Here’s How to Answer ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
Congratulations. Your resume and application flew through whatever these things fly through and you’re ready for the first interview. The first few minutes will be a little nerve-wracking but tolerable, maybe even fun. Exciting, for sure.
Then they’ll launch the tough, open-ended questions. Among them: “Why should we hire you?”
To be sure, the entire hiring process centers on that question, with every exchange between you and your interlocutors helping them decide if you’re a good fit. Successful job seekers we talked to for this story prepared for that specific question by carefully researching their own work histories and skill sets. The research, and advance preparation, helped them land the job. Here are their stories.
How to Answer ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
Sell Yourself for the Role
Alexa Slinger joined OneLogin, an identity and access management firm, in September of 2018 as a customer success manager, despite having no experience as a CSM.
She did, however, have experience with PKI, plus years of sales and training experience, during which she learned how to establish relationships with and advocate for key clients. She also learned the importance of a single sign-on, and brought all that to the OneLogin interview. “It’s how I sold myself for the role,” Slinger said, who’s based in Atlanta, Georgia.
OneLogin asked Slinger to do a presentation, on a topic of her choice, to a group of seven men. Her theme? Startup disruptors in the make-up industry. The exercise helped the panel determine how Slinger would fare in presenting quarterly business reviews with customers; she aced it.
To date, Slinger has landed every job she’s interviewed for. That track record puts her in a good place to offer advice. “Don’t use cookie-cutter answers, like you’re the perfect person, or you’re really passionate about your work,” she said. “Don’t fake it or give the answer you think they want to hear,” She emphasized the need to prepare, including taking a couple of hours before the interview to “know what you’re walking into,” she said. Finally: “Be confident in yourself,” Slinger said. “On my way to the interview, I’ll listen to uplifting music or positive mantras. I want to walk in there with the mindset of, ‘I know the job, I know the company, I’m feeling good, I’m going to ace this.’”
Try the Vulnerable Approach
Searching for a job straight out of tech bootcamp Coding Dojo, Tia Fouroohi encountered “why should we hire you?” nine times out of 10. “At first, I only wanted to highlight the better parts of me ... ‘I’m hardworking, dedicated,’” Fouroohi said, who transitioned into tech after losing her job as a bartender during the pandemic.
Searching for a way to stand out among applicants, Fouroohi decided on a vulnerable approach. “I started highlighting the things I could work on, the things that make me more human,” she said. She emphasized how new she was to tech and how much she didn’t know, but was willing to learn. “I found it better to be brutally honest,” Fouroohi said.
In response to her answer, interviewers often stopped writing, looked up, and nodded their heads. One even acknowledged that it was a rare answer to the tough question. “It made the interview process so much easier,” Fouroohi said. “It gives the recruiter a chance to connect with you.” She’d offer similar advice to tech professionals preparing for job interviews: “Find ways to make your undesirable aspects desirable to someone,” she said, and forget about sounding less than perfect. “Employees don’t want to hire a robot. They want to hire a person.” She joined Pathloom, a San Ramon, California-based trip planner, as a software developer in March.
Know What You Want
Ariel Tam, a front-end full-stack software engineer at Textio, a Seattle-based augmented writing startup, felt under-mentored at her previous job; she wanted her next workplace to have a strong mentoring culture. “It’s important to know what you want when you come into the interview,” Tam said. “That will give you a lot of drive and a north-pointing compass of where you want to go next.”
While preparing for interviews, she decided that, rather than describe herself as “smart” or “hardworking,” she’d share experiences that demonstrated those qualities. During the Textio interview, she talked about successful projects at her last firm, as well as her enthusiasm for front-end engineering. Tam also kept a journal during her job search. Writing about the interviews provided therapy at the end of a long day, and also gives her a record to review should she embark on another search.
At Textio, the entire interview, not just one question, helps hiring managers discern why they should hire a candidate. In addition to a fit for the tech skills needed, they’re also looking for a collaboration fit “around taking suggestions well, being open to new ideas, and not being defensive,” David Davidson said, engineering manager and Tam’s hiring manager. Tam, who joined Textio in January, showed not just an openness to growth, but an eagerness to embrace it, Davidson said. “She had a really nice solution to the take-home problem; it showed the polish and quality we hope to see in senior candidates,” he said. Tam could also “speak crisply about the decisions she made to arrive at the solution,” he said. In the end, while interviewers never asked Tam “why should we hire you,” she answered it with her work experience, technical skills, and soft skills. “We care a lot about a growth mindset,” he said.
Tout Transferable Skills
Right up until the pandemic, Beau Minder, who’s in his mid 20s, worked as a hairstylist, specializing in the coloring method called balayage. During lockdowns, he had an epiphany: He wasn’t happy with hairstyling. “It just wasn’t scratching the itch for me professionally,” Minder said, who went to college planning to be a photographer. While interning for Ghostworks, a Los Angeles-based tech communications firm, Minder thought that tech might offer a welcome career change. Research led him to Flockjay, a 10-week bootcamp for tech sales. Bingo. Minder realized a lot of soft skills he used in the hairstyling businesses, for instance interacting with people, identifying pain points, and finding solutions, would transfer nicely to sales. He registered for the bootcamp, completed it in late March, and began the job hunt.
To be ready for questions like “why should we hire you,” Minder distilled tech sales job listings down to several key traits and skills likely to arise during interviews, then matched them with skills from past experiences. Thanks to the close contact with clients during his hairstyling days, for instance, “I have a really strong ability to connect with people and communicate with people,” Minder said. “I could emphasize how these different experiences intersect in a way that is unique to me and my history, and make me an ideal candidate,” Minder said. For instance, interviewers might have seen candidates with retail experience, maybe even a few former stylists and probably a bootcamp graduate or two, but probably not any one with all three. “I just had to convince the interview that these gave me the perfect skill set for a sales role.”
The result? Success. In early April, Minder landed a job as a sales development rep at sales data startup Amplemarket, just weeks after graduating from bootcamp. His thoughtfulness and preparation paid off when it came to that tough question; it can for you too.