7 ways not to respond to the ‘why should we hire you’ question

You know it’s coming. Your racing heart rate signals it’s coming soon. You have thought about it carefully, but you’re still anxious. After all: why should someone hire you for this job opportunity? It’s one of the most common, popular questions for interviewers, yet it’s always difficult to navigate.

You don’t want to come across too strong; you don’t want to sound like you’re rehearsed in the mirror (even if you have), and you want to impress them while still being likable. Whew. The good news? We spoke with career experts on how not to respond to the ‘why should we hire you’ question so you can avoid these blunders the next time you’re in the hot seat:

Acting desperate

Here’s the hard truth: you may really, really need this job. And you may feel desperate for the salary. Everyone goes through difficult financial periods, and of course, it’s a stressful experience at any age and professional level. However, it’s better to maintain your composure and remain professional, rather than seeming to beg for an offer.

As a career expert for TopInterview, Amanda Augustine explains, you want to be sure your interviewers know you’re genuinely excited, but they don’t need to divulge your personal, private situation. “Focus on sharing how your previous jobs, education, and other activities have prepared you for this type of role,” she recommends.

Focusing only on yourself

At the surface level, the ‘why should we hire you’ question seems like the chance to speak about your history, skills, and successes. However, it’s less about you as a person and more about what you can do for the company to help it grow. Rather than listing out your accolades, career expert Wendi Weiner suggests arming yourself with nitty-gritty details that illustrate your impact. She says to do some soul searching via these questions:

  • What action would you undertake? 
  • What critical wins would you help to achieve? Think about how you can solve a current problem or dilemma the company (or its industry) is facing.  
  • What results, skills, and cultural needs of the company can you leverage to drive greater efficiency, productivity, and profitability? 

Shaming your current employer

When people look for new jobs, it’s because they’ve outgrown their current employer. This may be due to the fact there is no career advancement opportunity, or in some cases, a toxic work environment that diminishes your productivity and creativity.

However, there is never an excuse for bad-mouthing your boss in any circumstance. And especially as the reason why you want the gig at stake. “No matter how awful your current job may be, resist the temptation to complain about your boss or the company during the interview — especially if you’re asked to justify why you’re the right person to join the team,” Augustine explains. “Your negativity will only put a damper on the conversation and hurt your chances of landing the job.”

And perhaps more to the point: it doesn’t answer the interviewer’s question. If your only reason for wanting a job is to get out of your current one, it’s unlikely someone will hire you. 

Coming across as arrogant

Being confident is an attractive quality in a candidate: you know you have the skills, you know you can achieve great success, and you’re ready to dive in. These are positive attributes to demonstrate, but make sure you don’t enter into the arrogant zone.

As industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., puts it: cockiness is never well-received. “You should spend time discussing your strengths, but you should not ever assume that you are better than others. And, even if you are more qualified, you should let the hiring manager make that call,” she continues. “Share why you are best suited for the role by emphasizing experience, skillset, and interest in the position.”

Being insecure

On the other side of the spectrum, you also should be proud of your work history and be able to discuss how you’ve grown as a professional. When someone comes across as insecure or self-loathing, it makes the interviewer wonder if they can step up to the plate and perform.

“Never express self-doubt when asked why someone should hire you,” says certified business coach Ivy Slater. Some phrases that should never be spoken include ‘I realize you have many qualified candidates’ or ‘I have a lot to learn.’ Instead, she urges interviewers to step-in with self-assurance, belief, and language that communicates you are ready to take on the challenge.

Sounding scripted

If you sound as if you’re reading off a teleprompter, an interviewer will wonder if you are sincere in your delivery, or just saying what you think they want to hear. Instead, Weiner recommends having a few details you want to discuss while also sounding coherent and calm. “Consider writing down some bullet points of things that you want to say and rehearse several times while keeping it natural, authentic, and free-flowing,” she adds.

Fangirling or fanboying over the company

Sure, you may have always dreamt of working for this company. And hey, you should let them know you’ve followed their trajectory. This shows passion and commitment and is a significant plus for an interviewer.

However, Augustine says it can’t be the only reason you offer when asked why the company should hire you. “Start off by explaining how you’re a good fit for the role and providing anecdotes where possible to illustrate your qualifications. Then, you can close by explaining what you admire about the company and what really excites you about the opportunity,” she recommends.