“Why should we hire you?” is a question sure to come up in practically any job interview. It may sound simple, but the answer can vary wildly based on the company and the role you’re interviewing for. Here’s how to prepare to answer the question.
How to Answer ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
Provide a detailed answer that’s persuasive and relevant to the job you’re interviewing for. Prepare, do your research and review your resume to present applicable skills. Be authentic and don’t be shy, but avoid trite or braggy answers.
Tips for Answering ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
Hiring managers listen for the ease and speed of the answer, the excitement and eagerness of the response and the candidate’s cognitive and verbal skills, said Kurt Motamedi, professor of strategy and leadership at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.
“It’s a powerful question that reveals to what extent the candidate has knowledge about the company’s vision, mission, goals and values; products and services; internal dynamics; the position and the job; and needed skills and competencies,” he said.
Prepare for the Question
Successful job seekers research their work histories and skill sets, as well as the needs of the company they’re interviewing with, to answer this question.
“They want to know what’s relevant about your background for them, for their company, and for the role specifically,” said Ian Douglas, who interviewed with about 20 companies before landing a job as a senior developer advocate at Postman.
To tailor answers for each interview, Douglas dove into the job description and researched the company’s goals, directions and its history. He formed answers based on how his skill set was applicable to the job, and why he was the best candidate. Think: “How do I see myself being effective in that role?” he said.
“Preparing shows you actually really care about the role, you care about the company and you care about the interview,” Douglas said. A carefully prepared answer specific to the company and the role “really sets a great first impression,” he said.
“Preparing shows you actually really care about the role, you care about the company and you care about the interview.”
Benjamin Argyle-Ross, a marketing manager at Zenkit, researched both the role and the company before interviewing.
For his answer, he reflected on how previous experiences would benefit Zenkit and how the company’s vision aligns with his personal goals. Without the interviewer having mentioned it, Argyle-Ross referenced a project and explained his ideas for developing the project, should he be hired. “This, combined with my ability to ask questions about both the role and the company, enabled me to strengthen my response and really impress my interviewer as I demonstrated initiative and began to lead the interview,” he said.
“The way a person answers this question tells me so much about what they want to accomplish,” said Rinat Hadas, chief of staff at JumpCrew. Answers also display a candidate’s confidence and their ability to show how their skills are a great fit for the role, she added.
Recognize, too, the fine line between confidence and boasting. “There’s a difference between being proud of the work you’ve done and arrogantly bragging about what you’ve done, that you’re the smartest person in the room,” Douglas said. No one wants to hire arrogant people because nobody wants to work with arrogant people, he noted. A relaxed tone of voice and a calm recitation of accomplishments, more so than brashness and braggy adjectives, can communicate your skill sets.
Alexa Slinger joined OneLogin in 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,” said Slinger.
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.
Transitioning into tech after losing her job as a bartender during the Covid-19 pandemic, Tia Fouroohi encountered “why should we hire you?” nine times out of ten.
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,” said Fouroohi, “it gives the recruiter a chance to connect with you.”
“I found it better to be brutally honest.”
Now a software developer at Pathloom, 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.
Know What You Want
Ariel Tam, front-end full-stack software engineer at Textio, 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.”
During Tam’s Textio interview, she showed not just an openness to growth and collaboration, but an eagerness to embrace it, said David Davidson, engineering manager and Tam’s hiring manager. “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
Beau Minder, who previously worked as a hairstylist, thought that tech sales might offer a welcome career change. 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.
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.
The result? Success. Minder landed a job as a sales development rep at Amplemarket just weeks after graduating from a bootcamp.
Keep Your Core Values in Mind
“‘Why should we hire you?’ is one of the easiest questions to ask, yet one of the hardest to answer,” said Martin Welker, CEO at Zenkit. The answer gives candidates the opportunity not only to shine, but to demonstrate why they’re the perfect fit for the role, not just a good fit, Welker said.
In addition to researching the role and company, Welker urged job candidates to consider their own values. “What do you hold dear? What do you hope to achieve in life? What do you want to be doing in five years?” he said. Then ask yourself the big question: Does this role assist me in achieving this? “Candidates are often so focused on landing a job that they fail to reflect on why they want it in the first place,” he said.
How Not to Answer ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
When asking this question, hiring managers keep an ear open for red flags, among them defensiveness and sidestepping, unchecked raw opinions, overt extroversion or introversion, sidestepping questions and not admitting lack of knowledge, said Motamedi.
For Welker, the biggest red flag is when job seekers don’t know why he should hire them. Candidates also sometimes start listing general qualities, such as “hard worker,” “good communicator” and “fast learner,” but fail to connect with the role itself. Not preparing dashes the opportunity to shine — even worse, it can make a candidate appear more like a liability than an asset, Welker said.
Don’t Brag or Be Arrogant
A candidate once told Randy Rivera, executive director at FinTEx and chief engagement officer at Quointec, that there was no chance Rivera would ever regret hiring them. “It struck me,” said Rivera, “the brash comment immediately put me off.”
Rivera followed up by asking the candidate if he knew anyone who would disagree, and the candidate responded with a long list of who would and why. “In short, the response was, ‘here’s a reason everyone’s wrong, but I am right,’” he said.
Hiring managers, Rivera said, want to hire people who can do their jobs with minimal excuses and drama. “Don’t put on a performance,” he said. “Focus on the positive aspects of your experience, be honest about what you are working on and do not over-promise or over explain.” Rivera said that interviewers can tell if a candidate is lying or deliberately leaving out information, so honesty and owning your truths are the best policies. “Anything else injects doubt,” he said.
Avoid Financial Talk
However you phrase it, “I need the money” is also not an appropriate answer. “While the reality is you need the job to support yourself, employers will not appreciate hearing that you want to be hired for the compensation,” said Courtney Ebben, manager of career and counseling services at Lakeshore Technical College.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
While it’s not good to brag, it’s also not advisable to undersell yourself. “In my experience, candidates are overly critical of themselves or undershare,” Ebben said. Instead of tilting to one extreme or the other, “accurately and concisely describe your strengths and experience to help the employer make a good hiring decision,” Ebben said. She echoes a phrase that appeared in nearly every interview for this story: “This is an important opportunity to shine.”