interest and led to your interest in the company.
  • Look at your experience - can you draw on your work experience, volunteering or placement to demonstrate a connection.
  • Think about your motivation - do your achievements help to demonstrate your reasons for applying.

The employer wants to see more than one reason for your interest.  They want to see the personal connections you make and how this connects to the values, culture, policies and mission of the organisation.  

Find out more about researching an employer, including what information to look for and potential sources.

We have provided some examples responses below to give you a starting point.  You can use these examples as a guide, using your own experience and research to develop your own responses.

Example responses

Mission statement

In your mission statement you state your aim to reduce your carbon footprint year on year and this really matters to me. I have been involved in a project at university to encourage more students to recycle and we recently won a prestigious award presented by a local green charity’.

Values

‘On your website you promote a set of values which I share which are to give back to the community. During my three years at university I volunteered on many occasions and gained confidence and a huge sense of satisfaction being involved with people in my local community’.

HR policies

‘When you gave a talk to my university you stressed how you invest heavily in supporting and developing staff to reach their full potential. For the last two years I have been helping others be the best they can be through mentoring students new to the University and as a placement mentor, supporting a student through the challenging recruitment processes to successfully get a placement in a large company. I learnt a lot about myself in that process’.

Global reach

‘I speak three languages and I have been studying a degree called International Business which included taking a year abroad in Spain. I am excited by the new opportunities you are creating in Madrid …. My longer term goal is to utlise my languages and work in ….’

What they do

‘You state that at the core of everything you do is to provide a unique and personal customer experience. Having spent 5 years working in retail, I have learnt how to deliver excellent customer services. Working in Debenhams in Oxford street, I received high quality training and I delighted in helping customers with their purchases. I worked as a mystery shopper for an agency where I looked critically at the services shops offered. I have received positive compliments and feedback and gained ‘Employee of the Month’ awards on several occasions‘.

Customer Reviews

‘I am confident in my ability to analyse big data and provide solutions to problems. Your customer reviews express high praise for your services on independent review sites and I want to learn from you but also make a contribution to what you do.  A recent project I worked on for a charity was to help them improve their data and make it easier for them to analyse and present data to their end users. This won me praise and an excellent reference’.

Equality and Diversity statements

‘You identify yourselves as a company very proud of your diverse workforce. In my background I have family from West India, Ireland and Sri Lanka. I was involved in Black History month at school bringing in local people to celebrate the impact immigrant and refugee people have made through food, dance and music. At university I worked with the Student Union to promote diversity though positive action schemes and events’.

Business Reviews and Industry News

‘I regularly read online business news including the Financial Times and The Economist and I am excited by your recent acquisition of xxx company and your commitment to invest in virtual reality technology to improve the wellbeing of people with dementia. This fits well with what I have been studying, and where I believe my talent lies as evidenced by getting top marks for relevant units and because my grandmother has dementia and I am aware of the limits current care can provide’.