Picture this: You’re at a job interview, sitting across from a hiring manager who has the potential to determine your fate as it relates to this new job.
Things are going well; you’ve answered a slough of questions about your experience, why you're interested in the position, and where you’d like to see yourself in the future. But then, as the interview draws to a close, the hiring manager asks one final question: “So, why should we hire you?”
If this question just gave you heart palpitations, you’re not alone. In fact, this question trips up a lot of people, especially women and others who may not feel totally comfortable ‘selling’ themselves — though that's exactly what this question is asking a candidate to do.
When recruiters or hiring managers ask this question, what they are really asking is: “Why are you a good fit for this position?” Therefore your answer should leave no room for doubt that you are not only a good fit for this position — you are the best person for the job.
There is a lot of research about women struggling to self-promote. They're less inclined to talk about their achievements than men, in part because our culture often expects women to be modest and humble — and punishes us when we deviate from these expectations. And so it’s important to consider how to best answer this question while also bearing in mind this somewhat challenging context.
In order to develop some strategies on how tackle this somewhat tricky question, Refinery29 asked three career coaches to share a strategy on how best to approach — and nail — this tough interview question.
1. Illustrate How You’ll Bring Value To The Job
"The best answer to this question is a detailed response as to how you will bring value in the position,” says Ariel Lopez, former recruiter, career coach, and founder and CEO of 2020Shift.
Lopez explains that while most people tend to regurgitate what’s already on their résumé, candidates should dig deeper and really illustrate why and how they will be a great fit for the position.
“Recruiters and hiring managers love people who are clear on their value proposition and how they can be a value add to the organization,” Lopez continues, adding that a great way to respond to this question is to pose a question back that asks the hiring manager about a current challenge related to the role — and then demonstrate how you can solve it. “Lead with your ability to be a problem solver and see the bigger picture,” Lopez says.
2. Explain What Makes You Special — If You’re Stumped, Phone A Friend
“Answering this question depends on the situation, but it is almost always a combination of why you are interested in this particular position and what you are uniquely bringing to the table,” says Cynthia Pong, JD and feminist career coach at Embrace Change.
Pong explains that preparation is key in nailing this question, and interviewees need to make sure they understand what the job requires. Then, Pong recommends digging deeper. “You have to figure out what makes you special or what you can do better than other people,” Pong says.
Pong acknowledges, however, that this question could be potentially intimidating to some women. “We always think there are other people who are better than us,” Pong says. “But when you’re having a negative thought, focus on what you do have to offer.”
Pong believes preparing for an interview requires thinking about all of the qualities that are special and unique to you. “Spend some time thinking about your personality, your upbringing,” Pong said. “What do you bring to the table that’s different from everybody else or puts you on another level?”
If you’re stumped, Pong recommends asking three to five people who know you and your professional capacity to share what they see as your top skills, how they would describe you in a sentence, or what is their favorite thing about how you work or do your craft. “Informally surveying people can give you ideas and be a springboard for figuring out how to talk about yourself in a way that’s not self-deprecating or negative,” Cynthia says.
3. Step Outside Of Your Own Perspective
“Many women find it stressful to talk about their own accomplishments,” says Melissa Nightingale, founder and partner at Raw Signal Group and bestselling author of How F*cked Up Is Your Management? An Uncomfortable Conversation About Modern Leadership. “We often do several rounds of mental gymnastics to prepare for interviews [and] try figure out how our response will land for the person interviewing us.”
Given this tendency to over-think, Nightingale recommends finding strategies where you can become more comfortable championing and speaking about your own accomplishments, similar to how you might talk up somebody else.
“To prepare for an interview, it can help to step outside of your own perspective,” Nightingale says, recommending an exercise that might be helpful.
Nightingale suggests printing out a copy of your LinkedIn profile or résumé and changing the name on the top of the page. “Then pretend you're talking to the hiring manager,” Nightingale explains. “Run them through all the reasons they should meet this person and hire them for the role.”
While practicing this exercise, Nightingale suggests writing down some quick bullet points of the highlights of this ‘conversation,’ as well as the reasons why this person is a perfect fit for the role.
“Take a hard look at the list,” Nightingale says. “[Then], when the interviewer asks why they should hire you, you'll have your answer.”
*Name has been changed to protect the subject's identity.