You are in an interview, have answered their questions to the best of your ability—and are now faced with that final question: Why should we hire you? How in the world do you answer this question?
Because this question, or some version of it, is almost always included as a final question during the interview, the first and most important thing to keep in mind is that you are selling yourself, and this question gives you the perfect opportunity to do so. The best advice I can give you is to prepare in advance—and practice your response “out loud”—in front of a mirror, with friends or any other means you can think of.
Know and be able to articulate the skills and qualifications you would bring to the job—based on your review of the specific job requirements. Focus on those transferable skills that you take with you from one job to another, like customer service, problem solving, communication and leadership skills. And back those up with examples of how you’ve used those skills successfully to show that you are more than capable of performing the duties of the job you are seeking.
Just as important, pay particular attention to your tone and body language. So often, it’s not so much what you say as how you say it. If you are apprehensive and unsure of yourself, this will come across in your response. Whatever you say, say it with a smile on your face, keep your tone enthusiastic, and convey a sense of self confidence. After all, you are the best candidate for the job, aren’t you?
When it comes to getting a job, sage advice has evolved over time:
It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.
It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.
To varying degrees, both of the above are true. Recently, I had the honor of visiting three companies that are hiring and open to college graduates. Lincoln Industries, Cornerstone, and Firespring. All three of these organizations are located in Lincoln, NE, and representatives from these organizations spoke to a group of 38 Career Services professionals regarding what they are looking for in new employees. What was at the top of each employer’s list?
That’s right. Not education. Not experience, but fit. And this is not the first, second, or third time I’ve been told this by employers. So, from what I can tell, the new sage advice is shaping up to be:
It’s not who knows you; it’s who you are.
What Is Fit?
If you’re not sure what organizational or cultural fit means, think back to when you were a kid in grade school. Out of all the possible friends you could have had, I’ll bet there were certain kids that you just clicked with. There were those that you felt more comfortable with. Fit is like that.
Fit relates to who you are as a person and the ways in which your values, personality, attitudes, priorities, and the like match the organizations values, norms, culture, and aspirations.
When seeking career opportunities, organizational fit can be a useful tool. You can identify companies in which you can shine and prosper based on how closely their “professional culture” matches yours.
So, How Do You Determine the Culture Of an Organization?
Take a good look at the work that is required. Check out the company’s website and social media platforms. Review annual Reports. Assess the work the company produces. Find out about community involvement. Do a Google search, and see what comes up.
If you have professional relationships with people who work for the company, take a tour of the facilities. While there, make note of what the space looks like, how are people dressed. Ask yourself if the employees seem to be in a hurry, stressed, relaxed. Are they smiling? Ask about top-awarded/recognized employees. Review the bios of top executives. After the tour, ask yourself if you can imagine working there.
As humans, we naturally gravitate to people with whom we have things in common. For those in the job market, your job search can follow the same natural tendency. If you prefer a professional, corporate work environment, you may not be happy and productive working for a company where cut-off shorts and flip flops are common attire. By considering organizational fit, you narrow the focus of your job search to companies that are more likely to hire you because you “get them” and more importantly . . . they get you!
Several of my connections have posted this picture on LinkedIn recently. It’s a very powerful visual of how life generally works. Creating a plan for your life and career is an important thing to do. However, be ready for the reality of life to interrupt the plan. How you respond to these interruptions? Do you give up and change course? Do you keep the long term goal but change your short term strategies? In this picture, the end goal appears to stay the same despite the challenges. Being able to weather the storm and work through the challenges says a lot about your character and determination.
Career Services can help you work through the challenges. Contact us at email@example.com or 402-557-7423.
I know you’ve seen many articles and opinions regarding the content for your resume, but the way you format your resume can also contribute to the attention your resume gets from recruiters and hiring managers. Here are some tips and suggestions to help your resume stand out:
* DON’T use a Resume Wizard or Template. These are very difficult to work with, don’t allow you to present yourself in the best possible light—and employers simply don’t like them, especially from college students or graduates!
* Use a font and size that is easy to read, like Times New Roman, size 12 (or size 11 as a minimum).
* Set your margins at one inch on all four sides. That makes the best use of the page while still using enough “white space” to make it readable.
* Don’t use colored fonts, as most employers will just print or copy your resume in black ink anyway.
* Don’t use tables, columns, headers or footers due to online application and scanning issues.
* Use formatting tools like bolding and bullets, but avoid using italics or underlining due to scanning and online application issues.
* Be consistent throughout. For example, if you bold your degree titles, then do the same with your job titles. The same is true for your section headings: if you center, bold and use ALL CAPS for one heading, do the same for all.
* Don’t use the “full justify” function for your lines. While this makes the left and right margins “neat,” it does spread the words across the lines which can put extra spaces between words and make it look like you’ve been careless.
* If you have a two-page resume, be sure to include “Page One of Two” at the bottom of page one, and your name and “Page Two of Two” at the top of the second page.
Again, formatting can make the difference. Upon first review, your resume typically gets only 15 to 30 seconds to make an impression. Do everything you can to make sure your resume catches the reader’s attention—and makes them want to know more!
I don’t know about you, but I hate this question. OK . . . hate is a strong word, but even as a career services professional, I get brain freeze at the thought of having to answer this question during a job interview.
What do interviewers want? What are they looking for? How much information is too much? Should you go personal? General? Should you summarize your resume? Should you ask: What would you like to know? Ugh!
The reality is, you will probably always be asked this question during an interview. The best course of action is to prepare and rehearse your answer thoroughly.
To frame your answer properly, stay focused on why interviewers ask this question. It’s an ice breaker. It gives them an opportunity to evaluate your ability to think on your feet and respond to an unstructured question. When an interviewer asks this question, substitute it in your mind with: “Impress me.”
Take the Lead
Answering this question gives you an opportunity to start your interview on a strong note, highlight the accomplishments/achievements you want to focus on, and gives the interviewer something to ask more questions about later. Think of it as your chance to set the tone, be memorable, and have some input in the direction of the interview.
Think of your answer to this question like a movie preview. In a preview (or trailer) you are treated to snippets of some of the best parts of a movie in a way that compels you to want to see more. Give the interviewer a preview of some of your best professional successes, but don’t tell them everything. Just a few highlights.
Take approximately one minute to answer this question. Any shorter and your answer may come across as too abrupt. Much longer and you could come across as an attention hog.
Don’t Take It Personally
Keep your answer in the professional space. Interviewers are busy. They don’t have time to hear about all the places you’ve lived, how many brothers and sisters you have, and your three dogs who are just like your children. And at this point, they probably don’t care. Impress them with your ability to add value to their organization, and they will have all the time in the world to get to know you personally after they hire you for the job.
Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume
If interviewers have done their homework, they are already familiar with your resume. So, don’t waste time telling them what they already know. Instead, wow them with additional details about ways in which you have used your abilities, talents, and strengths to add value, solve a problem, innovate, etc.
Tell A Story
I suggest that you write down your response to this question. Start with an opening phrase that will capture the interviewer’s attention and provide you with a way to focus your response. Identify two or three of your top professional accomplishments or achievements. Make sure what you choose is highly relevant to the position you’ve applied for. List them using the CAR format: Challenge + Action = Result. Conclude with a short statement that summarizes your success or circles back to your opening phrase. After you’ve written your answer to this question, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! You want your answer to sound natural and not something you wish you had your notes in front of you to answer properly.
Based on my own prior work experience, here’s an example of what I might use to answer this question:
“Close colleagues describe me as a creative and innovative leader. When the YWCA faced outreach challenges, I conducted research that led to a strategic change in outreach activities. When WOW was at a crossroads in the financial services arena, I led the team that created a new strategic vision for the organization. When B&J was considering entering the alternative fuel market, I conducted the business intelligence that the partners in the organization called the Ethanol Bible. So, I thrive well in environments that lean heavily on innovation as a business strategy.”
The goal of answering the Tell Me About Yourself question successfully is to take the lead in the interview, convey confidence, impress interviewers, and provide them with more evidence regarding why you’re the best candidate for the job. That’s a tall order, but by writing down your response and practicing it, you’ll increase your chances of hitting all of these points.
Try out some of the techniques listed in this blog post, and share what you come up with in the comments section. The Career Services staff would be happy to give you feedback.