Answer “Why Do You Want This Job/Company?” Better Using the RAC Model

We've watched the employment market become increasingly competitive across all industries and recognize that interviews are high-stake situations. 

by Katie Mulheron, MBA CSEA 2023 Global Conference Co-Chair and Director | Career Consultant, Business Analytics, Simon Business School, University of Rochester

We've watched the employment market become increasingly competitive across all industries and recognize that interviews are high-stake situations. Small talk (minutes 0-1) helps an interviewer understand if a candidate makes a good first impression. Tell me about yourself (minutes 1-5) helps an interviewer assess if their story makes sense. The why questions, “why do you want this role, company, or sector” (minutes 5-15) determines if a candidate really wants this. Do they understand what they are getting themselves into and what a specific firm cares about. Within that first 15 minutes, 77% of hiring decisions are made.
In this standing room-only session, Doug Mayes and Steve Dalton introduced the RAC model to help career coaches guide their students towards interviewing success and to help employers create evaluative rubrics to analyze candidate answers. As a career coach working with specialty masters' students (majority being international), my passion is breaking down complex job search scenarios and making them as simple as possible. I left this session ready to run back to campus, fire on all cylinders, and help each student answer the why questions as effectively and authentically every time.  
Before getting started, students must be able to demonstrate a genuine interest – do they truly understand what an organization and industry is all about and do they understand the type of work that will be asked of them. As they prepare, their response must show their personality and character, be specific or relate to one thing, and show that they are informed by having knowledge of something. The biggest challenge is that their response must be done within 2 minutes. Sounds like a tall marching order, but, not when you have an easy-fill-in the blank recipe better known as RAC.
Reason, the main point, allows students to share specific and informed reason based on research conducted. Anecdotes, their genuine personal story, supports the reason and is a response only they could deliver. These anecdotes show enthusiasm and can be sourced from many different events, experiences, or interactions. This pattern is repeated for each reason (usually 2-3 times). Connection, then highlights the benefit to the employer, turns the response into a listener focused answer.
This model can also be used earlier in the job search process when students are preparing cover letters. Talk about a two-for-one special! RAC (reason, anecdote, connection) helps students write honest cover letters fast and motivate a reader to interview them. To keep cover letter concise, students should select 2-3 reasons they are most qualified and using bullets to highlight the main reason in bold. Only one anecdote should be used for each reason otherwise the story because weaker and weaker due to over justification. Each RAC makes up the middle part of their cover letter and should be conveyed in 4-6 sentences max. But what about AI…can AI do this all for us? Yes and no. It can help students with some initial brainstorming, but it cannot develop RAC models yet.
Doug and Steve, thank you for reminding us and our students to stay true to ourselves and always to deliver our authentic personal brand!