“Why do you want this job?”

Sarah McMahon
6 min readSep 5, 2022

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

they asked me, before I knew what to say, before I knew that the right answer was not “Because I need to feed myself.” Because I need to buy gas, pay off my car loan, and hopefully be able to retire. Because that’s the only way I know to live-to work for someone else. Not someone really, so much as something.

“Why do you want this job?” seemed an asinine question. I’m here aren’t I? “Why do you want to hire me?” I should have said. But that’s not really a question I wanted to ask, because I was (and am) fully aware of my many downfalls. I can’t tell east from west. It took me a solid year to learn how to tell analog time. I only speak one language, I can’t do makeup, and I only have one blazer. I studied poetry for God’s sake. Who the hell would hire me?

The “why do you want to work here question” is doubly annoying because anyone who’s halfway aware can tell when someone else is interested or not; wants something, or not. And maybe interest and want are not what compel people to work for someone/something else in the first place. It’s need, simple as that. And I wanted to work “here,” because I needed income, but I think I said something touching about “mission” and “gaining experience” and “positively impacting the bottom line.” Corporate speak sounds angelic to corporate ears.

Some of us, me included, are lucky and like the someone/somethings we work for. And some of us are smart enough not to care. Some of us wake up every day with a ball of dread in our stomachs because we work for absolute monsters. I worked at a bank one summer and we called my manager “the ogre.” She was nearly 6 feet tall with bright green eyes and she hated the sound of laughter. She put me at a desk in the dark, cold basement all summer where I sat shivering and processing car loans. That was the summer I learned that ogres hate joy, and banks love ogres. She probably had a candle by her bedside that smelled of dirty dollar bills. The ogre grew to like me though, because I was productive. I hated the job but I did it anyway. On my lunch breaks I wrote elaborate, stupid poems on scrap paper. I drank too much coffee and made friends with the other sad, pale Bank workers. I was there temporarily, after all. They were there indefinitely.