How do you respond to "How will you add value to this company?" when asked in an interview? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Mira Zaslove, Fortune 500 manager, on Quora:

This is the most important question you will be asked in any interview.

Have an answer. If only for yourself. Even if you don't directly get asked this question, the interviewer is interviewing you to find out what value you can add to the company. Be prepared to answer.

If you aren't prepared to give the interviewer a good reason to hire you--i.e. the value you will add--don't expect them to.

Answer honestly and confidently. Smile when they ask. Tell the interviewer, "I'm happy you asked that question."

Then, tailor your answer to your "fit" with the company. Honestly, look at your strengths and the job requirements, and highlight where they align. Give examples. Think show, not tell.

For example, if you:

  • Have been in the industry a long time, highlight your experience, and give a few examples of how you can bring your expertise to add value.
  • Know people who work at the company, highlight your cultural fit. Give examples of the traits you share in common, and how important it is for you to add to the culture.
  • Use the product, highlight your passion for its use. Give examples of how your knowledge of the product will help you to add value.
  • Already work at the company and are looking to move positions, give examples of all the processes you understand and how your knowledge coming from X department will help augment the value in Z department.

If you can't think of anything to say or get stumped, focus on this:

Most jobs have 3 main requirements.

1. You have the skills to do the job.

2. You want to do the job.

3. They want to work with you.

The importance of each will vary by position, but generally, you want to focus on your "fit" in relation to these 3 things.

Don't get defensive. Don't stutter. And don't say something generic like, "I'm a hard worker."

Please don't say, "Because I'm smarter than everyone else you are interviewing." You don't know the quality of the other candidates. Someone once said this to me in an interview. I did not hire them. Also, not every job requires that you are smarter than everyone else. In fact, most don't.

If the interviewer directly asks you why they should hire you over other candidates, admit you don't know the other candidates as well as you know yourself and then move on to your pitch. This is your chance to sell yourself in a positive way, not make others look bad.

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Published on: Jun 9, 2016