Let’s say that you’re at an interview for a job you really want, and the interviewing committee asks, “Obviously, we’re interested in you for this position since we’ve called you in, but we’re still reviewing a handful of candidates and want to select the best one. Why are you the right person for this job, and why should we hire you?”
How would you respond?
If you’re like about one-third of the people I talk to, you’d sit there dumbfounded like a deer in headlights.
Another third of the people to whom I pose this question give me what I call “puppy-dog traits”: “I’m loyal, a hard worker, show up for work on time, people like me.”
It’s that last third of people who nail this interview question. And those are the people who get the job.
A Job Search Is a Mix of Sales and Marketing
It’s important to remember that, when you’re in the job search, you’re marketing and selling yourself.
The marketing comes when you’re looking for a job:
The sales component comes when you’re in the interview. You are closing the deal, as it were, and you need to be able to sell yourself.
Ironically, in my experience writing resumes and coaching job seekers on how to succeed in their search, sales and marketing people are the worst at selling and marketing themselves. Give them a widget to sell and they’re amazing, but ask them to sell themselves? Well, that’s where they fail.
Sales Techniques 101
If you have read Little Red Book of Selling, you know the basics of sales. And whether you want to close a customer on buying whatever widget you’re selling, you want the person across from you to agree to a first date, or you’re trying to get that great new job, this selling approach works.
Answering the interview question “Why should I hire you?” is a three-part equation:
1. State what they said they’re looking for.
2. Tell them how you have what they said they’re looking for.
3. Add an accomplishment to showcase your value.
If you’re selling a widget or looking to get a date, #1 primes the pump, #2 outlines features, and #3 seals the deal with benefits. It’s the same equation—and it works.
Step 1: State What They Said They’re Looking For
Are you familiar with active listening? It’s the process of restating what someone has shared with you to (a) let the speaker know you’re listening and (b) to confirm that you’re hearing things correctly. In the world of sales, active listening is key to success because it helps to create quick rapport and trust. Since a job interview is akin to a sales call, practicing strong active-listening skills will show your potential employer that you are fully engaged.
Therefore, when you are ready to answer that all-important interview question, you’ll want to put your active-listening skills to work.
The first step should go something like this:
“It’s my understanding you’re looking for someone who has _______, _______, and ______.”
Of course, you’ll fill in the blanks with two or three (I like three) key skills, talents, or attributes that the company is seeking in their next hire.
Step 1a: Get a “Yes”
Once you tell the interviewers what they’re looking for, you want to get them to agree to that.
Why? Something happens in our brains when we say yes. In this interview question scenario, the interviewer is primed to say yes again and again—until they get to saying yes to you!
But what if you get step 1 wrong?
It happens. You think you’re intently listening; you share exactly what you think the company is looking for; you ask for your yes (“Is that correct?”)—and they say “no.”
Don’t panic. You can recover from this! Just confidently say, “Okay. Let’s revisit that then. What did I miss?”
Then…go back and repeat step 1 with this new information you’ve gained. Again, ask for your yes: “Is that correct?” If yes, then move forward. If no, keep refining until you get your yes. (However, if you have to do this more than once, it’s good evidence you’re not a strong listener and you may have lost your shot.)
Step 2: Tell Them How You Have What They Said They’re Looking For
This is where you showcase your experience, talents, and skills. Rather than memorizing a pat answer or just saying, “Oh you want a, b, and c? I have those,” you’ll want to have a focused response that highlights exactly what you bring to the table that matches what they want.
Think about the last time you bought a car from a lot. Car salespeople are excellent at using this technique:
“You said you’re looking for a family car with low mileage that comes with a warranty. Is that correct? Well, I want to show you this great late-model Toyota. It just came to the lot this week and only has 15,000 miles. It has high safety ratings, which will be great for your family, and since it’s only a year old, it is still under warranty.”
You can absolutely use this same technique when answering this interview question.
Bonus: Make Yourself “Sticky”
While you want to lead with how you can do the job for which you’re interviewing by showcasing experience, talents, and skills—as opposed to those “puppy-dog traits” I mentioned earlier—this is a great place to add something fun.
I call it making yourself “sticky.”
A little something memorable will make you stand out to the interviewers as they are reviewing candidates. Do you make award-winning brownies? Have you hiked Mt. Everest?
When it comes to making a hiring decision, the company will obviously hire someone who can do the job. But if it comes down to you and one other person—and you’re an award-winning brownie baker—who do you think they’ll go for? I know I’d love some brownies in the office from time to time.
Step 3: Add an Accomplishment to Showcase Your Value
Okay, so you’ve let the interviewers know that you get what they’re looking for. You’ve told them that you are what they’re looking for. You’ve even thrown in something fun to differentiate yourself from the competition.
This is where those all-important accomplishments will really help you shine in answering this interview question.
If you have one specific accomplishment that showcases how you can add value to the organization and provide them even more than they’re looking for, awesome. You may also be able to share an overreaching accomplishment, one that starts with something like, “Across my career….”
Using that car salesperson example, it might look like:
“I can get you into this car today with 0% interest, and your first payment won’t be due for two months.”
Whatever you share, make sure it supports what the company is looking for. If they’re looking for a, b, and c, and you share an accomplishment about q, it’s not going to be nearly as effective.
Wrap Up the Interview Question
The only thing to do now that you’ve told them what they’re looking for, gotten a yes to that, shared your experience to support what they want, and added an accomplishment is to wrap it up. This part is simple: “And that’s why I would be a great candidate for this role.”
Are You Ready for This Interview Question (And All the Others!)?
If you’re like most of the people I talk to, you haven’t interviewed in a while. It might have been decades. When that’s the case, you’re likely a little rusty. It’s understandable. But I can help.
In all of my Smart Resume packages, I include an hour of coaching. We go over this interview question, as well as all the others that tend to stump job seekers. We also talk about how to find jobs, applying for positions, and networking. I even give you a great elevator pitch, the answer to the question, “What do you do?”
If you are looking for a new job, Ink & Quill Communications can help. And if you need additional career coaching, we have a certified career coach on the team. Remember that I always provide free resume reviews, so be sure to send yours over to email@example.com.