It’s one of the most popular questions in interviews, and also one of the most understandable. Why not hear why your future employee is right for the role straight from the horse’s mouth?
Why then, does it fill us with so much trepidation? Partly because there’s no way of tricking this question, you’ve just got to believably detail exactly why you’re better than all the other applicants for the job. You’ve got to tell them why what you’ve got is worth having.
The one key thing to remember is that the hiring manager is putting their reputation on the line, whoever they hire. Sell yourself into them with confidence and evidence that you’re the best person for the job, and this question can be the key to unlocking that job offer.
Work out what they want
Your first step, as always, is to do your research. Start by reading the job specification. Then read it again, looking between the lines. It might be that they’re asking for soft skills like flexibility or high emotional intelligence while what they’re really looking for is someone who can adapt to new tasks and be proactive with their work, or someone who understands others and can manage effectively.
By decrypting some of the jargon in job descriptions, you can gain an understanding of the kind of experience and skills you need to show the interviewer.
Next up, take a look at the usual avenues, quarterly reports, websites and industry or company news. This way you’ll be able to get a good idea of the kind of needs the company have, gain some insight into the focus of the business, and understand important growth areas across the industry or sector.
After this, explore their social media, blogs and general company output. This is key to preparing yourself to hit one of the most important factors in hiring nowadays; culture fit. You’ll know the kind of work environment you’re stepping into, and how to pull up old experience that is similar so that you can impress.
Once you’ve got a complete understanding, you can then start to tailor your answer to the interview. This is a chance to demonstrate that you’ve researched and care about the company, and you increase your chance that you’re saying what they want to hear.
It’s not about misrepresenting yourself in trying to plug a round hole with a square peg, but about selecting your most applicable qualities and demonstrating a particular problem you can solve.
Quality over quantity
The key things you want to get across in your answer are experience, skills, accomplishments, training or education and culture fit.
You also want to keep it concise. The chances are that you’ll lose their attention if you use more than three or four examples to cover these areas, and the quality may start to go on. Besides this, you want to keep a few things back for questions later on, even if you’re using your killer answers straight away.
Experience & Training -- To start with you want to use your experience to give a general picture of you as a candidate, and make sure it’s understood that you’ve got the knowledge to succeed. Having said that, if they’re hiring a project manager and you have project managing experience, the chances are that’s probably why they’re interviewing you in the first place. This is an opportunity to get specific, and correlate your experience to the specific industry, role or problems that you know the company has.
Accomplishments -- employers love quantifiable accomplishments as they provide proof that you can offer a strong return on investment immediately. Wherever possible, deliver relevant numbers, whether that’s that you’ve managed 24 people, driven sales by 150%, or completed 9 successful projects with client A, B and C.
Skills & Culture Fit -- Once you’ve identified the sort of soft skills that are key to the culture of your new company, provide some example of a time you’ve displayed them. Consider things like whether they want someone who is supremely organized, a great leader, or keen to come up with innovative solutions to problems.
No matter how much research you do, you might have missed something, particularly if it’s a part of the job that the company aren’t open about for whatever reason.
Think about all of your skills and experience beforehand so that you have bunch of great examples ready. No matter what, the things the interviewer tells you when you meet will be your best resource and you need to be prepared to react.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your answers that you forget to listen, but this is probably the most important skill in a job interview. Listen carefully to everything that’s been said and you should get a clear idea of what they want to hear from you.
Save something special
This is where you stand out from the crowd. Once you’ve established your ability to deliver on core competencies of the job you can consider yourself at least as impressive as the best qualified candidate. You’ve demonstrated that you’re safe and there’s minimal risk associated with hiring you.
So far so good. But what sets you above the next best qualified candidate? The answer is in a unique combination of skills. You need to offer something that others don’t.
Related: The 6 Musts of a Cover Letter
Whether this is the fact that you have some coding experience despite coming in under a marketing remit or that you are fluent in a foreign language which could allow the sales team to develop into an emerging market, try to finish your answer off with something impressive, relevant and interesting.
If you can find an answer that wouldn’t be typically associated with the role, but could be advantageous, even better. This question is a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the rest, so don’t be afraid of doing so!