How To Answer The No. 1 Job Interview Question: ‘Why Should I Hire You?’

Written By: Chris Westfall

The job interview game begins with a simple and often understated question: “Why should I hire you?” Many interviewers won’t come right out and ask it directly, but it’s always there. Playing to win in the career game means knowing where the goal is – so you never lose sight of the most important question. In any game, how you line up is critical to your results. Think about the stance that is most successful, in any game of your choice. From ping pong to polo, you’ve got to be prepared for what’s next. That stance is also vital when it comes to interviewing in a powerful way. If you’re not set up to answer the “Why should I hire you question?” your chances for getting the job just got knocked over. Here are five quick ways to stand up to that question, and make sure that your answers are powerful, authentic and compelling.

1. Don’t Talk About Your Personality: I have a lot of fellow coaches that specialize in assessment tools, like DISC, Meyers-Briggs and others. While it’s interesting to know who you are, there’s something more useful than self-awareness. Because your personality is really a profile of preferences, including your past and your typical beliefs. But I’ve seen a Woo be sad, and an extrovert that just wanted some alone-time. How about you? Ever do or say anything that “goes against type” for your personality? According to Psychology Today, personality can change. You’re not imprisoned by your profile. Perseverance always overcomes personality, when you focus on your purpose. I may not want to give a presentation, but when the job requires it – guess what? I overcome my personality, align with my purpose, and create a powerful impact. I persevere, in spite of my shortcomings. How about you? Where have you demonstrated your ability to put personality aside, and focus on purpose and perseverance? Could that ability – that purpose – be useful to your next employer?

2. The Message That Matters Most: Indira Ghandi said, “There are two kinds of people: those who do the work, and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there’s less competition there.” While there are many personalities in the workplace, results are what companies hire. Every company, everywhere, is looking for people who solve problems. Explaining how you have solved problems, using numbers, size and scope, can help an employer to place you in the first category. Because just saying, “I’m highly motivated” sounds like fake news. Making bold claims using lots of adjectives makes employers say, “So what?” Use facts to flee from fiction. Use numbers, data and results to back up your story.

3. Observation vs. Creation: Notice the words you choose in your conversations. Are you using the language of observation (“I can’t believe what Jana is wearing!,” “That’s the worst leadership decision ever,” “I’m a victim of circumstances once again” etc.)? The language of observation is what we often use to chronicle life, and the way we feel about it. It’s a reactionary stance. But, when you shift to the language of creation, your stance changes – and so do your results. The language of creation – creating new opportunities, new products, new on-boarding strategies or whatever – is much more powerful. Creation language requires things like agreements. New connections. Bold innovation. Unexpected buy-in. The emphasis is on overcoming obstacles, building enrollment, and fostering greater engagement. Creators look in the direction of impact, always seeking ways to get people on board with new ideas. What have you created, in your career, that makes you proud? What’s that language of creation – the language of leadership – that led you to new realizations, and new results? Could sharing those results help an employer to see that you’re not just like everyone else from your university, and help you to rise above your experience?

4. Dwell On The Differences: Noah is interested in petroleum engineering, and he’s got a strong background in both mathematics and science. But so do a lot of people! What’s different about Noah is that he’s the first person in his family to graduate from a four-year college. His parents emigrated to the USA to find a better life and now Noah is fulfilling their legacy. Because of his background, he knows the value of hard work – not because he learned it in a classroom; he lived it his whole life. That perseverance might be the greatest gift his parents gave him; and it just might be a compelling reason for an interviewer to see him as separate from the rest of the pack. What’s different about your background, and your commitment, and your work ethic? Share that story, and stand out in a crowd.

5. Find Out If You’re A Fit: what’s wrong with finding out where you stand? If you’ve got a strategy for sharing your story, where you outline what’s different about you, you’re not done. Turn the interview into a conversation – and find out if you are really a fit for your prospective employer. If you talk about how perseverance matters to you, or how you helped lead a team at Habitat for Humanity, what’s next? Don’t just stop and watch the interviewer blink while you wait for the next question. Remember, the best interview is a conversation – so have one. Push on and show your perseverance! How does the experience you just shared match up with what the employer wants, and needs? Because if it looks like the interview is all about you, look again. Your story is important, but how your story fits for your interviewer is the question that really matters most.

Inside every interview, whether it’s stated directly or not, the interviewer wants to know why he or she should hire you. Naturally, it looks like the answer to this question begins with the first person (from a grammar standpoint, that’s I, me and mine – or, in the plural, we, us and our). But what happens if you make the second person first? The second person, of course, is you. (Not you, dear reader, but the person you are talking to – your interviewer). Your story has to focus on your listener – because it’s not just about your past history. It’s what your history, performance and purpose might mean to your interviewer. Find meaning for your prospective employer, and you bring real value to the career conversation. After all, the reason why anyone would hire you is a simple one: because of what you can do for them. Never lose sight of the person that matters most in your conversation. Take a stance that allows you to focus on your interviewer, and you’re one step closer to landing the job of your dreams.