Last year, my friend was interviewing for an amazing job at a great company. In her final interview, she was asked, “Why should we hire you? We get hundreds of applicants for each position — why should we offer you the job?” Normally quick on her feet, this interview question made her freeze.
She thought about her previous positions, the other candidates, her skills and strengths, the experiences she had managing teams...she said, “I don't know the qualifications of the other people you're considering; I'm sure they have similar credentials, and I know you wouldn't interview them if they didn't meet the criteria, but I also meet most of what the job description asks for.” She didn't get the job.
In her quest to be fair and accurate when portraying herself to the employer, my fabulous friend flubbed this critical interview question. When she asked the recruiter for feedback, her poor answer to that question was cited. The recruiter shared, “Our interviewer was concerned that you couldn’t sell yourself and articulate your strengths and why you’d be a good fit for the job; therefore, we worry about you being able to sell an idea to clients or management.” Ouch.
The interview process boils down to the question my friend was asked. Any employer will have hiring managers scan resumes, conduct assessments, check references, and do interviews to find the right candidate. They want to understand why they should hire you over anyone else. I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates, and I ask this question in every job interview. If you’re not sure of how to answer this question, spend some time on the company website and craft a compelling response.
Make it easy on hiring managers by having a good answer prepared. Here's how:
The question, “Why should we hire you?” is testing both how you respond and the content of your answer. In my friend’s quest for an accurate response, she unfortunately missed both elements and wound up delivering, well, a bad answer. Her focus on the other candidates didn’t help her articulate a good answer, and her lack of preparation for this question meant she was caught unprepared, and didn’t come across as confident in her description of why she’d be a good fit for the role.
First, let’s address how you respond. When this question is asked, your reply should be delivered with confidence, include specifics, and be succinct. I recommend signaling that you welcome the question, with something like, “I’m so glad you asked; as you can imagine I’ve been thinking about that question a lot myself.”
Spend some time practicing your answers with a savvy friend. Ask her if you used too much jargon, whether you were convincing, and explore how to improve your reply. Conveying confidence in your answer will put the interviewer at ease and demonstrate that you have put serious thought into why you would succeed in this specific opportunity.
The content of the response is also critical. When crafting your reply, prepare to address three things: your skills and why they’d be a good match for the role, the company’s goals, and your interviewer.
First detail your skills and experiences; this is the area you know far better than the person on the other side of the table. Prepare a simple explanation of how your capabilities will be a unique asset in the position. Three to five examples that you can relate directly to the role will suffice.
Here’s what this might sound like: “I bring five unique skills and experiences to this role; I’m experienced in managing difficult clients, am an effective presenter, have worked in the tech industry for several years, am a team player, and have a degree in history. That combination — along with the fact that I’m a hard worker — means you’ll have an employee who performs well under client pressure, will be comfortable and effective in client presentations, understands the software space, and can bring historical perspective to modern-day challenges.”
If you articulate why you’re a good match by citing specifics that demonstrate how and why you’re a team player and hard worker, your answer will resonate with the interviewer.
Next, you need to address company goals. This demonstrates that you understand not only the job description but also the business, and makes it easy for your interviewer to connect your skills to the company’s objectives. Usually, you can find the company’s goals on their company website, press releases, or earnings reports (for public companies). Clearly link these goals to your experiences. For example, “Your CEO cites client retention as a critical business goal for this year; the skills I just discussed are important to retain both happy and challenging clients in the tech industry.”
Conclude with something personalized to the interviewer. Research your interviewer - many have public social media profiles or have been mentioned in articles. Perhaps your interviewer was recently quoted discussing the importance of customer service - acknowledge that in your reply. You could share, “I also saw you were recently quoted about exceptional customer service - as you’ll see at the bottom of my resume, I received the highest customer service scores in my team last year, which will contribute to my success on your team.”
For bonus points, consider any proof points or references that might reinforce your candidacy. For example, do you have a manager from a prior role that has agreed to serve as a reference? Cite their qualifications and offer to make an introduction. Did you go to the same university? Mention a professor that provided a glowing review of your senior thesis, if relevant to the role.
If you practice both the content of your response and how you convey it to the person interviewing you, you’ll be far ahead of many candidates. I’m often surprised by how many applicants appear to be unprepared to answer this question, or even signal to me they haven’t thought about it. I’ve heard replies that begin with, “That’s an interesting question, let me think about it,” and “Hm, I’m not sure…” Those replies do not express that you’re taking this position seriously.
Walk into your next job interview ready to nail this question. If your interviewer doesn’t ask it, you can still make use of the answers you prepared by offering your perspective during your discussion. You can say, “I've put some thought into why you should select me for this position,” and share your reply. This will demonstrate your confidence, understanding of the position, and help the interviewer better understand your skills. After all, if you can't make the case for why the interviewer should hire you - how can you expect her to?
The Feminist Financier is on a mission to help women build wealth and own their financial independence, by improving financial literacy and taking the mystery out of money. Ms. Financier is also a shoe addict, travel fanatic, and wine enthusiast.
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