Here's how to make sure you don't stumble over your answer to this common, yet tricky, interview question.
Even when you expect to be asked this question during an interview, you may find it challenging to come up with an appropriate answer. On the surface, it sounds like the hiring manager wants you to demonstrate the fit between your skills and the job requirements. However, there is more to this interview question than meets the eye.
Frankly, when I'm interviewing candidates, I don't like asking this question. In my experience, it has never proven to be a good use of the precious interview time. I think of the candidate pool as a bell curve; you have your terrible choices on the far left, superstar choices on the far right, and everyone else in the middle.
The common interview question, “Why should we hire you?” is geared toward the left tail of the curve, aiming to minimize the possibility of hiring someone who is not qualified. Meanwhile, I prefer to focus my interview time on spotting those superstars on the far right.
However, if your interviewer does not share this opinion, then the trick is to identify the question behind the question and address it clearly in your response. You may also consider steering the hiring manager towards that right tail by demonstrating your qualifications and highlighting the value you can add to the company.
Interviewing is an art form; memorizing a standard script does not serve you. Here is a guide to building your answer to the tricky "Why should we hire you?" interview question.
1. Acknowledge the difficult nature of the question
In all fairness, even with all the research you have done into the company, you will likely never know how you stack up against other candidates. Depending on the openness of the hiring manager, you may or may not have real insight into the issues that the department is facing. As a result, it is difficult to be specific about why you are a better fit than other candidates. I suggest being upfront about that.
“That is a complex question. I have not met the other candidates, so it is difficult to compare myself to them. However, based on my conversation with you, I am beginning to get a better sense of the challenges your team faces and how I will be able to help.”
“While I don't know what the other candidates have said, I can tell you what I have to offer your company based on our conversation so far.”
“I can't speak to other candidates, but based on my research and the conversation we've had so far, this is how I could make a difference to your company.”
3. Speak to your ability and willingness to learn quickly
Even if you are looking at an opportunity that is a natural extension of what you did in your most recent job, every company is a little different. There are new systems to learn, different procedure protocols to follow, and a unique mix of personalities to work with. Address your ability to hit the ground running and learn quickly when you answer this common job interview question.
“I know that every company does things a little differently. In my past transition to the role of software engineer at X Company, I found that building rapport with key players, immersing myself into the company's philosophy and workflow, and jumping headfirst into their specific programs helped me get up to speed quickly. I was proficient and productive within weeks, and able to make recommendations for process improvement within a couple of months.”
“When I started my last job at X accounting firm, I made it a priority to start learning the different programs and get familiar with our clients on my first day. By doing this, I was able to be onboarded much quicker and smoother than if I hadn't, while also helping clients sooner.”
“When I started my last job in paid advertisement, I knew going in that I was going to have to learn their homegrown system. To help make my transition go smoothly, I reviewed all the training materials before my first day to ensure that I had a rudimentary understanding of the system before I had access to the system itself. With that little boost, I was able to completely understand the system by the end of my first week.”
4. Redirect and ask them a question
Use what you know, offer an observation, and turn the question back to the hiring manager. This strategy, similar to the Aikido method of using the opponent's strength and momentum against them, can take a little practice — yet the powerful impact is worth it.
“From what I have read and heard you describe, it sounds like your company is balancing explosive growth with increased technological pressure. This creates a unique challenge of playing catch up with the bottom line and takes a special set of skills to manage correctly. What is your take on it?”
“Based on our conversation, it seems like the company is dealing with some fulfillment problems due to an increased demand for your product. How much growth is predicted for the next year, and are you looking to implement new solutions to offset this discrepancy?”
“I've noticed on your social channels that you've done a great job of increasing followers while engagement has stayed stagnant. What solutions have you tried to implement to fix this problem?”
5. Demonstrate that you are the right culture fit
In my experience, hiring managers choose candidates that they like and trust. Position yourself as likable and personable, both through your demeanor in the interview and in response to behavioral questions.
This a difficult one to do on cue or by script in a genuine way. The best trick I've found is to enter the interview with a mix of curiosity and excitement. If you show up stiff, anxious, and awkward, even the best interviewer might mirror your demeanor, setting off a vicious cycle. Instead, do your best to focus on the hiring manager, and use this as an opportunity to have a conversation.
In closing, think about coming back to the question of “Why should we hire you?” at the end of the interview. You may pose a question to the hiring manager as the conversation wraps up, or you can reiterate your fit once again by summarizing how you can help.
“Given what we have discussed so far, do you have any questions or concerns about my fit for this position?”
“After our conversation today, I feel even more sure that I have the qualifications and work ethic you need to fill this position. What do you think?”
Does this seem scary and forward? Sure, you could just rely on nonverbal clues and second-guess how well you did for the next three days. Or you could ask the question and find out where you stand.
If the answer is, “You seem like a perfect fit,” you have confirmation that you have answered all of the interviewer's questions to their satisfaction. If they mention something that they see as a gap (lack of direct experience, not enough technical background, etc.), thank them — and address the point on the spot or as part of your thank-you note after the interview.
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