Work For More Than Money

It’s popular to poke fun at the tired and lazy interview practice of asking why the applicant wants the job.

You could argue that the interview question is a test to see if the applicant knows how the game is played, but these memes drive at a fundamental truth – most people work jobs because jobs pay money and people need money to live.

That said, you’re doing yourself a gigantic disservice if money is all you are getting from your job. There are several ancillary benefits you could receive from a job, outside of the obvious biweekly paycheck and dental insurance.

A job can offer learning opportunities. Let’s say you’re a software developer that wants to learn a new programming language. Instead of paying to take a course, why not suggest that a new company project be written using that language? If they agree, you get paid to practice what you wanted to learn.

Even better, the company might send you on the same course you were going to shell out hard-earned money for.

A job can grant you access. Whether it’s access to the backstage of a concert or a desirable company’s intranet, working at the right job can grant you access that outsiders are barred from.

A job can help you meet the right people. My second internship in the operations department of a bank was a thoroughly detestable experience, but I took it to keep my foot in the company door. If I had not, I would not have met the people that offered me my third internship, which led to my first job after college.

People are also more likely to return your phone calls if you work at the right job.

A job can bestow pedigree. Why do people want to go to Harvard? Because it conveys an aura of excellence upon that person. The same effect occurs when you work at Goldman Sachs or Google, as long as you’re doing the kind of work that the company is known for.

Of course, beggars can’t be choosers. If the phone isn’t ringing and you need the money, take any job that pays the bills.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Do you think when being asked “the question” it’s beneficial to be more transparent about your self-interest rather than giving some hammy answer you think they want to hear?

    1. Good question.

      The “why do you want this job” is your opportunity to demonstrate that you want THAT job, not just ANY job. Even if it’s a crappy minimum wage job, there are still options between McD’s, Starbucks, Wendy’s, etc. Someone who wants THAT job rather than ANY job is going to enjoy that job more, less likely to quit, and so on. It’s in your interest to pretend like you want that job even if any similar job would do.

      To show that you want the specific job you’re applying for, demonstrate that you researched the company and the position. Let’s say I wanted to work at Stripe as a product manager. I could/would talk about how I think what Stripe is doing to the payments industry is super cool, I’m personally very interested in how money moves around the globe, I like that Stripe is a global company, and I dig their values of X, Y, and Z. I want to be a product manager because [insert similar reasons here].

      Concurrently, there’s nothing wrong with talking about how you think the job will benefit you personally, Talk about how this job will help further your career. Companies (especially good ones) want you to grow because that makes you a more valuable employee. And there’s nothing wrong with saying you were attracted by their remote work policy or generous training stipends either. Obviously don’t say “well I want this job because it’ll look good on my resume for when I leave your sorry asses in a year” even if true.

  2. In addition to what Prophet said, I would add this; If you really want to impress an interviewer across the table, acknowledge one or more of the memes above in your initial response. It shows a measure of EQ most candidates will not be able to pull off. (Yes, I know… overused term sometimes…). But do it with a smile, a gleam in your eye, or a good-natured chuckle at the outset of your response. Many interviewers are as nervous as you, or are genuinely grasping for something to say.

    Of course, YMMV and you want to use this judiciously. However, being a likable candidate quickly sets you apart in a positive manner.

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