There's no question more important to your career or for your company than "why should I hire you?" Answer that question well and you've got the job. Answer it poorly and you're outta luck.

Here's the best way to answer the question:

  1. "You know how ... [an obstacle]."
  2. "Well, I ... [something unique about you]."
  3. "So you will ... [achieve goal]."

(Note: I think this template originally came from Nick Boothman, author of the bestseller How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less. The interpretation of how to use it, however, is my own.)

Answering the question this way automatically positions what you do in terms of what the other person wants to achieve and what's keeping him or her from achieving it.

Such an answer is thus an expression of the No. 1 rule of business, which is "it is not about you."  

For example, suppose you're the CEO of an online marketing services firm. A potential customer asks why you're the right company to hire. The conversation can go two ways:

Wrong

  • Prospect: "Why should I hire you?"
  • You: "Because we provide the best value."
  • Prospect: "How do you define value?"
  • You: "Well, we, uh..., do more stuff for less money."
  • Prospect: "So if I get a quote for $10,000 from somebody else, you'll beat that price?"
  • You: "(Gulp.) Yes."

Right

  • Prospect: "Why should I hire you?"
  • You: "You know how sometimes you can't hire top talent quickly enough to get things done on schedule and on budget? And then when you do hire them, they're not fully trained?"
  • Prospect: "Sure, yeah."
  • You: "Well, we've got 50 years of cumulative experience in getting online marketing programs up and running in a very short time frame. So, if you hire us, you won't spin your wheels looking for talent and possibly hiring people who don't work out."

The Wrong answer (which is the standard sales approach, BTW) positions you as one of the many and then throws you right into a price war. By contrast, the Right answer positions you as the unique solution to a very real problem.

This way of answering the question is just as effective when you're job hunting. Suppose you're a 55-year-old programmer looking for a job in a high-tech startup. The conversation can go two ways:

Wrong

  • Manager: "Why should I hire you?"
  • You: "I have 30 years of programming experience."
  • Manager: "But we use a programming language invented five years ago."
  • You: "I can probably learn it pretty quickly."
  • Manager: "I'm not sure that's an acceptable risk."

Right

  • Manager: "Why should I hire you?"
  • You: "You know how engineers often get caught up in emotional arguments over the right way to approach a technical problem?"
  • Manager: "Yeah, that happens."
  • You: "The most important thing I've learned over the years is how to bring technical conflicts to a quick resolution. So if I'm on the team, you'll not only get an experienced programmer but also somebody mature enough to guide a team away from butting heads and toward actually getting the work done."

Do you see what's going on here? The Wrong answer is all about you; the Right answer is all about the needs of the other person and how you can uniquely satisfy those needs.

Published on: Nov 3, 2015
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