Updated 26 May 2020
This question is a stumbling block for many candidates – but it probably shouldn’t be. With a little preparation, some research and an understanding of how to identify the right skills, you will be able to deliver a strong answer.
Formulating a good response is much like presenting a sales pitch. Rather than selling a product or service, here you are selling your unique combination of skills, experience and knowledge, communicating to the recruiter how you can address their pain points and deliver the results they need using the skills they require.
Successful answers will emphasise what value you can bring to the company and how you will deliver on that. But how do you do that, and where do you start with such a broad question?
This interview question can be asked in numerous ways, so knowing when to recognise it is important. Some of the most popular variations are:
You must be able to deliver a comprehensive response that communicates to the recruiter why they should choose you, and what value you can add.
Put simply: a question such as this can help recruitment managers differentiate between a good candidate and a great candidate.
Successful applicants must be much more than suitably qualified or experienced; they need to bring something else to the table, particularly in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Interviewers like this question because it helps to find a stellar candidate and also because it reduces risk. Let’s explain this further.
Every recruitment decision that a business makes can be a risk, both for the company and the person making the final selection decision. If an applicant is appointed and their performance is below standard, or they leave a short time after being recruited, this will reflect badly on the company and the recruiter, plus it has a significant financial cost. A question like this helps recruiters delve deeper into the motivations, aspirations and values of the candidate, to ensure they are making a good decision.
When an interviewer poses this question, they are essentially asking you to sell yourself as convincingly as possible, emphasising why you really are the best person to join their business. There are many elements that you can cover in your answer, but it is important to stay focused rather than being generic. The best answers might mention that:
This question is also an opportunity for the recruiter to find out:
Deep research is the key to success. Finding out what a recruiter wants is of the utmost importance. Once you know this, you can deliver a much more tailored response.
The first place to start your research is with the job description and person specification. Work through each and highlight personality traits, skills and experience that the recruiter emphasises.
Once you have those, you can refine or expand your list further. Head over to the company’s website and read the ‘About Us’ pages and information about staff achievements, training or team-building days. Do you notice any particular skills that are repeated regularly, such as communication, teamwork or problem-solving?
By this stage, you should have some core competencies that the organisation values. You can take this a step further and look for employees of the company on LinkedIn, to find out what skills they choose to display prominently on their profiles.
Try to make your answer as achievements-focused as possible, using specific examples from your work, academic study or voluntary projects.
If you have researched the company thoroughly, you may have also identified a need the company has which caused it to recruit for additional staff. This could be to improve efficiency, reduce workload for a certain team or to make time savings. If you can identify such a pain point, you should definitely work it into your answer.
As an example, let’s say that you are applying for an Assistant Data Manager role. You have recently read that the company is struggling with their existing records management systems and the process of digitising these records has resulted in numerous backlogs. This is the company’s pain point – and that’s where you come in. As the company are recruiting for an assistant data manager you could offer insight into how to address this problem. The more innovative and unique your solution, the more it will set you apart.
Finding a pain point may be more difficult for some organisations than others, but if you can find out the motivation behind the recruitment decision, this can really help to create an effective answer.
Identify the pain point – then say how you'll solve it.
The way you structure your answer is a golden chance to communicate to the recruiter why they should select you over the other candidates. Make your answer memorable and unique.
Your response can be structured in lots of ways, but the best approach is to incorporate a series of points (three to four is ideal) backed up by strong examples. Depending on the outcome of your research and the nature of the opportunity, include:
Achievements and results are always factors that will score highly. Even more so if you can relate these to a core competency or skill that you uncovered during your earlier research.
Now that you have an understanding of what elements you need to incorporate into your answer, the next step is to actually put together a response. Treat this question exactly like a mini sales pitch.
As a first step, return to the job description and note down the most important skills, attributes and qualifications highlighted by the company. Your previous research may come in useful here. In which of these areas do you really excel? What are your most notable achievements and what differentiates you (your unique selling point)?
Then, for each of the skills and attributes on your list, write a brief bullet point which captures a situation, what you did, what action you took and the result. This is known as the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique.
Be sure to strike a balance between providing enough detail and being concise. Ideally your response should be no longer than 1 to 2 minutes. Try to avoid memorising a script, as this can sound too rehearsed. Instead, memorise your 3 to 4 bullet points as prompts. If you have prepared well enough, these should be all you need to formulate a good answer.
Remember to show rather than tell. For each skill or qualification you have identified, think of a situation where you have used this and achieved something. Everyone can say that they have strong communication skills, but not everyone can tell a compelling story of how they used their communication skills to secure a contract, resolve a customer complaint or get a project back on track.
Anecdotes are a great way to show a recruiter how you used a skill to achieve a result. Each interviewer will be comparing you with the other candidates and looking for ways that differentiate you. So it will help you to draw on an unusual situation, task or action that delivered a positive result.
By now you should have a good idea about what you want to say and how you want to say it. You don't want your efforts to fail by making a simple mistake. Like these:
Knowing where to start when answering a question such as this can really give you some inspiration for providing a unique and interesting response. In this section we have put together a few examples (drawing on the earlier instance of the Assistant Data Manager) that could be used as a good foundation on which to build your answer.
"I have a comprehensive background in co-ordinating successful data management tasks for leading organisations, plus my communication skills have helped me develop some excellent partnerships [give examples at this point]. I am very interested in the information management industry, and committed to developing solutions that streamline process and achieve resource savings."
"I believe that my experience in the information management industry, plus my ability to use problem-solving skills to make time and resource savings, make me a good fit for this post. In my most recent role [provide an explanation of how you used your problem-solving skills to achieve a positive outcome]."
"Your organisation provides many services that I have experience with. [Provide a couple of impressive examples]. I think that my familiarity with this industry and data coordination in general would make me a good match for this position."
The next time you are faced with ‘Why should we hire you?’, it need not be a question that fills you with dread. The information contained within this guide should provide everything you need to succeed and deliver a polished and professional response.
Research, prepare, structure your answer and provide a solution to a pain point. Draw on your achievements and find an angle that differentiates you from the other candidates.
These important steps will ensure that you can deliver a confident response that might just result in the offer of employment you are hoping for.
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