How to answer one of the most important interview questions came out with an article on 10 of the toughest interview questions. Topping its list was, Why should I hire you?” This is understandably one of the most unnerving questions to be thrown at you; but consider why it’s being asked at most interviews, and understand how to answer it. If you break it down to three phases, formulating your answer will be easier than you think.

First, the employer needs to know if you have a grasp on the skills required to do the job. This is usually the employer’s greatest concern. And do you blame her? She wants to know if you will still be able to perform your duties at an astonishingly high rate six months after hiring you.

How you answer: Do a rundown of the most crucial requirements for the position, explaining how you meet them and more. As the article suggests, doing your homework on the job is critical in answering this phase of the question.

“Let me start off by saying that I have a complete understanding of the major requirements of this position and can guarantee you that I meet them as well as offer additional skills and experience. You need someone who can implement and write your monthly newsletter. I wrote my former company’s newsletter and was successful in increasing readership, drawing in more customers, and making the company look very good for six prosperous years” Continue to list more of the requirements that you fulfill.

Second, the employer wants to know if you’re committed to doing the job. In other words, if hired for the position will you work hard, or will you slack off after your three-month trial period. Will you be motivated is the question. Are you dedicated, or do you simply want a job, any job?

How you answer: This is where you can answer another question you might be asked, “Why do you want to work here?” This second part of the three-part question is where you extol the company’s overall mission, praise it for the outstanding products it develops/services it provides, and show your admiration for its fine reputation in the industry.

“My desire to work at Miranda, Inc. and make it better is fueled by the fact that you and your staff believe in producing software that is designed by the best engineers. I want to contribute to the success of this company with my ability to take a concept and see it through delivery. I’m motivated (use this word) to live up to the outstanding reputation Miranda, Inc. has developed and sustains in the social media industry.

Third, The employer wants to know if you'll be a good fit. Will you play well with others and be easy to manage? Surprisingly this turns out to be a large issue even if you’re a top performer. If you take one of the hardest-to-get-along-with athletes in Boston Red Sox history—none other than Manny Ramirez—and compare his performance to his attitude, you’ll probably agree that it just wasn’t worth keeping the bum around.

How you answer: You are a team player (ouch on that cliché) and even more important a person who has adapted to all situations and changes. Your record of getting along with colleagues and supervisors can’t be touched, not even by the best.

“If you ask my former supervisors and colleagues how I worked with them, they’d tell you I was one of the hardest workers in a very team-oriented environment. I always pulled my weight (another cliché), especially when times got rough. I don’t mean to sound like I was perfect, but I have always adapted to the demands of any company.

Knowing the three major areas of concern of the employer, makes it easy to answer one of the most daunting questions asked at an interview. Take your time before phrasing your answer, though. Don’t rush into it, because it’s really a three-part question that deserves at least two minutes to answer. If you can’t answer this question, you shouldn’t be applying for the job…plain and simple.

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Comment by Suzanne Levison on April 11, 2012 at 6:23pm

Excellent, but candidates should always use their own words~not a "canned" approach that screams ~ "I have read about how to answer interview questions."

Comment by Bob McIntosh on April 11, 2012 at 7:46pm

Thank you, Suzanne. Yes, answers must sound natural and unrehearsed, but as career advisors and recruiters, I imagine, we have to prepare jobseekers for questions like these. I experience my customers losing their nerve when I simply ask them to tell me about themselves. I think what really matters is that they know all they can about the job, company, and any relative extraneous information.

Comment by Brian Trueblood on April 12, 2012 at 11:23am

The one caveat I would make to the article is that regardless of how much research you do, I would discourage speaking in absolutes.  To tell a potential employer in an interview "that I have a complete understanding of the major requirements of this position and can guarantee you that I meet them as well as offer additional skills and experience" is simply over the top.  I would qualify my response with "Based on my current understanding of the major requirements - managing the newsletter, leading a team of creatives, and helping to grow the business through the use of social media - I am confident I possess the requisite skills and experiences to excel."  Then take the opportunity to prove your case with specific and relevant stories of your accomplishments in the past.

I was counseled long ago to avoid saying words like "never" and "always".  In interviewing I would add "complete", "guarantee", etc....

Comment by Chris Bailey on April 12, 2012 at 2:42pm

I completely agree with Brian, using absolutes in an interview often cries arrogance and you can also set yourself up to fail later in the interview if you get a fact wrong, the interviewer could reply "but you stated earlier that you have a complete understanding do you often make assumptions that are wrong?..." etc... I like the article and it denotes key preperation for this often poorly answered question! Well done Bob.

Comment by Jason Perry on April 13, 2012 at 5:27pm

Have to say I prefer evidence based questions.  So much research has shown interviews are unreliable.  Best predictor of future performance is always evidence based using behavioural event interview technique.  So why not focus your interview on gathering evidence about how your candidate has acted before which WILL enable you to accurately predict how they are most likely to perform in your role.

We need to understand the interview is not to put candidates under pressure, but to find out if they will make a good hire.

Comment by Bob McIntosh on April 13, 2012 at 8:19pm

I agree, Jason. Yet not enough interviewers conduct behavioral-based/traditional interviews, even though the combination of the two prove to be most effective. And yes, why put candidates under pressure when the goal is to hire someone who will perform in the role, not just perform at the interview. Thanks. 


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