How To Smash 'Why X Company?' With The 3P Framework
January 7, 2023
*arrives at interview for BlorgCo, usual formalities exchanged, and the questioning begins*
Interviewer: So, why BlorgCo?
Another one of those classic interview questions that is almost always gonna come up, and one where the response should almost be muscle memory.
But how does one tackle this bad boy?
A close mate of mine, who’s a very smart guy with experience at brand-name companies, recently applied for a new role and was still unsure about how to effectively approach this question.
In answering this question, the common themes I’ve seen across different approaches are answers that emphasise being:
Genuine (demonstrating your passion and culture fit)
Specific (demonstrating your level of company research and problem/role fit)
Structured (demonstrating your logical thinking and communication skills)
For tech/startup roles specifically, one approach I’ve found myself intuitively fall into using to formulate my answer in alignment with these principles is something I call the 3P Framework:
Problem. Product. People.
What do I mean by this?
Well, in answering Why BlorgCo, I would typically start by saying there are 3 key reasons (2 looks like you haven’t thought about it deeply enough, 4 looks like you can’t prioritise).
And conveniently, with this framework, there are 3 distinct core buckets from which I can draw my justification:
The Problem Why I think the core problem space of BlorgCo is impactful and interesting. The Product Why I think BlorgCo’s product is uniquely positioned to solve this problem compared to competitors. The People Why I think the people, culture, and organisational structure of BlorgCo are the right environment for me to work on solving this problem.
By demonstrating your interest in the problem space, belief in the company’s solution, and alignment with the team, you create a clear and powerful narrative that gives the interviewer strong reason to believe your motivation in the company is genuine and well-researched…
…rather than some random LinkedIn Easy Apply job you applied for while scrolling through your phone half-asleep.
Note that whilst it’s great to use all three buckets in your answers, sometimes, it can make more sense to instead choose two reasons from one bucket and one from another depending upon the company and role, or even merge two buckets into one reason.
For instance, when the product is quite nascent or the company doesn’t have significant competition, it can make more sense to merge the Problem and Product reasons into a single reason, and instead spend two reasons talking about People (as this can be a pretty diverse bucket).
Okay Dan, cool story bro, but how do I tangibly implement this?
Real-Life Answers I've Personally Used
I was originally going to give an example from one of my past interviews that worked well, but hecc, I’ve decided why not share my past answers from interviews with over 20 companies that I had as a student over the past 3 years on the Earlywork website, (mostly limited to those where I’ve received offers or progressed to later interview stages).
These include the actual answers I used to land offers at Atlassian, Amazon, Uber, Freelancer & more, but are just a sliver of all the jobs I applied to throughout university (internship applications are a bit of a numbers game and my rejections far outnumber my offers).
Note that not all of them precisely follow the 3P technique, but rather, it’s a good starting paradigm to think about your answer that can be leveraged and tweaked.
Genuine Pain Points for Both Sides of Marketplace: Shippers: Limited visibility of carrier availability Carriers: Inefficient usage of carrier trucks (30% run with empty load).
High Impact Potential: Net positive on environment and improves profitability of logistics companies as well. Logistics is 9% of GDP and will prove increasingly important in the coronavirus environment with supply chain difficulties.
Early Stage with Strong Founding Team: Combination of mentorship from strong founding team and ownership (fast-paced, diversity of work).
Atlassian was the place that first sparked my curiosity in technology: During a Year 10 work experience opportunity with the Bamboo team on customer research, I was super impressed by how rapidly the team were gathering customer feedback and ideas in order to better solve their problems.
Atlassian products make the world a more productive place: Products like Jira, Confluence and Trello help thousands of teams to achieve big things through better collaboration and communication. These are pain points I’ve personally encountered working and a vision I would love to help drive.
A culture of transparency and collaboration: Values like "Open Company, No Bullshit" and "Play, as team" align strongly with the type of environments I’ve most enjoyed working in and rather than empty platitudes on a company website, these are principles that I’ve genuinely seen manifest in the Atlassian employees I’ve met and worked with.
Optional #4 (swapped in for #1 if the interviewer already knew I had done work experience at Atlassian): Atlassian offers a rare opportunity in the Australian market to work at the centre of a product organisation and still have impact at a global scale. This means the chance to learn from some of the most experienced minds in product across the nation.
Solving genuine pain point (market gap between driving/public transport) and helping to reduce congestion + automobile usage.
Sweet spot between startup and corporate: Scale to work on interesting problems and strong mentorship, but still fast-paced, scrappy and encouraging of individual ownership.
Strong resonance with culture: Act like owners, customer obsession and ideas over hierarchy.
Redefining how people access the goods and services that they desire
Global impact but still fast-paced in work style (mix of startup and corporate)
Culture of continuous innovation
Compared to other consulting firms, there are 3 distinct factors that I think set apart Bain as the right place for me:
Style of Working: Bain strikes me as distinct from other consulting firms in its collaborative, results-driven style of working alongside clients. From my experiences working in startup environments, that practical approach is something I find an appealing dynamic.
People & Culture: The friends and peers I’ve met throughout university who now work at Bain all have a distinct commonality of being smart and ambitious, yet still humble team-players. Justin Teo, my case competition mentor, mentioned the ethos of "A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail and the concept of “extra 10s”, and having spent my time building several student organisations, I’d love to work in an environment that values giving back.
Structured Learning and Development: Alongside impact, learning is the other key factor I'm optimising for in my career. Between Bain's global and regional training opportunities, secondments in FWRD and ADAPT (design practice), and the ACE advanced analytics program, I'd relish the opportunity to join an organisation that values its employees’ learning as much as Bain.
Bird addresses a a novel problem with a genuine pain point: first-mile/last-mile transportation. Having used Bird in the US and not having Bird back home, I’ve seen the marginal benefit that electric scooters provide in filling that use case gap between public transport and driving. I like working on interesting, unsolved problems.
I’m passionate about the ridesharing space because it increases the utilisation of existing resources as opposed to inefficient, individualised vehicle ownership. Bird’s product is a net positive for the world in reducing automobile usage, emissions and traffic congestion, and that’s a vision I’d love to help manifest.
Bird exists at the sweet spot between startup and mature company, combining benefits of the funding and scale to work on big, global problems and maximise impact, but the nimbleness to iterate and innovate quickly. The fact that it only started in 2017 and is already in 100 cities is just mindblowing, and I’m excited by the prospect of driving part of that growth.
Direct-to-Consumer Focus: I’m very bullish on opportunities in the direct-to-consumer format and Ampush seems like an amazing place to grow the skills for this. Working in this space means you can see the impact you create in the products and services your family and friends use regularly - a super rewarding feedback loop.
Creative and Analytical Blend: The focus on growth marketing taps into both creative and analytical skills aligns with my Computer Science/Marketing combination and diverse work experience.
Growth Phase: Scale to work on interesting companies (Uber, Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix), but also small enough to take on significant individual ownership and responsibility even at an earlier stage of my career.
Genuine severe pain point: Difficulty in finding suitable clinical trials for unresolved medical issues. This can be a life-or-death situation.
Novel solution in the market: Leverage machine learning to match patients to trials seems like a more scalable way to create a huge impact in this space.
Growth phase: Series A, enough funding to be working at an international scale and attract a team with strong track records across medicine, technology, consulting, but small enough to work at a rapid startup pace and have significant impact and ownership over projects as an individual.
Core problem: Redefine the future of mobility. Exciting, unsolved problem that I think has genuine pain points, and I would love to build towards.
Diverse skillset: The 6 month rotations across strategy, operations, marketing, data science are an awesome foundation that builds upon my passion for interdisciplinary learning and work.
Social impact ingrained in culture: Demonstrated by initiatives to employ disadvantaged groups such as those laid off from traditional industries, acting as a business incubator to more than four thousand innovative SMEs, and a focus on large emerging economies in Latin America and Asia where the margin of impact on people's lives is even higher.
I’m fascinated by the ridesharing space, and this opportunity is particularly exciting given the opportunity to work on the emerging business model of a ‘virtual airline’. No company flies more people in and out of city centres than Blade.
Blade taps into the genuine point of bad traffic in major cities and unlocks a coincidence of wants (several passengers looking to fly to the same places who would otherwise fly alone), creating an experience that is both better for cost effiency and for the environment. Achieved carbon neutrality in 2019.
Mid-stage startup, combining benefits of the funding and scale to work on big problems and impact many people, but the nimbleness to iterate and innovate quickly.
Oura's problem space focuses on a important pain point (the sleep and obesity crises in deveped economies). I have a passion for physical wellbeing (reading Why We Sleep, use Mi Band for sleep tracking, 8+ hours, anti-alarm, anti-coffee) and Oura is working on a mission that aligns with this passion.
The product provides a novel solution to sleep and activity tracking at the intersection of health and fashion and ultimately, Oura creates a net positive effect on peoples’ wellbeing. A product with this sort of impact is the type of product I want to help grow.
Mid-stage startup, combining benefits of the funding and scale to work on big problems and impact many people, but the nimbleness to iterate and innovate quickly.
Why Guild Education?
Solving a genuine pain point that I’m passionate about: The skills required in the workforce are rapidly changing and in a society with increasingly inequality, many workers haven’t had the educational opportunities to meet these demands and easy pathways do not exist, and Guild’s approach of company partnerships for frontline workers seems like a genuinely scalable solution.
Strong alignment with cultural values: Customer obsession with student focus, learning, ownership, teamwork
Optimal company stage: Established enough to be working with major partners and have product-market fit, but still in a growth phase with the potential for a lot more individual ownership and diversity of learning than more established companies.
Notion presents a novel, consolidated yet customisable solution to the unsolved and genuine pain point of collaborative knowledge sharing documentation, something I’ve personally seen time and time again in both mature companies and early-stage environments I’ve worked in.
I’m a productivity fanatic by nature, leveraging an interconnected system of Google Calendar habit tracking, Zoho Notebook notes, Trello goals and Google Tasks to design the way I live. Notion is a tool that strongly aligns with my passion for making myself and others more efficient in pursuing the things that matter most.
Notion exists at the mid-stage startup sweet spot, combining benefits of the funding and scale to work on big problems and impact many people, but the nimbleness to iterate and innovate quickly.
Passionate about the future of work as someone who has worked remotely early in my career.
Big enough to have global impact, small enough to make an individual difference (good for product opportunity).
Help foster a stronger Australian tech scene.
Diverse technology focus: future plays in cx, analytics, cybersecurity, part of something growing, leveraging global network to further knowledge.
Open, caring culture: honesty to both employees and clients - loyalty high, mapping out career goals for employees, matching projects to employee interests.
High learning rate: Access to senior employees, senior employees open to ideas from juniors, consistent formal and informal feedback, diverse project experience rather than being siloed.
The forefront of sociocultural trends (over 300M MAU).
Empowers two way communication between brands and customers.
Culture of innovation & scale of impact (balance of startup and corporate).
Scale of impact: A change at Google is a change for the world, exciting mission to help.
Using tech to solve genuine pain points: Sharing information, creating relationships, giving people access to the resources they need.
Innovative culture, anchored by purpose-driven people.
Scale of impact (frequent touch point with lots of consumers)
Ideal training ground for marketers as the world's largest consumer goods company
Track record of innovation
1. Global scale but experimental phase.
2. Tackling one of this era’s most pressing issues: the transition to renewable energy.
3. Fast-paced mission-driven company culture: Work with people who care deeply about what they do.
Genuine pain point.
Fast-paced, ownership driven culture.
Growth Phase: Series B international impact, but small enough to still make a big difference as an individual.
Booooo..... I used 4 reasons on these two which is a bit overkill, but still some solid reasoning to check out:
1. Optimal stage for impact: Airbnb is still at a growth stage where there is great potential for experimentation and new problem solving approaches, but is large enough to see one’s impact reach a global audience.
2. Design-centric approach: Two of the 3 co-founders are unusually from a design background, and this manifests in the quality of Airbnb's user experience, a major differentiator from competing travel platforms.
3. Genuine user need: As a passionate user of the Airbnb platform, I recognise that the product solves a real pain point and want to share this with others.
4. Mission-driven culture: "Feel at home anywhere in the world" is a vision I strongly resonate with, having just spent 6 months on exchange at the University of Virginia. Joining Airbnb would help me to connect strangers who may never otherwise interact, and that’s a prospect I would love to help realise.
Novel, interesting problem: The security OS for enterprise buildings. Having studied Security Engineering as a course in university, I’m acutely aware that for all the cybersecurity measures in place, if your physical security isn’t good, it all falls apart.
Market Leading Products: Cloud-enabled security cameras that have a significant functional advantage versus traditional offerings.
Strong Founding Team: Founders of Meraki and CourseRank, track record of solving problems at scale.
Company Stage: Series B Scale to work with big clients/product-market fit, but small enough that I can foster a lot of change even as one individual and take ownership over new initiatives.
If you want that sweet, sweet job at BlorgCo, hopefully this post gave you a helpful paradigm to think about how to communicate your motivation to join.
There’s something real alluring about being that lone-wolf type of person who takes a crazy bet on a startup and having it pay off handsomely. What’s interesting though, is that the principles of angel investing have some parallels with how we can approach our careers. Let’s read on.
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