how to answer “why should I hire you?”

A reader writes:

I haven’t interviewed in a long time, and I’ve never been good at it. I have good references, have worked on interesting projects, and have good skills. But I’m very introverted. If someone asks me, “Why should I hire YOU?” I have no idea. “I’ll do a great job” seems like a ridiculous thing to say (how would anyone even know?).

I’ve done well at all of the jobs I’ve had — it’s just getting past the interview that baffles me.

“Why should I hire you?” isn’t the best wording for this question. While some candidates will hear it as it’s usually intended (“why would you be great at this job?”), many others will hear as adversarial or as asking the candidate to assess themselves against other candidates, which they can’t do without an intimate knowledge of their competition.

But the way to answer it well is to reword it in your head. Translate it to, “Tell me why you think you would you excel at this job.”

That’s something you should come into the interview with at least a hypothesis about. Ideally that hypothesis is what led you to apply for the job in the first place! An interview is a time to get more info so you can test that hypothesis — because maybe it will turn out to be wrong — but the interviewer is asking you to lay out what you see as the case for you being a good match for the job.

They’re really just saying, “You applied for this job because you figured you’d be good at it. Tell me more about why you think that.”

You don’t need to assess whether you’re the best person for the job (again, you can’t possibly know that) — but this is a chance to explain why the job seems like a strong fit for your background and your skills. This is your chance to make the case for yourself!

If you can’t explain why you think you’d be great in the job you’re applying for, it’s unlikely that your interviewer will figure it out on their own, so you should always work out the answer to this before you walk into the interview.

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Alex*

    You should hire me because you have a need for someone to do the job, otherwise you wouldn’t have posted it.

      1. Sadie*

        That just tells me why you should accept an offer. But why should I make one in the first place? Forget the rest of my candidate slate, just tell me why I’d want to offer you this job. What will you do when you’re in it?

    1. Sadie*

      But that just tells me why I should hire SOMEONE. What about YOU is the thing that should make me feel glad I’m cutting checks to you?

      1. Blueberry*

        Because I applied for this job because I saw you need tasks X, Y, and Z done. Based on my experiences with Z, Y, and X, which you can see on the copy of my resume which I brought with me and gave you at the start of the interview, I know I both can perform these tasks and that I enjoy them. I have also done A and B related tasks and achieved [concrete results], demonstrating that I can expand my focus if the job requires, and that I can concentrate on tasks I don’t enjoy as well. Hopefully if we’re talking in person I will have organized this schpiel slightly differently. ;)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          So basically again…you’re just like everyone else I interviewed. And don’t stand out at all, so I’ll just flip a coin. Why did we waste our time interviewing? Why not just give everyone a job based on resume and then fire everyone as needed.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            My husband works for a program that decided to do “blind hiring,” ex: to reduce bias, people can only be hired based on the information on their application, no interview.

            As a result, at any given time, half of their employees in that role are desperately failing and everyone is miserable.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Wha? I mean, geez, at least give people a tour and let them interview behind a curtain or something.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              Ugh. I was thinking about that after reading some different responses below, since you may be better off asking a diverse candidate group stock questions so everyone gets the same thing to respond to, even if the questions are not great. No interviews/resumes only would even be worse!

              Culture fit is one of my biggest concerns with new hires. A lot of people think my company will be like the competitors they came from, and it’s not. I also learn a lot about people who have issues with female managers because we interview in teams or groups, and many candidates only talk to my male partner. I don’t recommend them, but one got through who has been a challenging personality since day 1. I can see why people hired off their resume only would struggle.

            3. ampersand*

              This is an interesting experiment that also sounds like it needs to stop now because it’s not working. I find this fascinating—now I wonder if there are jobs/industries in which this could work.

          2. Blueberry*

            Yeah, Jedi Squirrel pointed this out too. Hopefully the examples I use (when I mention I can do X or Y I try to quickly give examples) will make me stand out, but this is one of the uncertainties of job interviewing, not knowing who and what I’m being compared to.

            OTOH, I was about to say I was intrigued by the idea of “hire everyone and fire the ones who don’t work out” but I guess the example just below shows why that wouldn’t actually work.

        2. Sadie*

          I think this is a good answer. You’ve corroborated some of my initial assumptions about your resume, and drawn connections that I also see. Alternatively, I now understand that you and I see things pretty differently, that what you meant on your resume and what I inferred are miles apart. Either way, I’d appreciate the answer as straightforward, succinct, and logical, all of which make someone an attractive candidate to me as a hiring manager.

          1. Blueberry*

            Thanks :) (heh, you should have seen my ridiculous smile when I read your comment.)

        3. Jedi Squirrel*

          Yes, but the question isn’t asking “can you do the job?”

          The question is asking “why would you excel at this job?”

          If I interview ten people for this position and three of them can actually do it, tell me what puts you above the other two.

          1. Blueberry*

            That’s the kicker, though, isn’t it? Because I don’t know the other two. I can only talk about what I can do (at this point in the interview I’d give an example or two based on what the interview has told me so far about the position and my own experiences, to try to illuminate how well I would do the job). But I can’t say, “I know you also interviewed Martha and I file much faster than she does.” I can only describe how fast I can file.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Don’t get hung up on that. Seriously. You don’t need to know the other candidates. You only need to know what is unique about you and tell your story. Even if someone had identical experience, they are not going to draw out the same accomplishments and stories that you do and they won’t have the same goals or reason for interest in this role. You can’t say I’m better than Martha at xyz, but you can say “no one else brings this exact total package to the table” because it’s probably true.

              1. Jedi Squirrel*

                Yep. At this point, you’re not competing with the other candidates. You’re really trying to make sure that you’ve ticked all their boxes, and then ticked some boxes that they didn’t ask about.

      2. matcha123*

        I don’t know if there’s really any good way to answer that.
        When I changed jobs, I focused on the skills I could bring, my experience, and my desire to stretch myself in a slightly different way. The interview went well. Great! The people that hired me seemed to like me. Great!
        And I’ve been absolutely miserable at work the past few years because one person has blocked everything I do and the people that hired me gave me no heads up about what I was getting into.
        I don’t know. When we are interviewing, we have no way of knowing whether your office is toxic or not. Maybe everyone gets along because they have personality traits that wouldn’t come out in an interview. Being good at a job is really only part of the picture, right?

        1. Sadie*

          That sounds awful, and like they had prior knowledge of a difficult person that they were not upfront about. I agree that it’s pretty easy to hide toxicity during the brief interview process, especially since the interviewer just has more power than the interviewee.

      3. Elmer Litzinger, spy*

        At an interview the interviewer and I discovered we were both Midwesterners. I really wanted the job so I said “I am from Wisconsin. If you are from Wisconsin you are either a really hard worker or a cannibalistic serial killer. I am a hard worker.”

        …I got the job offer. And the job.

  2. ragazza*

    I have a different take on this for when it’s asked in a first interview. This is like asking someone on a first date why they should marry you. You don’t know if they should! It’s far too early. You’re getting to know them as well. So I would spin it as “Well, we’re finding out if we’re a match for each other, which will ultimately determine if you should hire me. If we are, the kinds of qualities/skills/abilities I would bring to the job include . . . “

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think you can still be more affirmative, though. True, you don’t know if you’re a match, but I figure there are probably 5 reasons anyone should hire me for anything. If you don’t need someone with those 5 qualities, no problem, but those are what I offer. I would just jump in with what I would bring to the job and make it sound like they should agree those are the most important functions of the job. If they don’t like my reason, don’t make an offer. It probably wouldn’t work out anyway.

      It would be a bolder move to take that approach with dating. ; )

    2. Littorally*

      Taking a job is so much less of a commitment than marriage, though. I mean, I hope most people don’t change spouses every 5-7 years!

    3. PollyQ*

      Not a great comparison, IMO. People date for all kinds of reasons, but the whole point of a hiring process is to pick someone out of a field of applicants and get them working in a role in the near future. “Why should I hire you?” is a very blunt way to raise the issue, but it does cut right to the core of what’s going on. And the fact that the interviewee is also going to making a choice as to whether it’s a good fit, or if it’s a job they even want doesn’t apply to what the interviewer wants to know.

    4. TardyTardis*

      “At almost every job I’ve worked, when I’ve had to move on I had to be replaced by two and a half people”.

  3. Sarah Simpson*

    Along with highlighting any skills I have that are specific to the job, I always go for some way to tell them they should hire me because I will solve problems for them – that I am adaptable, flexible, willing to do the hard stuff, and can figure out a way forward in most situations. I never know if it makes a difference, but when I’m hiring, that’s what I’m usually trying to figure out about people.

  4. Myrin*

    This is incredibly timely! I’ve had some slight problems with that question before because I can be pretty literal (seriously, the politicians or stars or whoever who get interviewed on TV who get asked one question and answer something completely different? I know it’s a deliberate tactic but I could basically never bring myself to do that – something like this just goes against everything in me) and I will absolutely refer to this answer when preparing for future interviews. Thanks, Alison!
    (It feels weird to thank you but this is actually something that pertains to me very acutely and that really feels like it speaks to me personally so, well, thanks Alison!)

    1. Gumby*

      Myrin – I am with you. I basically choked on the Spanish language AP test during the ‘answer questions into your tape recorder’ (THAT dates me) part because they asked what we had for dinner the night before and instead of making something up where I *knew* the name of the food in Spanish, I was all flustered and ended up saying the name of the dish in English. Ugh. It’s probably not the whole reason, but I blame that one question for why I got a 4 on the Spanish language test. (Managed a 5 on lit the next year though.)

  5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This is basically your verbal cover-letter question. I have seen it usually towards the end of the interview, so that you should have more information than when you were writing that cover letter to begin with. You can bring in your experience that they seem to really be looking for or whatever else.

    I had this question for my current job and my response was to point out my extensive background in the same industry, same size, similar setup. I have self trained myself enough that I don’t care that you are throwing me to the lions or that I need to figure out clunky software myself, etc.

    It will always depend on the tone of voice. The person hiring at the time doesn’t even have the ability to sound intimidating, so that helps. Unlike one of my bosses that made me freeze with his brisk “Well what do you see yourself doing in 5 years?” [That one I hate the most after “weaknesses”…like I plan on probably being here unless you suck, then I’ll be long gone…]

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I think people underestimate the amount of lousy interviewers out there. Too many of them ask it at the beginning, before we’ve even had a chance to discuss all the things. How am I supposed to answer it at that point? If I defer, like, “I’d love to answer that after we’ve talked a little more. Tell me about X,” I feel like I risk throwing them off their script or making them mad.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oh, no we all know there’s a ton of shitty interviewers! I don’t think that’s lost on many.

        Which is why I also don’t get that stressed about interviews anymore, oddly enough. I’m like “We either are going to hit this off, you’re going to suffer this process with your ineptitude and I’ll suffer with my general awkwardness that takes over the entire room sometimes.”

        I think one of the real issues is along with the obvious power imbalance presented in the interview setup, it’s that we forget the interviewer is literally just a person, who may suck at a lot of things. Just because they’re even the CEO or someone “important” in the company you’re applying to doesn’t mean a damn thing. I’ve seen bad interviews from every level and every angle.

        And that’s the shitty thing is that you worry about angering them or throwing them off a script. It’s not normal for people to get mad when you respond with “I need to know a bit more about what the job pertains to before I can tell you much about how I’d be your best choice!” It’s about staying friendly and trying to jive with someone, more than trying to bow to their greatness and the powers they hold because they have a job that you may or may not want hanging over head.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, I don’t love this question at beginning or end really since basically ALL the questions in the interview ought to add up to the answer to this one. At least if it’s at the end one could choose to interpret it as basically an “Anything else I should know?” but otherwise it’s kind of a dick move asking something that completely open ended and which is the point of the whole interview rolled into a single question.

        1. I am Jack's Something-or-Other*

          +1 Thank you for articulating what I couldn’t find the words for.

  6. AnotherAlison*

    I think of this question as a chance to make a compelling case for yourself and connect the dots for the interviewer.

    If your whole career is a standard progressive path towards this job, it may seem obvious–“Well, you need a teapot analyst with 10 years of experience. I was a senior teapot analyst at my last job, so yeah. . .”

    Assume all the interviewees fit the requirements. Your answer needs to be something like, “I love being an analyst because I firmly believe businesses perform better when data is used to guide business decisions. If I can help a senior manager accomplish their goals with data, that makes my day. In my last job, I worked with the marketing manager to identify ‘X’ problem, and we were able to craft a solution that helped turn it around.”

    People think they don’t have accomplishments and success stories because of certain types of roles, etc., but we all do. It doesn’t have to be big, just unique to you.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Also, if this is at the end of the interview, you should have asked questions and gotten a better understanding of the role and their needs. Bring out something you learned and relate how you uniquely fill that need. Like, if they are starting a role from scratch and you launched the same role before, you can help them identify stumbling blocks and get the role off the ground sooner.

    2. Grits McGee*

      I agree- I’ve interviewed for several positions at my federal agency, and the first question they always ask is always something along the lines of “What in your background and experience qualifies you for this job?” It’s a nothingburger of a question, but I’ve always approached it as an opportunity to package and contextualize all of the weird, disparate jobs in my resume (and it’s all of them since it’s federal hiring) into a pitch tailored to the position.*

      For example-“As you can see from my resume, I have a broad range of experience in fields A and B, which is beneficial in x, y, and z ways. One thing that is common across all of these positions is my ability to C. For example, when I was a llama groomer at Agency F, I did x, y, and z…” etc

      *My agency neither wants nor reads cover letters. Yes, this is reflective of broader dysfunction in the hiring process.

    3. Eirene*

      That is remarkably similar to the answer I used during my interview for the job I hold now when the panel asked me that question, albeit in a different field! It wasn’t for a customer service position, but part of the job does involve pleasing (internal) clients. Being able to draw in my extensive customer service/hospitality experience in addition to the experience directly related to the position really tied it all together.

  7. Laura*

    I struggle with this question because the times I’ve been asked have been at the end of the interview. And then I’m stumped because I think – isn’t that what we have been talking about for an hour? My mind goes blank for anything other than what has already been said.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s okay to summarize what you’ve talked about. You don’t need to come up with something fresh for every answer. Sometimes it’s about hearing how you attack similar questions as well.

    2. Forrest*

      Remember they’re talking to maybe half a dozen people who may have similar-ish CVs, and everyone starts to blur into one at a certain point. If you can summarise the three main things you want them to remember about your experience, qualifications, achievements etc, so they’re really going out thinking, “Ah yes, Laura, she’s the one with the international llama transport certification and the background in bulk llama purchases”, that’s tremendously helpful!

  8. I edit everything*

    I think the answer to this could depend on where the question comes in the interview. If it’s at the beginning:
    “Well, it’s possible you shouldn’t, but here’s where I see myself excelling in this job: blah, blah, blah.”

    If it comes at the end, it’s a great opportunity to loop back to previous, specific topics of conversation: “I’m excited about the opportunity to work on X project you described. I have X skill, which will be crucial for whoever takes this role, and with my experience doing Y, I’ll be able to bring Z advantage to the role.”
    “I really love the [culture, focus, mission] I’ve seen today. It’s clear my X skill/personality trait/experience will complement the existing team well.”

    1. Allonge*

      Alternatively, if at the end, you can also use this to mention 1 or 2 things that you want them to know about but have not come up yet. Both can work out!

  9. JM in England*

    I have had a variation on this question which was “What can you bring to the job that someone else can’t?”. My answer was “It’s impossible for me to answer that properly because I don’t know the abilities and experience of the other candidates.”

    Didn’t get that job! :-D

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, that’s a bad question but the way to answer it is still just to reply with why you think you’d excel, not to tell them why their formulation of the query is wrong.

      1. AthenaC*

        You mean – “ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer” isn’t a great mindset for a job interview?


    2. Amber Rose*

      “Me, because I am one of a kind.”

      I actually don’t know how to answer that question. I dunno, I am literally my own person and nobody else has my exact set of life experiences and thoughts so… the better question is what do the other candidates and I even have that are the same.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s the thing though, you are the only one with your experiences and thoughts. So in reality, you should have something different to offer than not everyone must have to do the job.

        Jokes aside, I always use this kind of question to point out my specific experiences. Anyone applying for the job should be able to do the accounting functions, everyone should be able to put procedures in place and organize the organization, etc. That’s in the job description after all.

        But what makes me different? How do I interject my personal experiences into it? That’s when I draw similarities to what I assume you need here, I bring my understanding for This Industry that many people absolutely do not have, I’ve been able to show my flexibility and ability to change directions as demonstrated with my experience at ABC Company when this Thing Happened and I had to reevaluate and adjust to a brand new situation dropped in my lap.

        It’s to try to tear down the “Okay you can do the job, most people could essentially do the job, but what makes you stand out and puts you above the rest.” [And that’s hard, we’re mostly conditioned to think we’re good enough but not that we’re The Best. That’s when the shitty “sales” and “selling yourself” comes into play in the interview process. You have to toot that horn, dance with that horn, spell out “Pick Me, Pick Me!” in sparklers and make that impression when it’s just a long line of people who have done the same similar job before. It comes down that that damn “fit” factor.

        I sometimes do preface with some humility as well, depending on the vibes I’m getting. “Well I’m not bold enough to say that I’m the ONLY person who does this but my background in training llamas to roller-skate and drink beers would fit in pretty well here since you’re a roller-rink…I could bring another level of experience to your llama classes.”

        1. Amber Rose*

          Oh, I know. And I more or less know the answer. I’m scrappy. My boss described me as resourceful, which is probably a better word. xD

          I just get bogged down in the ridiculousness of some questions sometimes. “What’s different about me? Everything. I am not a clone.”

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            LOL, I know the feeling all too well. I’m waiting for the day that I can just cut the shit and say “What makes me different? Well I put up with a whole helluva lot more shit than most do and I’m great at cleaning up messes! You ever been embezzled from, I can show you how to not let that happen again…”

            This is why I hate interviewing though, on both sides, I literally cannot sleep when we’re hiring, no matter if it’s a big leadership role or a production assistant role. I like math because there’s an answer. This open ended up for interpretation shit is for the birds.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            I love that! That is EXACTLY how you answer this question! You’ve got to think cocky and speak professionally. It’s not an easy balance to pull off.

            You really do need to be prepared to show off a bit, here.

          2. Blueberry*

            Goodness, yes. And it can be SO HARD. Every time I have to do this I have a litany of everything anyone ever said was wrong with me going through the back of my head, and I have to take a deep breath and push it down and make myself think “these are the reasons I’m awesome and they want me.”

            I’m saving that sample letter advice to share with my friends who also find this really really hard.

            1. Jedi Squirrel*

              Yeah, we’re usually taught as children to be modest and not show off. But this is one of the times in life where you get to do that.

  10. Forrest*

    Unless it’s already been covered in another question, I also reword it to include why I want the job. That should never be the main or only part of your answer, but it’s good to know that you’ve got your own investment in the job and you know what new skills or knowledge you want to get out of it (or whatever your reasoning is!)

  11. AScreenName*

    This is basically your succinct elevator pitch where you’re reiterating all of your skills and experience. Yes, you’ve already discussed this during the course of the interview. This is your last chance to package that up into a few sentences and sell them on it.

    1. SometimesALurker*

      Seconded! “Why should I hire you” is actually more or less the same question as “Tell me about yourself.” It’s “give me your elevator pitch,” and if you’ve already done that it’s “give me the advanced or restated version.”

      1. TardyTardis*

        Yes, I sometimes like to say ‘when I really learn a job, I like to break it down in processes and automate as much of it as I can.” (I usually forget to say ‘because I’m lazy and like to be done in time for my favorite soaps’, though).

  12. voyager1*

    I find the question to say more about the interviewer. It is such an unpolished question that to me someone asking it means that they are probably a very direct communicator. That direct communication style probably reflects in other ways they manage. I would see it as a seriously yellow or red flag depending on how the rest of the interview.

    But if I was interviewing for more tradesman positions I probably wouldn’t think as much by it. Sometimes a question is just about skills. In corporate positions there is expectation of polish expected. I work in places where that polish is expected.

    I realize some are going to find my answer classist.

    But truly great interviewers/managers understand that quality applicants are seeing the interview as a two way road of communication and information exchange to see if there is a good working relationship to be made.

    A interviewer can ask a poorly worded question like “why should I hire you” if the applicant just needs a job and the hiring person just needs a worker.

    1. SometimesALurker*

      That’s interesting position. You say that some are going to find your answer classist. Could you say more about why you think so, and why you think it’s not classist (or why you think classism is justified, here, if I misread and that’s what you’re saying)?

  13. Ray Gillette*

    This question, like a lot of “stock” interview questions, strikes me as one that hiring managers ask when they don’t really know how to interview a candidate. Which isn’t necessarily a knock on them as a manager – interviewing is a specific skill that they probably don’t get to practice very often.

  14. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I was asked exactly this question years ago, after doing a great interview with what I assume would have been my direct supervisor, by HIS supervisor. It was so abrupt and unexpected. And I completely blanked.

    I still wonder if that cost me the job, or being on the call-back list.

    Today, I would totally answer with bravado.

  15. Kimmybear*

    This is usually where I insert something that makes me different from most people in my field. Do you have all the skills they are looking for but then you also speak another language? Are you a great programmer but you also write newsletters for your team? Do you have XYZ certification?

  16. Chronic Overthinker*

    When I was unemployed and had to go to the job center in my state, the staff there helped with this kind of question. It’s all about the sales pitch! You basically go through the job posting and create a paragraph of how you tackle each responsibility they list. Then you turn that paragraph into a two sentence statement. If the question is asked in the beginning of the interview, use that statement. If it’s asked at the end, use it but add specific examples from previous questions. Basically what sets you apart from everyone else applying? This technique helped me land the job I currently have and love.

  17. FaintlyMacabre*

    I was a reference recently and was asked, “Why should I hire this person?” I found that frustrating, because I know a little about the job and a lot about the person I was giving a reference for, but very little about what exactly the hiring manager was looking for. I just repeated that I’d enjoyed working with the person and the good qualities they have.

  18. IrishEm*

    Not going to lie, the one time I was asked that I had a VERY hard time not saying “Because money can be exchanged for goods and services.”

    It always seems like I’m being set up to fail this question because I don’t have any inside info on their hiring process or a very good idea of their company culture. But reframing it as why would I excel at this job is an excellent way of making it a sensible question and far less adversarial.

  19. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

    I have been asked this in different formats in a good chunk of the interviews I’ve been on and I always try to match my skills and experience to the job description and to hit upon something else the interview mentioned during the interview, such as a problem I could help solve or something else from my past that is relevant.

  20. wittyrepartee*

    I once told a recruiter that I couldn’t be sure that I was the best candidate given that I don’t know who they’re interviewing, and then told them what I brought to the table. I got that internship.

  21. ADB_BWG*

    When I was asked that question, here’s how I replied. Note the job was for a program management position in the federal government.

    “I am a sensemaker. I gather information from all relevant stakeholders, synthesize it, apply it to problem, and provide logical and factual solutions that are on-time and within scope. I can ask questions and understand answers. I work well with information owners and information ‘needers’. And I target my communication to the needs, and preferences, of my audiences.”

  22. Kimmy Schmidt*

    From the flip side of this, what is a better way to ask this question when you are hiring? We usually go with some variation of “why are you interested in this job” but I’m not really sure if that’s better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I sometimes say early on in the conversation, “Tell me what you think might make this job a good fit.”

      But I find I don’t even say that much anymore — I find it more useful to just skip their self-assessment and probe into specific skills and experiences and strengths that I need them to have.

  23. wordswords*

    A helpful reformulation for me is to think of what the interviewer might say when they’re telling the rest of the hiring committee why you’re their top pick for the position. The intent of this question, I think, is to give you a chance to supply that to them. Obviously, you can’t provide the comparative part about how you stack up against other candidates, but you CAN provide some of the part about yourself.

    “Jane’s my top pick for this job, because her experience as a jai alai coach for llamas will let her hit the ground running and be a really helpful perspective as we establish our llama tennis program.”

    “We should hire Wakeem, because they may not have a lot of experience, but they seem like they’ll pick the job up very quickly, and their adaptability and ability to work independently will be a real asset here.”

    “Fergus may be new to this industry, but his years as a fruit bat wrangler have given him plenty of transferrable skills and experience in working with clients and fast-paced professional environments. We can teach him the llama steering details. He’s my top candidate. If the rest of you vote for Cersei because of her greater llama experience, I’m good with that, but in that case I think Fergus should be our second choice.”

    So… your answer is to give them that elevator pitch that they can keep in the back of their heads. (Or even go straight out from the interview and repeat to their colleagues, who knows?) “You should hire me because, although I might be new to the llama steering industry, my years as a fruit bat wrangler gave me plenty of experience in working with difficult clients and in fast-paced professional environments, and it sounds like that would make me a great fit for your team. I’m adaptable, flexible, and diplomatic, and I think I’m an excellent match for what Teapots Inc. needs.” Or whatever — basically, you’re supplying them with their answer to the rest of their colleagues for what sets you apart and makes you a good fit for their needs.

    1. McDerp*

      This perspective works for me way better than the “Tell me why you’d excel in the job.” interpretation. +1

    2. Steve*

      The ‘very short yet memorable’ approach worked well for me. I hadn’t planned for the question, and it was asked after a number of technical and skills questions so I responded with “I enjoyed thinking about the questions you just asked me”. When I was hired, I found out that I had stood out as enjoying my work.

  24. Master Bean Counter*

    Oh how I hate this question. But here is my imperfect answer:
    Because you think that my experience knowledge will fit your company better than the other candidates. I hope I have shown this by talking about my experience with X, Y, & Z. Also I have 5 years experience in X, which you stressed as an important skill.

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    It seems that this question will make more sense to people if it’s framed as, “Why should I hire YOU,” as in, you, specifically. This is not an opportunity to explain why the hiring manager needs to fill the role, it’s an opportunity to explain why YOU are the particular person to fill that role.

  26. Bookworm*

    OP: Thanks for asking this question.

    This doesn’t quite answer it, but I find I can integrate the answers to a question(s) I was taught to ask (and have been told by interviewers it’s a good one): What do the hiring people see as as qualities in a successful incumbent? What do they hope a new hire brings to the table and what do they see as goals in the short-term, medium, long, etc.?

    I think I read this can help the hiring people see YOU, the candidate, in this light and likewise I use what they say if and when they ask the “why are you here in this interview” Q and/or try to integrate it into my thank you notes after.

  27. Tidewater 4-1009*

    I did this successfully once. At my initial interview with an HR person she asked this and I said “Because I’m GOOD” in the tone you might hear on the street. Then I laughed at how strong that sounded. She said “Confidence, I like that”. I ended up getting the job.

      1. wordswords*

        Some would; some wouldn’t; some extroverted people wouldn’t. Introversion is not at all the same thing as a lack of confidence or snappy comebacks, and extroversion is not the same thing assnappy confident comebacks either.

        It’s a great story of something that worked for Tidewater4-1009 in a particular interview with a particular interviewer. Whether it would work for someone else (and whether the interviewer would respond the same way) depends on the person, the interviewer, the job, the delivery, the way the rest of the interview went — in other words, just like any other answer to the question.

      2. allathian*

        A person with poor self-esteem wouldn’t be able to give an answer like that. Neither would someone who needs more time to process things but who usually get things right in the end. Nor would an anxious person who is continuously wondering what other people thing of them. None of the above are necessarily introverted or shy.

        I’m fairly introverted, although I’ve pretty much learned to fake it at work. I do enjoy spending time with people, I’m not antisocial, but it takes a lot out of me and I need a lot of me-time to recover. Being introverted also means that I don’t get antsy in normal circumstances on a WFH day if I don’t speak to anyone all day (months in a row during COVID sheltering in place is a different matter). Just as well, since I work pretty independently.

        All that said, however, I don’t really like questions like this, they’re tough to answer!

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I was a little surprised at myself. I had come from having no confidence to being able to do that. :o
          I was surprised that I got the job – two levels above anything I had before – and surprised I did well at it. All a surprising situation. :)

  28. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    I’ve actually asked a variation of this question when I did interviews for a school that requires interviews that had over 400 applicants in the beginning vying for 10-20 spots (we only interview the top 50-60). The question I ask is that there are many top applicants, what sets you apart from everyone else? What I was looking for was for people to give me a confident answer that talked about their strengths and how they fit in with what the school was looking for in a candidate. One candidate started out with “I don’t know what credentials the other applicants bring to the table, but I know that Organization is looking for someone who is good at time management and as we discussed earlier, I have shown this by [examples].” It was a brief summary that showed they had researched and knew what the school stood for, and why it was a good fit for them. It also showed me who was passionate about the school. For me, this is a good ending question because it allowed the candidate to summarize the interview in their own words and tell me anything they think we missed discussing that is relevant to why they should be picked. Even though this was for a school, I would think it would be fine to just summarize what you have said in the interview and mention anything that was missed that may help.

  29. Karak*

    Resume covers your skills, this is a personality question. This is a moment not to bullshit. It *might* mean you don’t get the job, but it also means you’re opting out of a bad fit.

    “I bring positive energy and enthusiasm to every project I see. I always want to do my very best and see what comes next. I will be an asset to your office, tackling new ideas and embracing change.”

    “I’m a thoughtful person and think over ideas from multiple perspectives. I give actionable feedback and work well with others. I will bring fairness and community to the workgroup.”

    “I believe in leading by example, doing my best everyday and encouraging others. I have a strong work ethic and believe in your mission. I bring leadership and strength.”

    “I am focused on detail and precision. I catch mistakes before they can pose a problem and prevent them from being made again. I am reliable and dependable. I bring efficiency and a practical mindset to the office, I implement projects and goals, and structure organization. I will bring oversight and calmness to any team I’m part of.”

    Notice you name your soft skills, and then how those will translate to what you will bring to the office.

    A place looking for an office manager to deal with the mess of filing cabinets is very different from a place about to implement a massive change that the floor workers are unsure about. I’m the first example, endlessly positive as a puppy, but precise, tedious work needs a different hand.

    They’re looking for how your skills and personality interact and if you can sell yourself. There’s no need to lie, or bluster, but be absolutely confident in your statement.

  30. Jennifleurs*

    Shooooot thank you Alison, I have always interpreted that question as ‘why are you the best for the job’ and could never really answer it, but why are you GOOD for the job, that I might actually be able to answer! :D

  31. Medieval_Minstrel*

    Askamanager says :
    “many others will hear as adversarial or as asking the candidate to assess themselves against other candidates, which they can’t do without an intimate knowledge of their competition.
    But the way to answer it well is to reword it in your head. Translate it to, “Tell me why you think you would you excel at this job.”

    Well, no.

    I got specifically asked (not once or twice but multiple times) : “Why exactly should we hire YOU rather than the twenty other candidates waiting outside?” , in as snotty a tone as you can imagine. I’m surprised at this take because the question, when asked, was very much meant to be adversarial and to unsettle me (and friends who had the same questions asked to them).

    I trust you when you say that in the US private culture, this question should be reframed. But I feel it is important to point out that now every country and not every work culture means this.

    Personally, I very much loathe this question. I want to snap back “Well, why don’t you do your job and decide that for yourself?” but, of course, I understand that this is a question best answered by outlining your best qualities, soft skills and specific competences that could make you a match for the job.

    Now, perhaps it’s the work culture in my sector and country : these interviews don’t have 10 candidates for 1 spot, but at least 1000, sometimes 2000 or 3000 candidates. Think the lawyer bar exam, or the Medical License exams, only more selective. (We are culled since high school through selected exams that only get harder and harder.) Some questions are meant to put you off guard and this is one of them. I’ve prepared answers countless time but it still never really answers the question : “I don’t know. I don’t have the other 1000 resumes before my eyes, and I’m not the one who’s been the one interviewing them. Maybe I’m not the fit for the job, maybe I am, you tell me.”

    For the record, when faced with this question, I answered calmly and with a shy smile : “Well, I don’t know why I would necessarily be better than those 20 other candidates. What I can say, however, is that I possess [skill] (being a native English-speaker in this non-english speaking country) through [interesting experience] etc etc”. And I used the rest of the time to add to my self-presentation.

    The interviewer, incidentally, snapped back that “everybody speaks English” (factually untrue in my country and line of work, btw) and that I was nothing special. I didn’t get the spot that time, but ended up there 2 years later.

    So, you know, feeling a bit raw at this question and the take here. “Why should I hire you?” is a question that absolutely can be asked adversarially. While all of this advice still stands, I felt it useful to reframe it and consider that the aggressiveness of the question itself was a test. Keeping calm and answering with a smile is a fundamental skill in sectors that are rife with machismo or competition. I second anyone who feels that this is not the best interview question!

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