‘Why Should I Hire You?’ Tips for Answering the Eternal Interview Question

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What if you needed to hire someone for your company and could ask them only one question? What would it be?

“Why should I hire you?” is an obvious choice, and certainly job seekers get asked that question all the time. But there’s another question behind this one that’s even more basic: “What can you do for this company?” And it’s by answering this question—which may or may not be asked, but is surely on the interviewer’s mind—that you can make the most of your interview.

As you advance in your career, a part of that journey requires you to interview and convince a hiring manager (or committee) that you are the best candidate for a job. And it’s fairly likely that you’ll be asked some form of the question, “Why should I hire you?” during an interview along the way. Here are some thoughts on how to respond when you’re faced with such a question.

Be a Salesperson for Yourself

This is a sales question—you’re selling yourself, after all—and salespeople know that the answer involves both features and benefits. And if you ask any successful salesperson, they will tell you: always lead with benefits.

What’s the difference? Features are attributes, while benefits are gains or advantages that solve a larger problem. Think of your smartphone. Why did you “hire” (buy) it? Because you could make calls, send email, surf the web? Yes, but those are all features. Dig deeper and you’ll realize you bought it for its primary benefit—it’s a tool that connects you to your world wherever you go. That’s the gain, or the problem solved.

All those features—calls, email, Internet—support the primary benefit. The same applies to that winter sweater you just bought. Yes, it’s made of cashmere and comes in your favorite color—all features. But you bought it for its benefits—it makes you look good, it keeps you warm, or it goes perfectly with those shoes in your closet.

Lead with the Benefits You Bring

Now apply this to interviewing. Most people typically answer the question by promoting their features. They’ll talk about their experience (“I have 10 years of experience as a…”) or educational background (“I earned a certificate in…”) or highlight their positive character traits (“I’m a team-player…”). These are all fine, but there are two issues. One, everyone does this, so you won’t stand out. Two, you’re talking about your features, not the benefits you’ll bring to the organization that’s considering hiring you.

Instead, lead with the benefits the company will gain by hiring you and support it with your features. Talk about what problem you will solve to make the company better (for example, lowering costs or increasing efficiencies) or to make the hiring manager’s life easier. And this requires research because you have to know what problems you can solve and then match your skills (features) to the problem. So, do your homework and listen carefully during the interviewing process.

Here are some examples of leading with benefits:

  • I will develop a mobile marketing campaign that reaches your target market on social media and increase traffic to the website (benefit). I have five years of experience developing marketing plans that integrate Facebook traffic…(feature)
  • I will shorten the product development cycle by several weeks through combining the lean startup methodology with new collaboration tools (benefit). In my current role, I implemented…(feature).

So the next time you’re in an interview and someone asks you the infamous “Why should I hire you?” question (or some variant like “What makes you different?”), think about your smartphone or the sweater you recently bought. Think about the benefits you’ll bring to the company, back it up with your features, and you’re on your way to a successful interview.

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