“Why should I hire you?”

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The interview is wrapping up and the hiring manager asks “Why should I hire you?” What do you say?

I have seen a shocking number of candidates fumble this question and I don’t want it to happen to you. Let’s take a deep dive so that you can nail it every time.

Why am I being asked this question?

This question is asking for your sales pitch. Why you over someone else? It’s giving you a free opportunity to shine. You can look at it sort of like a commercial and the product is you.

You should definitely include this in your practice questions. For many managers, the answer to this question is one of the most important answers you will give.

What not to say

There are two cardinal sins when answering this question:

  1. Talking about generic attributes
  2. Being humble or self-deprecating

Talking about generic attributes

Never say that you are punctual. Punctuality is a basic professional requirement and not a special attribute. Imagine if you went to a restaurant and saw a dish that looked good. You asked about it and the waiter said it’s “edible”. Yes, that is a basic requirement for food, but it does not exactly inspire confidence. Be diligent about weeding out generic attributes.

Being humble or self-deprecating 

This approach has a tendency to backfire and here’s why. These traits can be charming in a long conversation or make for an interesting character in a book. They work when you have enough time to build context.

When you literally have 30 or 60 seconds, you don’t have enough time to make humble or self-deprecating remarks effective. Think about a TV commercial. In 15 seconds, the company has to tell you why they are good and why you should buy from them. Few commercials take the humble/self-deprecating route and with reason. This leaves the door open for a competitor to come in and say why they are the best.

How to answer the question

When formulating your answer or your “sales pitch”, you want to hit these three points:

  1. Why you can do this job
  2. How you do this job differently than others
  3. Why this is the right opportunity for you at this time

Why you can do this job

What is it, specifically, about your education and/or experience that would let someone know why you are able to fulfill the requirements?

Let’s take the example of two household product companies to illustrate my point: Swiffer and Dyson.

Swiffer’s products are all related and originated from a floor sweeper with a disposable, static-producing cloth. So why did Swiffer think they could make a mop? Because they simplified how we sweep, so it’s not a big leap to imagine that they could also simplify how we mop. Why did they think they could make a duster? Because they created a disposable, static-producing cloth, so they can shape this cloth for other surfaces. Their suggestions are plausible because it’s a logical leap from one product to another.

The Swiffer example is good if you are interviewing for a job that’s in your field. What can you say that would make it a plausible leap for the hiring manager?

Dyson, on the other hand, offer very different products. They make vacuums, heating/cooling solutions and hair dryers. What connects these products are the innovative motors related to the movement of air. Dyson has reinvented typical household appliances by hiring aerospace engineers to create their products. Their goal is to make daily life easier through better engineering.

The Dyson example is good if you are interviewing for a job that is outside your scope. You need to distill the core, common thread and focus on other transferable skills that are useful for the job.

How you do this job differently than others 

Everyone truly does bring something special to the table. Having interviewed thousands of people for different jobs, I can assure you: only you can do your job your way. Make it easy for the hiring manager and tell them what that is.

If you aren’t sure, a good way to know is through your past evaluations. In what areas did you always do exceptionally well? What has been a common compliment from your bosses, coworkers and clients or suppliers?

Why this is the right opportunity for you at this time

This is a critical question for you to answer for yourself AND for the hiring manager. How does this fit in to the larger plan you have for your career and your life? How is this job moving you forward in your career? Why do you want this specific job at this specific company?

Hiring managers appreciate the reassurance that the job they have available is the right one for you. We live in a time where company loyalty isn’t what it was 30 years ago. If the hiring manager knows that there is something that will keep you going, even when the going gets tough, which it inevitably will, it helps them to feel safe about saying yes to your candidacy.

If your answer to this question doesn’t sit right in the pit of your stomach, seriously consider if this opportunity is the right one for you.

Putting it all together

What does an answer look like with this model? Here are a couple of examples:

“I just finished my degree in Marketing. This marketing coordinator position is a dream job for me because it would be my first ‘real job’ in Marketing. This is a great opportunity for me to learn and grow. I was always the one who diffused tension in groups during my class projects, so I know that I can bring this same quality to get along well with such a big team.”

“I have been a manager in IT operations for five years now. I love what I do, but I would like to become a project manager because it represents a new challenge for me. It will give me a bigger scope within the organization and that is what excites me about it. I am not too concerned about no longer having a team of direct reports because there is a people management element within project management. I have always been well-respected by my employees and I know that I can have the same impact even if the person doesn’t report directly to me.”

As you can see, the answers can natural and conversational while hitting all the points we discussed. For more interview tips, check out my articles Give better answers to interview questions with this method and 5 questions to ask at the end of an interview.