Applying for a Grad role? Here’s how to answer the ‘why’ question.

It’s that time of year, graduate and vacationer programs are opening for Summer 2020/21 and you’re applying or thinking about applying for a position. But before you do, there’s something you should know.

Inevitably, during the application and interview process you’ll be asked some variation of the following why question: “So, why do you want to work with us (insert company/team name)?”

This can be a difficult question to answer when you’re just starting your career because, if you’re anything like I was, you’re not really 100 percent sure what you’re getting yourself into though you’re eager to find out.

You may be thinking:

I don’t really know why I want to work for (insert company/team name). I mean, it seems like a really great place to work and lots of other people want to work there so I’m curious to know what it’s all about… But that doesn’t seem like a good answer and I don’t have any relevant experience yet. What do I say?


The ‘Hanley-gram’.

The Hanley-gram

I developed this (un)scientifically proven, sample size of one (myself) Venn diagram when I applied for my vacationer role at KPMG a few years ago. I used this diagram to help me answer the why question: So, why do you want to work with us?”

This diagram helps you understand and better articulate your own why.

 Here’s how to use it

  1. Draw three circles on a page. In the first circle, add a few dot-points with things you’re curious about or interested in, e.g. what’s it like to work at a multinational company, how do big companies deal with legal disputes, artificial intelligence and robots;
  2. In the second circle, write down what you have experience in – this doesn’t have to be directly related to the job you’re applying for, e.g. customer service, fast food and basic problem solving are all fine choices;
  3. In the third circle, write a few dot points about what the company / team you’re applying for does, e.g. consulting, client facing, makes computer software for their clients; and
  4. Reflect on what you’ve written – the intersection in the middle of the three circles is your answer to the why question.

Next, try to think about the similarities and connections between the dot-points you’ve written on the page, ignoring the circles for a moment. It may not seem obvious at first, but it’s more than likely that you can connect dots. For example, your part-time work in customer service may be connected to the client-facing consulting work of the team you’re applying for.

Let me give you an example of the final outcome:

I’m really excited by the tech industry (interest) because it’s rapidly evolving and is pretty much part of everything I do. In my commerce degree my favourite subject was a statistics elective where I learned to make (experience) basic predictive models and present information in interesting ways. I ended up making my own model to predict the price of bitcoin – it didn’t work but it was a really fun project and good learning experience which inspired me to do a few online courses afterwards. During my studies I worked part-time in customer service (experience) and discovered that I’m a people person and really enjoy both working directly with customers and in teams. From my research and talking to people I learned what the (insert name of company / team I’m applying for) team does is help clients better use data to make smarter decisions for their business (company / team). I want to work in (insert name of company / team) because it looks like the perfect place to combine my interest in technology with my experience creating models and working with people.

Regardless of the company or team you’re applying for, you can be sure that you’ll be asked the why question at some point, and how well you answer it might be the difference between a rejection email and a job offer that positively alters the trajectory of your career.


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