You might think that an answer to the “why should we hire you?” question in an interview would come completely naturally. After all, this question usually shows its face after at least one first round interview, so you’ve already proved yourself worthy of more time. This question, while simple on the surface, is actually a lot more complex than most candidates understand.
Ladders spoke with Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert for TopInterview, to find out how candidates can craft the best answer to the “why should we hire you?” question and why hiring managers actually pose this question during interviews.
Why do hiring managers ask the “why should we hire you?” question in a job interview?
Augustine actually encourages interviewers to avoid this question while speaking with candidates.
“It’s funny because it is one of the ones that, as an interview expert, you always prep everyone for, but I personally don’t say it that directly,” Augustine said.
Instead, Augustine asks a variation of this question like:
- Why do you believe that you are a good fit for this position?
- What interests you about this role?
“I’m looking for the same type of answer you get if you ask ‘why should we hire you?’ but it’s a little less direct and makes you sweat in your seat…I don’t think that’s helpful for anybody,” Augustine said. “I’d rather them feel a little less stressed out and talk more naturally because I’m more likely to get an honest response than if I ask this question straight out as ‘Why should we hire you?’”
So, when do interviewers typically ask this type of question?
This question, or a variation of it, won’t typically come during a first interview or phone screening. While the first round is typically an opportunity to hear more about your past experience, this type of question is positioned a little further into the interview process.
During this round, the interviewer is narrowing down to the final contenders for this position. As a result, the hiring manager is trying to see who is the right fit and who brings what to the table. A key element to note is that the hiring manager wants to get into and find out what they are not seeing on the piece of paper in front of them.
“Part of it is I kind of want to get a little bit of their personality and see how they respond to this,” Augustine said. “How do they take this question? In their mind, why is this the opportunity they are going for?”
A lot of job-seeking these days is about storytelling, so candidates need to be able to tell the narrative of their career. Applying to jobs, your goal is very clearly to show how your background, education, and skills meet the requirements of the role. Once you get into the interview process, of course, the interviewer will want to make sure you have those skills, but beyond that, the hiring manager wants to see who fits best out of all the candidates with similar skill sets and qualifications.
“So I’m looking for that little extra thing that this person brings to the table,” Augustine said.
That “little extra thing” might be a personality and cultural fit, or a nontraditional work or life experience that gives them a different perspective that would actually be beneficial to the organization.
The worst response to “why should we hire you?”
- “I’m not sure. I don’t know.”
“The worst responses I’ve heard are those who are very clearly unprepared to answer such a question,” Augustine said. “Either they are stammering and there is no real response…where it’s very clear that they haven’t given this any thought. At the end of the day, you’re asking the question because you’re also trying to gauge, how interested are you in this role? Have you really thought about it, or are you just applying to a bunch and hoping something sticks?
- “I really need money to pay my bills right now.”
“Any time somebody reverts back to all their wants and needs as opposed to thinking about how they fit into the bigger picture at the company, that can be a turn off for an employer,” Augustine said. “Sadly I have heard people go that route. It seems obvious not to say that, but when you’re put on the spot, you’re nervous, and you haven’t given this type of question some thought, things blurt out of your mouth that you don’t ever expect or mean to say.”
- “I hate my current company and I’m looking to get out.”
“A response that has nothing to do with the role or the company, it’s more of just about their wants and needs, is never going to be effective and could really sabotage the interview for you,” Augustine said.
The best response to “why should we hire you?”
“The most impressive responses I’ve ever heard were typically those that were the most thoughtful,” Augustine said.
An important aspect of answering this question is getting into the specifics and providing a narrative that contains a lot of detail.
“In some ways, it is a modification of your elevator pitch, where it’s explaining just a little bit more about what can you bring to the table that’s a little different from everyone else,” Augustine said.
Here are things to touch on when answering this question:
- What can you bring to this role that other candidates cannot?
- How does a certain project in your past experience relate to something they learned about this position through previous conversations?
- How would this role fit into the bigger picture at the company?
- What experience did you leave off your resume that you want the hiring manager to know about?
Augustine notes that the answer to this question can highlight something that didn’t necessarily fit on your resume, but has the chance to put you ahead of other candidates interviewing for this role.
“Maybe it’s the fact that you speak several languages, even though that wasn’t on the job description, and that just gives you an edge over someone else,” Augustine said. “Maybe it has to do with a time you studied abroad and what you learned during that experience or something that wouldn’t appear on a resume.”
How to answer “why should we hire you?”
The key to answering this question, or questions like it, is to move beyond what the hiring manager can find on your resume. The main point to your answer is not something typically highlighted in big, bold letters on your resume.
Instead, you need to take the information you have learned throughout the interview process and connect it with something the hiring manager doesn’t know about you yet.
Here are the steps to preparing the best answer to “why should we hire you?”
- Reflect on the role, company, and experience.
- Find how you’re different than the other candidates that have the same skillsets.
- Connect it to how you can perform better in this role than others would.
- Touch on how this strength fits into the team and the company’s mission.
“It really does take a little thought, based on your research on the company and on what you’ve been learning from the recruiter you’ve been talking to or earlier interview stages,” Augustine said.
Ask yourself, based on everything I know about this company and this role in particular, what about my background, especially the things that aren’t necessarily on paper, are worth bringing up to show how this can actually add some extra value to the table?
Best example answers for “why should we hire you?”
Example 1: “I believe I’m the best candidate for this role for a few reasons. While it’s great that my professional experience is an extremely solid foundation for the position, I think it is actually my experience spending time abroad that will help me excel beyond expectations. When I was in Europe, I had to get out of my comfort zone and reach out to others who may have not had much experience working with an American before. As a result, I became very comfortable reaching out and working across teams in the company. I also learned how to gauge other’s work styles and collaborate with them in ways that worked for both of us.
Example 2: “I’m glad you asked this. I believe that I’m the right fit for this position and company because I am actually the target audience that we are going after with this product. I’m happy to have the concrete skills to prepare me for this role because this is a product that I, and all of the people I surround myself with, either use on a frequent basis or desperately need to start using. In my opinion, that sort of perspective is invaluable to the team.”
How to prepare to answer the “why should we hire you?” question
Though Augustine advises against asking this question, she strongly recommends that candidates prepare to answer it ahead of an interview.
Actually, Augustine recommends preparing for all staple interview questions. Even if the employer doesn’t ask you the specific question, preparing to think in these certain mindsets will give you ideas about the role, company, and how you fit into each of those.
Augustine recommends preparing a list of those standard questions and brainstorming how you would answer each one. Never memorize an answer, as you don’t want to sound unnatural, but instead come up with a few words or bullet points to jog your memory while you’re preparing.
Then, practice delivering a response in a few different ways.
“The worst thing you can do is try to memorize a response because it will sound rehearsed,” Augustine said. “You won’t come across as natural…it will come across as dull or disingenuous, and those are major turn-offs for employers.”