When an employer asks you this question, they are giving you an opening to launch a sales pitch about why you are a great candidate for this job and why they should hire you. And they are expecting to receive a sales pitch, so don’t disappoint them. Show them what a great fit you are for the job. This question also is an opportunity to showcase your approach to an important “project” like a job interview. The better prepared you are, the more articulate and impressive you will be.
Focus on Benefits to the Employer for Hiring You
This question takes preparation for each employer and opportunity. Always remember that what matters to employers is how they benefit from hiring you. Answers like “Because you have great benefits” or “Because I need a job” are focused on how you benefit, not how hiring you benefits the employer. So – wrong approach!
The right approach is to align your experience and accomplishments with their needs.
Here are 3 steps for great answers to this question:
1. Analyze the job description (if you don’t have a copy, ask for one).
Print the job description, and highlight the requirements you meet or exceed. Underline the places where you are weak or don’t meet the qualifications. Where does your experience match the requirements and responsibilities in the job description?
If you have underlined more areas than you have highlighted, this job might not be a good fit for you. Or it could be a great opportunity to do a lot of learning, growing into a great new career path.
Take the time to develop some questions about the job to ask during the interview to help you determine if this is a good opportunity for you or one you should bypass, particularly if you have more underlined areas in the job description than highlighted ones.
2. Analyze your experience and accomplishments as they compare with the job description.
Hopefully, you already have a list of your accomplishments and experiences. If you don’t, make one, going back as far as you can in your career(s). Read your past performance reviews and written (or emailed or LinkedIn) recommendations for reminders of what you have accomplished.
- Did you receive any awards for your excellence?
Employee of the Month, Sales Rep of the Year, Best Cupcake Baker, Most Reliable Team Member, etc.
- Did you make any records?
Greatest reduction in the use of paper (or some other expense reduction), greatest sales increase for a tough client, increased profitability (or sales) for a specific product or service, etc.
- Did you work on any major projects or products that were big successes?
- Have you worked on teams that were very successful?
- Were you rated highly by your managers in any performance reviews?
This will take some thought, but your analysis of the job description should help you remember some of your accomplishments.
Keep your Accomplishments List available for future opportunities, and add to it as you remember new accomplishments. This list will help you communicate your value to employers in a concrete way, provide you with good content to improve your online profiles and your resume, and give you good responses to interview questions as well.
3. Structure your answer to this question so that it shows how you meet the requirements of their job.
Based on your analysis, your answers should include whatever is appropriate for you that demonstrates that you meet – or exceed – their needs.
For example, assume you are a very experienced administrative assistant looking for a new administrative assistant position with an energy company. Make a list that looks something like this -
- Requirement: “Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite of products required.”
Assuming these are our job seeker’s qualifications, she can state: “I have been using Word, Excel, and Outlook since 2001 to maintain both financial and administrative records, create and distribute internal reports for management to monitor employee activity and asset usage which was received by 4 senior managers including the CEO and COO, and create and distribute the internal organizational newsletter which was sent to over 200 staff members twice a month.
“The financial reports were created and maintained using Excel, and both newsletters were written using Microsoft Word, using templates that I developed, and distributed using Outlook.
“I have taken several workshops on Microsoft Office products, and have worked with the newest version and previous versions, going back to the 1997 version. So, I am very comfortable with the Microsoft Office suite of products.”
- Preference: The description also states “Oil and gas industry experience preferred.”
Oops! This one is more of a problem since our job seeker doesn’t have oil and gas industry experience. However, notice they used the term “preferred” rather than “required” – this is a good sign that they may be flexible about this requirement. So, our job seeker prepares to address this potential weakness in her qualifications for this job.
She could state: “Regarding experience in the oil and gas industry, which you have indicated that you prefer, I have several years of experience working in a bank and also for a construction contractor. The experience I’ve gained in those environments helped prepare me for working in the oil and gas industry. Both banks and construction companies as well as the companies in the oil and gas industry operate in regulated business environments.
“Working in the banking industry gave me a good understanding of how good banks operate and the many services banks can offer their largest clients, from special checking accounts to managing corporate credit cards effectively. I developed a good understanding of the current regulatory environment for banks, and how they meet the tracking and reporting requirements.
“Working in the construction industry gave me experience dealing with the impact of the weather and the regulations, with the different regulatory agencies, plus the availability (or not) of specialized equipment and people, contractors and sub-contractors, and all the documentation required for those projects. I also learned the regulations for each agency and flagged issues for management if it appeared that we might be facing something that should be discussed with the legal department.
“I adapted quickly and well to each different business environment and to the different sets of business risks and requirements, and succeeded in both jobs. I expect to do the same with the oil and gas industry.”
As our job seeker did above, compare the job description requirements with your accomplishments and skills. “Connect the dots” for employers – describe how you have already done many of the things required of this job (if you have, of course).
Write out these points for several of the most important requirements in the position, and also for the ones where you can make a good case about why they should hire you. Read them out loud a few times, so you become familiar saying them.
Don’t Create a Problem for Yourself
Don’t misrepresent your experience and qualifications. People are fired for that, sometimes very publicly and spectacularly, and it can leave a long trail in Google and Bing search results. You don’t need that – it will only make that next job search more difficult.
Also be wary of talking your way into a job you won’t like or succeed at doing. As much as you want and need a paycheck, being unsuccessful at a job can create an awkward situation for you in the future, creating the need to explain why you didn’t stay at a job very long, were let go, or have a gap on your resume that represents a very short-term, unsuccessful employment situation.
More on Answering Job Interview Questions
© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.