Why Should We Hire You? Inquire Within
You’re sitting in a chair that costs more than you make in a week.
The air is cold… Sterile, like a doctors office… and artificially scented.
One or more people are staring at you from across a desk.
Your interrogation has begun.
“Why should we hire you?” The shuddersome question combats you like a foe on the battlefield, and they have the high ground.
Here’s how to survive.
It’s a long-dreaded question, an old question, storied and strong. A question that’s been around since our ancestors first crawled out of the mud and began squatting. “Why Should We Hire You?” It’s enigmatic. It’s preposterous. A cop-out.
It’s a question you’ll only hear if:
- You’re taking a really shitty job (i.e. burger flipper, camp counselor, baby sitter, dish washer…etc.etc.etc.)
- The interview overlords just interviewed six other dudes with the same qualifications as you (or better).
For your sake I hope it’s the latter.
Marked as one of the favorite questions of lousy HR reps worldwide, you’re hearing this because you’re in the nosebleed section of the job market. You’re nowhere near where you want to be, but at least you’re in the same arena. The first stone on your path to success. It’s like the overcrowded economy section on red-eye puddle-jumper from tampa: No one wants to be here, but it’s the only way to get to Miami for Spring break, and you’re about to miss check-in because you got too drunk during your layover in Savannah and missed the first flight. Yes, you deserve this. You deserve this for all of your binge- everything-ing (except studying) during college. It’s for all of your excessive spending and over-indulging, knowing full well the impacts of your habits on your brain. You’ve sandbagged yourself into a miserable 9 to 5 existence. You’ve become that which you’ve preached and bragged and sought to avoid so passionately. So take some blame, some humility, have some pity on yourself, and remember the next words uncle Rich is going to tell you.
Rule 1: Competitive advantage
In business, competitive advantage is the part of your business plan or proposal that outlines exactly why your product or service is better than that of a similar company. It’s called standing out, and I don’t mean counting on your award-winning personality. In some cases that can certainly help, but chances are this is a cubicle farm, so no amount of charm is going to impact their decision to hire you. What you need to focus on is that experience you had as an intern for that company where you learned “Valuable Skills A, B & C” that are directly compatible with this job and give you an edge over the other candidates. For someone going into day trading, you’ll want to mention how you taught yourself to use professional trend tracking software, and tie in an interesting story about late nights and a sizable score you accurately predicted (like my friend who used the Robinhood app to profit off the sale of Virgin America to Alaska Airlines) and why your positive experiences drive your passion for the craft.
Someone who claims to be a “self-starter” is one thing, but a driven and passionate employee is a gamechanger. Make sure you throw in your long-term goal at the end of this story, and don’t say a Ferrari. Tell them about positive global impact. Talk about socially responsible investing. Talk about years down the line after working at <The company you’re interviewing for> using the money you make as a trader to fund your dreams of starting your own non-profit called “Shoes4Dogs” or whatever… More importantly, make this all fit in 3-5 sentences. No employer wants to hear a super-long story, especially at the end of an interview.
Rule 2: Understand improvisation
You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. BUT WAIT. You’re a young brofessional, you’re a dashing, skilled bro with the advantage of Uncle Rich’s tough love.
If you’re applying for a job at a startup, adding “starting my own company” to your life goals can be especially important. If you’ve ever made something of your own that you were proud of, from that pottery class to your accidental college lovechild to that website you and some friends tried to make happen, use this as your answer. It shows that you put your heart into your work, and this is invaluable. Just don’t come off as too soft. Lastly, remember that you can turn any negative experience into a positive by saying what you learned from it. The #1 thing recruiters look for when hiring sales guys is that they can handle rejection, so make sure no matter what you’ve experienced, it has a positive outcome.
Think positive, positive, positive advantage.
If it’s a management position, make sure you talk about a time you led your team through an immensely difficult project, how they worshipped you for pushing them to their limits, and how rewarded you felt afterwards. If the overweight sack that’s interviewing you mentions long nights, you’re a night owl. You’re fucking nocturnal. If they mention early mornings, you’re an early riser. You climb a mountain every day before breakfast. You get the idea.
Adapt to survive.
Rule 3: No bullshit… Well, maybe just a little…
Attitude = Work Ethic. Someone with a great attitude and optimistic or energetic disposition can be taught anything, but this is less likely so the other way around. Most managers hire for attitude over skill, so no matter what’s on your resume, if you come off as someone willing to push themselves and you’re eager to get into your field, this can mean everything. Just DON’T FAKE IT. A good manager can tell a sincere prospect from a liar, and you’re going to have to ride the line between this one. This is where your firm handshake and eye contact come in. If you ride the line between truth and what I call Potential Truth, the overall impact of your super-positive interview, professionalism and motivated persona will push them over the line into believing you.
Example of potential truth:
“Yeah I know how to use photoshop, I use it all the time!”
*Proceeds to go home, torrent photoshop and watch youtube Photoshop tutorials for a week straight*
When to use:
I’m not saying you should use this tactic all the time, just on a case-by-case scenario. The good old fake it ’til you make it technique. A job description may list 30 “REQUIREMENTS” for the “ideal candidate” but they’re really only looking for someone who knows 25, and you have 23. This is when you use Potential Truth.
When they bring up that they’re looking for someone who speaks German, this is not an opportunity for P.T.
Rule 4: Take mental notes… or just notes.
This is about two things: The interview itself and the follow-up. Every interview I’ve gone to, I bring a padfolio. If you don’t know what this is, look it up. It’s 9,000 times more professional than a dollar store folder and gives you something to do with your hands during the interview. Additionally, it can hold multiple copies of your resume and cover letter (something you should always have at an interview), and more importantly, notebook paper. For every one of my interviews I take notes. I refer to these notes during the inevitable Q&A at the end, and use them to guide my first week at the office once I’ve gotten the job. These also give you a chance to gauge where the interview is going, what they’re focusing on, and if you should expect a call.
You should be jotting down a quick note every time they bring up a key point. Your notes should look like:
- Interviewer name: Karen
- Company is about to make an IPO
- Sign in with front desk every morning
- Dress code – business casual
- Report to – Jack, Associate Data Scientist
- Learn Photoshop
- Karen has a pic on her desk of her dog in a sweater
- Duties: Weekly reports, analytics mapping, graphic design, powerpoint
- Bring your own computer
- Start reading Fortune & Forbes
- Karen’s dog is named Karen – ????
Steal a glance at these notes every so often so you can be prepared when they ask that big scary question:
“So Why Should We Hire You?” Taking notes also has the added benefit of making you look diligent & focused (even if you’re not), and prevents the unnerving constant-eye-contact scenario.
I also like to have a few notes pre-written on this, such as the contact info of the person I spoke to on the phone/email who invited me to take the interview, the time of the scheduled appointment, the office address & floor number, the name of the interviewer and a small blurb about the company (check twitter & the company About page online. Make sure to reference this during the “Do you have any questions” session at the end of the interview. They’ll be happy to see you did your homework.
Lastly, MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW UP. If things went well, ask for their card at the end of the interview. If they say you should hear back from them in a few days, and you don’t: REACH OUT TO THEM. Chances are they’re 1000 times busier than you are, and they may have even forgotten all about you and Shoes4Dogs. The persistent applicant is the one who stands out. For better or for worse. Refer to your notes during the email to refresh their memory a little bit. Wait three days, and reach out again. Start looking for another job and reach out again. They’ll eventually get back to you, whether it’s to give you the job or to tell you to leave them the hell alone.
Rule 5: Smile dumbass
This isn’t a joke. How much? It Depends. — Having a full smile (including teeth) can leave a big positive impression, unless the inside of your moth resembles that of a shark (read this). A full smile exudes confidence, shows that you’re a happy person and may even put your interviewer in a better mood. It helps you portray warmth, and connect with your interviewer in a personal, non-business way. Don’t smile too much though, or you’ll just look like a maniac.
Use these rules when preparing for your next interview, and you’ll be fine.
Try making up an acronym or something to remember them all.
Good luck out there kids!