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“Why should I hire you?”

It’s the basic question behind every question during an interview.

Your objective is to translate your skills and attrib­utes into benefits for the employer. You must be able to verbalize why your strengths are of value to this specific employer. Don’t expect your past experience to speak for itself; be prepared to state the obvious.

The recruiter’s objective is to assess your credentials, form an impression about your personality and determine the degree to which your interests and background correspond with the employ­er’s hiring needs. Your background and record of accomplish­ments are amplified or diminished in the eyes of the recruiter by the general impression you create.

This isn’t to suggest that form’s more important than substance; however, you want to ensure that the form you present doesn’t create any barriers preventing the employer from experiencing your substance.

The first few minutes of the interview are crucial. Employers make up their mind about candidates very early. Your handshake must be firm and confident, your gaze steady, your appearance impeccable, and your confidence apparent.

What Do Employers Want?

Throughout the interview, decision-makers are searching for clues to determine if you:

  1. Can do the job.
  2. Interact with people easily.
  3. Are easy to interview, confident, and clear in your answers.
  4. Listen well.
  5. Ask sensible questions.
  6. Are likable.
  7. Will compliment the department.
  8. And are manageable.

Follow this three-step process to provide them with the necessary information about you to ensure a positive outcome:

Step One: Develop Your Interview Message

While it’s natural to be nervous in interviews, your goal is to focus on your message, not on your nerves.

Remember, you wouldn’t be approaching this meeting at all if you weren’t qualified for the position. Your thorough prepara­tion has made you aware of both your strengths and your weak­nesses.

The interviewer’s there to see what you have to offer, not to hear explanations about what you don’t have.

When you practice answering interview questions, eliminate all no’s, not’s, didn’t’s, although’s, but’s, and however’s from your speech. Rephrase your answers using positive speech forms. This will prepare you to speak about yourself in a positive light.

Think of at least three main points you want to make. Use concrete and clear examples that demonstrate these strengths. Focus on these identified strengths during the interview and present them with convic­tion and enthu­siasm.

Remem­ber that the interviewer must be able to see and hear the enthusiasm that you wish to portray. Be sure to highlight your most marketable skills, talents, and/or attributes as they relate to the job.

Try to anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked and prepare responses. Use the job requirements listed in the job posting as a guidepost. Try to come up with an example for each requirement that demonstrates your ability in that area.

Write out your answers. Review and edit them. Say them out loud a few times. Be certain that your examples highlight your skills and abilities; demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, and reflect your motivation and personality.

Think about what question you’re most afraid of being asked and develop a strong answer to use should they actually ask it. Being prepared usually minimizes the stress.

Step Two: Do Your Homework

Before you walk in the door, obtain informa­tion about the employer from as many sources as possible.

You don’t want to waste valuable time asking ques­tions that can be easily answered by reading the employer’s website. The more informa­tion you have be­fore the interview, the better you’ll be able to make a convincing connection between your skills and the employ­er’s needs.

Step 3: Interview Confidently

During the interview, your job is to:

  • Establish rapport – In addition to tangible things such as a good, firm handshake and appropri­ate eye contact, there are additional items which develop rapport between people. These include friendli­ness and sincere interest, as well as warmth and responsiveness to the interview­er. You must become aware of body language. Be sensitive to cues of boredom. If the interviewer keeps looking down at your resume or out the window, bring the statement you’re making to a close.
  • Listen carefully – Try to hear the question behind the ques­tion and respond to the interviewer’s concerns. Get the interviewer to talk about the position, to uncover exactly what’s being sought. This will enable you to illustrate how you can fill such needs.
  • Ask questions – Remember, this is a conversation; there should be interaction. Ask technical questions to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and to show that you’re already looking for solutions to the employer’s problems. Do NOT ask about benefits, vaca­tions, pensions, and hours until you know you have an offer.
  • Get feedback – Before the end of the interview, ask if you have the qualifications they’re seeking. If not, now’s the best time to find out so you can adjust your approach.
  • Take control of the follow-up process – When interviewers indicate they’ll “let you know,” ask if you can call on a specific day in the future. This will help to accelerate the decision-making process.
  • Most importantly, have a positive attitude! Adopt a “have done – can do – will do” attitude. It’s not always what you say that counts but how you say it. View anything negative as a challenge, an opportunity, and something exciting. Don’t be apologetic about anything; handle your “Achilles’ Heel” factually and non-defensively.

You can help an inexperienced interviewer feel more comfort­able by asking ques­tions. Your prepared questions can demon­strate your knowledge of the field, your interest in the employer, while also providing the inter­viewer with an opportunity to relax by talking about something with which he/she’s familiar.

You can ask things like:

  • “What do you see as the growth areas of the organization?”
  • “What departments are likely to do well in the next few years?”
  • “What kind of responsibilities would I be as­signed?”

Keep in mind, hiring decisions tend to be based on somewhat subjective material. Unfortunately, trying to determine if someone “fits in” to a particular environment can lead to subtle forms of discrimination.

While interviewers usually try to avoid asking personal questions, most want to know all they can about the applicants. Help them by providing information that you’re comfortable with discussing and would like the interviewer to know.

The information you volunteer about yourself will be different from what every other applicant offers and will help you stand out in the crowd.

A word of caution: don’t allow yourself to be lured into intimate chit-chat. Regardless of the kindness of the interviewer, nothing’s “off the record”. Keep your comments job-related, and if you can complement your resume in any way by adding something, do it!

Do yourself, and the employer, a favor: interview as if everything depended on you.

Walk in with a clear idea of two or three selling points you’d like to express. Use the interviewer’s questions to introduce those points and back them up with real-life examples.

At the end of the interview, summa­rize your qualifications and articulate your interest and enthusiasm for the job.

If you leave the interview having convinced the employ­er you have something to offer, nothing—not your color, sex, age, handicap, sexual preference, nationality, etc.– will stand in the way of landing the job that you want!