The Losing Answer


Over the course of my management career, I’ve come to value one interview question above the rest due to its ability to tell me so much about the candidate.  I can ask this question of every candidate, regardless of the type of job I’m trying to fill.  The question is:

“Why should I hire you instead of any of the other candidates whose resumes are stacked up here on my desk?”

I like this question because there’s no one right answer.  Candidates can inject creativity into it.  They can provide a straightforward and honest answer, and shouldn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing, as long as they’re truly thoughtful about the response.  And ultimately, this is the one question I have to answer for myself before I offer someone the job, so it cuts straight to the point.  If a candidate has prepared well, (s)he will have some sense of the kind of candidate (s)he’s competing against, and has considered what knowledge, skill, or ability (s)he uniquely has to offer.  I’m interested in simply hearing his or her thoughts about this.

So, while there isn’t a single right answer, there are some very common wrong answers.  Giving these answers will immediately brand you as an “average”candidate and not place you among the top tier candidates who move forward into final round interviews and/or reference checks.  So here are the wrong answers, in no particular order, along with my comments about why I don’t want to hear them.  Consider yourself warned.

1.    “I’m a hard worker.”  Of course, you are.  You’d be a fool if you told me you weren’t, so I’m assuming this is the case.  Every other candidate in the pool is also assumed to be a hard worker.

2.    “I’m passionate about this position.”  Even passion and hard work together aren’t enough to do well in this position.  I need to know that you’re competent to get the job done and that there’s something about your work that’s qualitatively better than everyone else’s.

3.    “I’m a fast learner.”  Me too.  But how can I measure how fast of a learner you actually are?  Will I pull out a stopwatch and give you problems to solve?  What happens if your speed is 10% faster than everyone else’s …but someone else works 10% harder or is 10% more passionate about the position?  It’s incredibly difficult to compare these attributes and draw distinctions between candidates as a result.

4.    “I’m a good team player, but I can work independently as well.”  Yes, I’ve heard candidates equivocate on this countless times.  I’d actually rather have you pick one-half of this answer and stick with it.  In addition to telling me nothing about how you’ll do the job, you’ve caused me to worry that you’ll communicate this way on the job.  Since I want someone who can give a clear, straight answer, you’ve just been eliminated from consideration.

So, what’s your answer?  If you aren’t sure, I can help you craft a winning response, as I have for countless people over the last few years.  I specialize in tapping into each candidate’s unique talents and characteristics.  You don’t have to have an IQ of 120, an Ivy League education, credentials after your name, or awards to list on your resume.  You’re unique in the skills and experience you bring to the job, and that’s enough.

Call or email today in order to get started writing your winning answer!