Almost every candidate believes they should get the job, but putting the “why” into words isn’t as easy as it seems. At some point in the interview process, the hiring manager is likely to ask, “Why should we hire you?” Your answer to this key question could be the difference between getting the job and losing out to someone else.

As career development guru Liz Ryan points out, there’s always an asymmetry of information in the hiring process. Unlike the hiring manager, who is speaking to multiple job candidates and can compare their skills and experience, the only information you have is about your own work history and your research about the company itself. In essence, “why should we hire you?” isn’t about why you’re better than other candidates, but why you are the ideal person for the job. 

It might be tempting to focus your answer on yourself, but instead you should frame your response to highlight how your unique set of skills and experiences can benefit the company. When answering this tricky question, keep these tips in mind.

Match your qualifications to the job description

Review the job description again before going into the interview. What about it drew you to apply in the first place? The job description might include requirements such as a certain educational background (like a bachelor’s degree in finance), a set of technical skills (like Python or JavaScript), a certain number of years of work experience, or practice working in a leadership capacity. 

For example, a recent college graduate applying for an entry-level marketing position might match her experience to a job description by focusing on her degree in marketing (educational requirements), a previous internship she had that taught her about relevant platforms like Google Analytics or Mailchimp (technical requirements), and her role as president of her university’s Marketing Society (demonstrated leadership experience).  

Also read: How to Talk About Why You’re Leaving Your Old Company

Listen during the interview and adapt your answer as needed. 

While the job description can be a great place to start thinking about your answer, the job description rarely encompasses everything you need to know. If you craft your answer based only on the job description, it can signal to a hiring manager that you weren’t really listening during the interview to what the role requires. Instead, be an active listener as the hiring manager fleshes out the role, and when possible, reference something specific from your interview conversation. Which brings us to the next point:

Tell a story to show how you can use your previous work experience to solve the employer’s problems

During the interview process, you should start getting a better idea of the employer’s pain points and how your role will solve a real need within the company. Use the STAR method to tell a story of how you’ve solved a similar problem in the past and why you think you can apply that experience to this new role. The STAR method follows these steps:

  • Situation: What was your previous work context? 
  • Task: What was the problem you were asked to solve?
  • Action: How did you solve the problem?
  • Result: How did your efforts impact the company?

Let’s say the hiring manager explains that the company’s main goal is to launch a new ecommerce site. You might talk about how in your previous job at a retailer (Situation), you were tasked with launching a new ecommerce site within a year (Task).  You might focus your answer on how you led the search for a new web developer, worked with company stakeholders to determine the new site’s needs, and performed quality control measures before the site went live (Action). As a result, sales doubled over the next fiscal year (Result). While telling this story, you would reference similarities to the company you are interviewing with, as well as what additional steps you could incorporate to ensure success in the role.

Also read: How to Respond to A Job Rejection Email

Quantify the impact you had in your last job

Numbers often speak louder than words, which is why the “Results” part of the STAR method is so important. Think about how your previous position led to positive growth in the company. What was the impact on the bottom line? For example, if you were in a sales role, talk about how your performance compared to the quota you were given. You might also quantify your impact by talking about how many people you influenced. If you were in customer service, how many people did you speak with in a specified timeframe? If you work in HR, how many new employees did you train or onboard? The more you can focus on clear results, the more the hiring manager will remember you.

Be confident!

There’s a reason that you were brought in for an interview. The hiring manager is looking for an opportunity to give you the job, and the “why should we hire you?” question is your opportunity to concisely convey what you bring to the table. Think of it as an elevator pitch designed to leave a good final impression. You don’t want your answer to sound “rehearsed,” but having a good idea of some talking points in advance will ensure that the question doesn’t catch you off guard.

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