For many job seekers, "Why should we hire you?" is one of the most difficult interview questions to answer. Don't take it from me – take it from my clients, who list this as one of the hardest questions presented by interviewers.
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I understand their concerns. To answer this question, you have to articulate what the interviewer is trying to ascertain. In addition, you have to make your answer relevant to the job at hand and demonstrate the value you'll bring to the company.
In other words, you can't use a canned answer for every employer with whom you interview.
The secret to answering this question is that you must address the three things employers look for in their employees. The first is that you can do the job, the second is that you will do the job, and the third is that you will fit in.
1. You Can Do the Job
Having the technical know-how is essential to performing the job and advancing in your career. That includes software and hardware proficiency, specialized knowledge, etc. However, transferable skills can be just as important, if not more important.
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It's imperative that you understand the job extremely well and can address the technical and transferable skills. You do not have to address every single skill in your answer, as that will take too long. Begin your answer with something similar to the following:
"I have a thorough understanding of the role and am confident I can meet the challenges it presents. For example, you require excellent leadership abilities, which I've demonstrated in every position I've had. You also need someone who can improve the visibility of your organization ..."
You can cite additional examples. Just don't belabor the point.
2. You Will Do the Job
The interview will also want to know if you're in love with the responsibilities of the role and the mission of the organization. Will you work until the job is finished? Will you overcome obstacles?
Why you want to work for the company is another concern they'll have. I tell my clients that no company wants someone who's just looking for any job they can get.
Here's an example of how you might address your motivation to do the job:
"This position presents an exciting opportunity to take on new challenges that I will embrace. I've always stood up to obstacles and worked to overcome them. In addition, I've researched this organization and am truly impressed with the product you produce and your mission of helping special groups."
3. You Will Fit In
Whether or not you'll be a good fit is a major concern many employers have, and it's also a tough thing for you to prove. It's all about your personality. A company doesn't want to hire someone it will have to let go because the hire couldn't get along with their coworkers.
Of the three components employers look for in their employees, this might be the most important. There are plenty of talented people out there who can hit the ground running, but not everyone can play well with their colleagues.
Your fit is difficult to prove without data or good recommendations from your references, but try to provide as much hard proof as possible:
"In my performance reviews, I've always scored high on interpersonal skills. I know the clients you serve; it will require excellent teamwork in order to serve them effectively. If you ask my former colleagues and supervisors, I'm sure they'll tell you how I've pitched in when needed and without being asked."
Tying It All Together
Explain how you'll exceed the employer's needs based not only on being able to meet the three major components, but also by emphasizing how you will be integral to the success of the company. Going into the interview, know how important your role to the organization is:
"The next marketing specialist you hire will be crucial in creating a strong presence in the direct community and beyond. I can assure you, based on my experience with doing this, I am your person. This is ultimately why you should hire me."
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.