We asked our readers to submit their most difficult career-related questions.

To help you ace your next interview, we asked Lynn Taylor—a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job— “What you should say when an interviewer asks why the company should hire you?”.

According to Taylor, asking this question could be the best opportunity you have to seal the deal in a job interview. “But because it’s so broad, it can also lead you down a slippery slope if you’re not concise.”

Interviewers typically ask this question to gain insight into whether or not you are truly passionate about the role and company. The best way to ensure a great response is to be prepared with specific examples of how your skills and experience align with the employer’s needs.

“This is an opportunity to say, ‘You need X, and I am the best person for the job because of Y.’ You want to convey that not only are you a safe choice with minimal risk—but also a great choice,” Taylor says.

Based on what she’s seen work in the past, the interviewee should have a general idea of how to communicate effectively before they arrive. “One useful technique is to have three major points in mind on why you’re an excellent choice. This is a default framework you can come back to in the interview to sell yourself. It will become more refined as the interview proceeds.”

Here are some tips on how to answer the question, “Why should we hire you?” which commonly comes up in interviews:

1. Listen for real-time cues 

“Label any keywords from the job requirements that are in your skill set so you can easily locate them when the interviewer asks this question,” Taylor explains. “If, for example, they emphasize needing excellent organizational skills, and you know you have those skills, make a note of which software programs showcase your abilities.” As you take these notes, still give the hiring manager focused eye contact and actively listen to what they’re saying.

“Since you now have more data on the real requirements, it’s time to turn up your pitch a notch,” she says. For instance, know your unique selling proposition. What makes you particularly qualified for the job among your peers? What does the firm present publicly and in the interview? How does your unique background align with their mission? “If, for example, the company’s advertising tagline is about service excellence, you can address how your customer service expertise resulted in quantifiable results, such as in expanded business, training you provided, or client recognition you received,” Taylor says.

2. Focus on key points

  • Offer the big picture. This is a general overview of the overall match, Taylor says. “You’re setting a general comfort zone here.” For example, some topics you may want to discuss are: how long you have been completing X tasks at different types of companies; your areas of expertise; relevant skills; prior training, and education. “Maybe you’ve been promoted frequently or have been given increased responsibility or staff—which objectively attest to your big picture value,” Taylor says. “Share that information.”
  • Discuss your accomplishments. This is your chance to chat in-depth about a few professional projects that feature your relatable skill sets and background. “Results are what count, however, so be sure to mention how the contributions helped your company, and how your expertise could similarly make a significant impact for them,” Taylor says. But remember to be concise!
  • Communicate that you have excellent people skills. If you have any soft skills that could benefit the workplace (such as being a team player, leader, hard worker, etc.), don’t hesitate to list them.

“By addressing the low turnover in your department, for example, you underscore that you have strong management potential,” Taylor says. “Oftentimes, slightly stronger people skills trump minor weaknesses in technical expertise. Unlike technical skills, it’s virtually impossible to teach attitude.”

3. Prove you’d be a great investment

“Every manager wants to be assured that you’d offer a good return on investment,” she says. “They want to mitigate risk and avert being in the hiring doghouse. This is your chance to use bottom-line examples of why the company will benefit from hiring you. What are some specific, applicable accomplishments that illustrate this? Where possible, give dollar percentages or raw numbers (sans inflation).”

For instance, did you:

  • Reduce expenses by a certain percentage or dollar figure?
  • Streamline certain processes?
  • Develop new programs that increased revenues.
  • Reduce turnover?
  • Secure new accounts or expand on existing business?

Taylor says that while your awards, recognition, and kudos still help to support your credibility and value in the marketplace, it’s best to have a combination of both.

4. Be enthusiastic

“Once you’ve made a solid argument for your skills being a good match, there’s one more factor needed in the mix,” Taylor says. “Show your excitement and enthusiasm for the position. No matter how good you look on paper or present facts, illustrating that you’re genuinely motivated and want the job is a key contributing factor.” Keep in mind that your excitement for the position is one of the reasons they should hire you. Just make sure not to come across as desperate, because then it will seem like you need the job more than you want it.

5. Be as specific, but brief, as possible

Be wary of oversharing in an interview. It’s easy to start rambling when asked open-ended questions, and before you know it, you’re talking about that time you invented the Internet of Things for your old boss. “Be conscious of brevity and don’t exaggerate,” Taylor suggests. “One, it may be highly transparent; two, it may be deflated in a reference check; and three, if not caught (and eventually hired), you could find yourself in over your head.”

She concludes that, by doing your homework and being attentive to what the employer says they want, you will give a winning impression and likely be hired.

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