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If there were some sort of Job Search Grammys, “Why should we hire you?” would have my vote for “Most Brazen Interview Question.” I don’t even like asking it in a mock interview, so I don’t know how hiring managers stomach it in a real one. And while it’s super tempting to return the sass with, “Well why should I work here?” I’d recommend… not doing that.

The good news is, “Why should we hire you?” is actually a really great opportunity to sum up why you’d be an awesome choice.

So why do interviewers ask this question?

A couple reasons, actually. Hiring managers might want to get your perspective on why you’re a good match for the job. Obviously, they’re trying to decipher that for themselves during the interview, but it’s also helpful for employers to see it from your angle.

Alternatively, maybe they can already see that you could do the job, but they’d like to know what you think might set you apart from all the other qualified people who applied. In other words, what makes you special?

4 strategies for answering “Why should we hire you?”

This is your chance to make your pitch and tell the interviewer anything they might have missed about why you’re a great candidate—how your skills would help the organization, for example, or how you’d add to the company’s culture. Be ready to use all the research you’ve done on the company and insights from the job description, as well as anything you’ve gleaned from prior interviews, because we’re trying to pull together a tailored pitch here.

You can use one of these four possible strategies to frame your answer:

1. The “intersection” strategy

For this method, you’ll want to find the crossover between what’s in it for the hiring manager and what’s in it for you if you’re hired. Basically, you should get across that they’ll get an enthusiastic employee who has the exact right skill set for the position and that you’ll get to—and therefore be motivated to—do something meaningful, build your skills, and/or work toward the next step of your career.

The key here is to not forget that second part: talking about yourself. Some people make the mistake of only listing the benefits for the employer. Going into what’s in it for you shows why you’ll be driven and motivated—traits all interviewers are looking for.

For example, you might say:

During my time as a communications assistant for the American studies department at State University, I’ve gradually taken on more and more responsibility. I wrote my first faculty research feature a year ago and since then have written several more. I manage our two student workers and have begun a video series in the same vein. I’ve also become the go-to person for departmental events promotion. I’m eager to take the next step in my communications career and work with a larger department that reaches a larger and more diverse student population. Your job description says you’re looking for someone who will actively engage with student groups with ties to the world languages department and expand the kinds of media the communications team works with. I’ve taken initiative and found success in both those areas and would be excited to use this experience to guide similar work for your department.

2. The “company deep dive” strategy

Some interviewers will spell it out and others won’t, but you should know that the full question is always, “Why should we hire you over everyone else?” If you feel you’ve already covered your skills and experience multiple times, perhaps a better approach for you is to show your dedication to the company itself.

For “the company deep dive,” share your comprehensive knowledge of the business and an understanding for how you might add to the organization. Of course, it requires a good bit of company research (here’s a great guide to get you started) to be able to talk about the company’s uniqueness, history, and future and your own personal investment in the business and its mission. Connecting yourself to the company in this way shows your excitement for the position, portrays you as an insider who might be easier to train than other candidates, and demonstrates how you prepare for and handle something you’re invested in.

For instance:

Aside from having five years of full-cycle recruiting experience at a smaller gaming company, I’ve been a huge fan of Triple-A Gaming for a long time and have followed your recruitment efforts closely to learn from the best. I know your retention perks, the immense effort that goes into designing the shields given out at the annual staff awards, and that hundreds of pounds of M&Ms are provided each year in giant dispensers in the break room. I’m already familiar with conferences and career fairs the recruiting team attends. And I’m more knowledgeable about your IP than even my current company’s—though to be fair, that’s probably true of many gamers. In my experience, candidates really respond when they can sense a recruiter is genuinely passionate about their work, company, and team. I have that and I can help find others who have it too.

3. The “solve your problem” strategy

Often organizations hire new people because they have a problem that needs to be solved. You can get straight to the point with your answer to this question by outlining—ideally in detail—how you can offer immediate relief for a particular pain point.

Don’t spend all your time talking about the past. Instead, focus your efforts on the future and explain how you can make the interviewer’s life easier by addressing their most pressing issue. This shows you’re a forward-thinking team player who’s ready to hit the ground running.

So you might say:

I know it’s been an exciting time for General Tech—growing so much and acquiring several startups—but I also know from experience that it can be challenging for the sales team to understand how the new products fit in with the existing ones. It’s always easier to sell the product you know, so the newer stuff can get shortchanged, which can have company-wide ramifications. I have over a decade of experience as a sales trainer, but more importantly, most of those years were working with sales teams that were in the exact same boat Gen Tech is in now. Growth is wonderful, but only if the rest of the company can keep up. I’m confident I can make sure your sales team is confident and enthusiastic about selling new products by implementing an ongoing sales training curriculum that incorporates new products in a way that emphasizes where they sit in a product lineup.

4. The “bonus feature” strategy

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You have all the qualifications. You can do the job. But you also have a trick up your sleeve. A “bonus feature.” Something that maybe isn’t strictly required or even listed in the job description, but would undeniably come in handy on the job.

Maybe you’re applying for a corporate job, but years ago your first summer job as a teen was in this company’s retail department, giving you a unique perspective. Or perhaps you’re applying for a marketing role at a medical device company and your neuroscience minor means you have a deep understanding of the problems the org is looking to solve. Any extra experience or skill you have that could be relevant for the job may be worth mentioning here in case the interviewer hasn’t put it together yet.

For example:

As an executive assistant, I’ve managed schedules and booked travel. I’ve been responsible for monitoring multiple email accounts and handling expense reports. I’ve made sure everything was where it was supposed to be and found it if it wasn’t. No task is too big or too small. I’ve done it all. And actually, I’ve even done all these things in a different language. In my last role I frequently made calls and made arrangements in Spanish for international engagements. You mentioned that you have a trip coming up to Barcelona and travel to Spain often, so I’m sure my Spanish fluency would be an additional asset in this role.

What not to do when answering “Why should we hire you?”

  • Don’t just cover the basics. You could say, “Your job needs someone with sales experience and I have that,” but every applicant the hiring manager interviews likely has sales experience. Ideally, your response should be about something most other candidates won’t have.
  • Don’t assume they’ll make the connections. Don’t spend the entire time talking about your skills and experiences and neglect to mention how it all connects back to the organization and role. Spell it out for them as if the title of the Scripps National Spelling Bee depended on it (and then be grateful you can answer this interview question rather than spell “gesellschaft” or “bougainvillea” on live television!)
  • Don’t tell your entire life story. It’s hard to know when you’ve sufficiently answered the question, but trust your interviewer to ask follow-up questions if they want to learn more. Resist the urge to cover every reason under the sun for why you should be hired and keep your answer under two minutes.

Next time you’re confronted with “Why should we hire you?”—and it can feel like a confrontation—give one of these strategies a whirl. If nothing else, you’ll be memorable for how polished and unruffled you were. That alone might make you special.

Updated 2/25/2022