How to Answer “Why Should We Choose You over Someone Else?”
It may not be this interview, it may not be the next, and it may not be in this exact wording. But one day you’ll face a recruiter asking, “Why should we choose you over someone else?” That’s too bad, too, because it’s not a great question.
Why? It’s too vague, for starters, and robs you of precious time to discuss the specific benefits you can bring. It’s also unfair to have you analyze the value of another candidate. Finally, it’s redundant—after all, isn’t this the whole point of the interview?
But you’ll have to answer this question eventually, so you’ll need a good response on reserve. Here’s how to prepare one.
Why should we choose you?
It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about using the opportunity to demonstrate you can deliver if hired, meaning you should focus your response on this half of the question.
Say, for example, you’re asked “why should we choose you” during an interview for a bookkeeping position. You wouldn’t want to answer, “I’m a thoughtful, hard-working individual with a desire to succeed.” This may be true, but it is also humdrum and most everybody else will offer something similar. Nor do you want to rattle off a litany of skills without context. This approach makes it difficult for the recruiter to recall details.
Instead, before the interview, return to the job listing and review the position’s responsibilities and desired qualifications. Then write down any skills or experiences that match. You can list awards, soft skills, technical skills, previous duties, and special training—whatever proves you’ll thrive in the position.
Then choose the three most arresting and memorable skills. These will serve as the hooks to hang your answer on, ensuring you stand out in the recruiter’s mind come decision time.
Illustrate your skills with a story
One of the best ways to present your skills in a dynamic fashion is to recount them as part of a story or anecdote. People remember stories better than lists or descriptions, because they put people in “brain-to-brain synchrony.” Here’s a simple formula to tie your strengths to a story (without getting lost in the details):
- Reiterate the responsibility or qualification mentioned in the job listing
- Communicate the two or three skills that match
- Recount a time you used that skill to a successful end
- Conclude by detailing how your skill proved beneficial to your employer or coworkers
Since we are focusing on two or three skills, it should take no more than a minute to tell the whole story.
If interviewing for that bookkeeping position, you could recount a time you had to learn new software while still finishing payroll on time. This shows valuable soft skills (you’re a quick study), technical skills (you know bookkeeping software), and a positive outcome (checks were cut on time).
Over someone else?
Best ignore this half of the question. You simply don’t have the information necessary to make a fair comparison between you and the other candidates. Plus, it is difficult to make such a comparison without sounding arrogant.
But what if the recruiter doubles down on this delicate situation? Here are two ways to handle it:
Redirect the conversation. Say something like, “It seems to me you’re looking for a bookkeeper who is a fast learner and has experience with your software. What is your take on it?” This response reiterates the strengths from your answer, and the follow-up question directs the conversation away from the forced comparison.
State your reason for not answering. Something like, “I don’t know the other candidates, so I can’t provide a fair assessment.” This takes you out of an awkward position. It also shows you’re the type of person who won’t make a decision without the proper information. A good hiring manager will recognize the value in such a character trait.
Bad question, great opportunity
This question may be the worst, but we understand why recruiters lean on it. They risk their reputation every time they make a hiring recommendation, so they want to feel comfortable that you’re the right person before taking that gamble.
Use this opportunity to put them at ease. With the steps laid out above, you can relay your skills, give the recruiter a reason to remember you, and sidestep a delicate situation. This way, being asked “why should we choose you over someone else” doesn’t have to be a time waster, but an important, positive part of the interview.