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A lot has been written about getting your job interview off to a good start by acing the question, “Would you tell me about yourself?” But what if they open with “Why are you interested in this job?” How can you make that question work for you?

Your first interview answer is a first impression, so it really should do more than simply tell them why you’re interested. It should make a strategic, authentic first impression that sells you for the job, just like a good “Tell me about yourself” intro.

Here’s an example of an answer that immediately positions the candidate as the right person to hire–while answering the interviewer’s question.

“Thanks for asking. I’m excited about this Sales Manager opportunity because it’s the ideal next step for me. I have the track record you’re looking for in terms of overachieving on quotas, as well as strong contacts in the pharmaceuticals market, and this role would let me leverage that to move into the leading edge of biopharma, which is my career goal at this point. I’ve been following this company’s achievements (referring to specific news items and publications), and it’s clear to me that the company has incredible potential. Additionally, my background as a healthcare researcher is very relevant to what your posting says about building relationships with physicians. So this role will build on what I already do well while expanding into an exciting new area.”

Why would an interviewer begin with “Why are you interested in this job?”

Because it’s so important that you understand what the job is, are highly motivated about it, and would stick around if hired. They want to know about:

Your understanding of the job: If you aren’t clear on that, the whole process will be a waste of time.
Your motivation: Whether you’re enthusiastic about the work and the organization. And that you’ve taken the trouble to do your homework.
The fit between the job and your career goals: Whether this job will be taking you where you want to go and thus will inspire your long-lasting commitment.

If this question is asked later in the interview, your answer can be simpler, because you will already have given an intro statement.

If you’ve already worked out an awesome “Tell me about yourself” answer, you’re halfway there: add some information about your sincere passion for the role and how it’s the right next step for you, and express your well-informed admiration for the company. Voila! Now you have a great answer to “Why are you interested” as an opening question.

Make sure you prepare and practice this answer. A strategic and authentic answer to this opening question will get your interview off to the best possible start.  (This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.)