In any interview, your ultimate goal is to show that you’re a great match for the job. But you still might get thrown for a loop if you’re asked point blank why you’re such an ideal candidate. An interview question like “What makes you a great match for this role?” or “Why are you a good candidate for this position?” can catch you off guard—isn’t it your interviewer’s job to decide whether you’re a great match?
An alternate phrasing like, “Why should we hire you?” or, “Why are you the best candidate for this job?” could further throw you—how can you know if you’re the best? You may think you’re well suited for the job, but you don’t know who the other candidates are, so you might feel uncomfortable declaring yourself the top choice. Besides, so many people find it hard to boast about themselves, even in a job interview.
But in reality, you don’t need to objectively prove that you’re the number one candidate in every way. Instead, interviewers are looking to see that you’ve put thought into how you’d thrive in this job and understand how you’re uniquely qualified for the position, says Muse career coach Elena Pastore, who focuses on leadership coaching and career development. (If you’re still looking for jobs to apply and interview for, you can find search thousands of open roles on The Muse!)
When they’re considering whether you’re the right person to fill a position, interviewers “want to see if you fully understand what they are seeking in a new hire,” Pastore says. “Or they may want to see if you can clearly articulate your competitive advantage as an applicant.”
Recruiters and hiring managers can only do so much on their own when it comes to lining up your background with the job. When interviewers ask this question, they want to know that the interviewee has connected the dots between their skills and the requirements of the role, says Muse career coach Tara Goodfellow, owner of Athena Consultants.
Often when working with clients, Pastore finds that they’re not struggling in their job searches because they’re not a strong match for a role, but because “they do not know how to clearly articulate their value in a resume or interview.” Show that you’ve taken the time to really understand what you specifically will bring to their workplace. Not only will it tell employers what they’ll get from hiring you, but it will also demonstrate that you care enough about the position to really consider it.
Additionally, interviewers are looking for an applicant who is confident in their ability to perform, Goodfellow says. Your answer to this question can communicate that you can do the job—and that you know you can do the job and why. After all, confident employees will often need less oversight and spend less time second-guessing themselves.
If you want to be prepared to answer this question well, there are a few tips you should follow:
1. Understand What the Company Needs
Again, interviewers want to know that you understand what the company is looking for—both for this specific position and for any employee on their team. You can’t answer this question if you don’t first know exactly what a great match for the role would be. So study the job posting and research the company ahead of your interview—and check out their Muse profile if they have one. Don’t be afraid to network on LinkedIn, Pastore says. You can reach out to the company’s recruiters and current employees to really “get a feel for the team,” Goodfellow says, and glean any internal insights into what the company is looking for.
Also, remember that your answer isn’t set in stone. This question often comes up toward the end of an interview, so you can incorporate things you’ve learned during the conversation (or during any earlier interview sessions or phone screens). “I always recommend jotting down comments during the interview (and [asking] if that’s OK),” Goodfellow says. Pay close attention to anything that sounds especially important to the role, and incorporate these “clues” in your answer. Maybe they emphasized a big upcoming project they need this person to lead or they mentioned that the team has an issue with keeping their digital files organized and accessible. “You want to show you have been an active listener, connect with the position, and are the person for the role,” Goodfellow says.
2. Determine How You’re Uniquely Qualified
Once you know what a company needs, you can figure out how you fit the bill. With your answer you’ll want to “try to demonstrate why you’ll succeed in the role [and] be a value add to the team—and why you’re excited for the role,” Goodfellow says. So think about it: What pain points are you going to solve in the job? What additional skills do you bring to the team or company beyond the requirements of the job description? Do you have a unique perspective on the industry or the company’s product? Are you aligned with the company’s values in a way that will help you thrive, support the mission, and add to the culture?
“Go beyond a simple response such as, ‘I do X skill in my current role,’ or, ‘I have experience in X, so I am equipped to take on this role,’” Pastore says. “The same can be true for many other candidates.” Instead, you want to give an answer that blends your current and past experiences, unique skills, and personal passions and interests in a way that’s specific to the company and unique to you. For example, Pastore once worked with a client with sales and marketing experience who was also a retired professional athlete. He was applying to a role at an athletic equipment company, so he was able to show how he was a great match because he not only had the professional background, but had also used the company’s products and understood what customers were looking for.
This answer is also a spot to address concerns, Goodfellow says. For example, if an interviewer seems concerned that you don’t have experience in a certain software skill, you could mention a related program you’ve used or talk about how quickly you pick up new tech.
3. Incorporate Examples
It’s not enough to just know what qualities and traits you want to mention. “Don’t just rattle [off] a bunch of adjectives,” Goodfellow says. “Stories resonate much better than just listing all of the skills for the position.”
So wherever possible, you want to work examples into your answer. “Examples are always great because they not only are unique to you but they also give great context and insight,” Pastore says. Strong examples will back up what you’re saying and help you stand out from the pack. What’s more memorable: “I’m detail oriented,” or, “I once managed to find the one error in our thousands of lines of source code that was making our application fail to run”?
Come to your interview prepared with several stories that demonstrate different skills and qualities, so that you can select the most relevant one (or ones) to incorporate into your answer to this question. You can structure it using the STAR method, Goodfellow says, and you can read more about exactly how to do that here.
4. Keep It Concise
For your answer, Goodfellow recommends sharing around three reasons you’re a great match for the role. “Make it memorable but not a long list of things,” she says. This doesn’t necessarily mean going through three full examples structured with the STAR method, though. You’ll need to make sure you’re not rambling on. For example, you might use one story to emphasize two key skills you bring to the role, or briefly remind your interviewer of something you spoke of earlier that makes you a good candidate.
For all of your points, Pastore suggests, “Only provide information that is relevant and necessary for the interviewer to understand your response. Avoid going off on tangents, providing too much information, or being too vague.”
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Toot Your Own Horn
You may be reading all this advice and worrying that you’ll have trouble pulling it off without feeling like you’re bragging or being cocky. “Many people are very uncomfortable answering this [question] because it feels boastful to them,” Goodfellow says. But don’t worry. Interviewers are looking for hires who are confident in their skills, and job interviews are meant for showing off your accomplishments.
However, if you’re someone who has trouble talking themselves up, you can:
- Mention how others have praised your skills and found them useful. For example, saying, “My managers always came to me as the X resource,” makes your answer a bit more objective than, “I am so organized…” Goodfellow says.
- Back your points up with examples, details, and numbers. Rather than saying something like, “I was one of the best sales development reps on my team,” cite some numbers or other details to back yourself up. For example, “I averaged 32 new meetings booked a month compared to the overall team average of 21.” This is also where your examples come in. A story about how you organized a big group project shows your interviewer your leadership skills, so they can see for themselves how you arrived at the assessment that you’re “a good leader.”
- Make objective connections to the role. If you know that a company or team is looking to launch a new project or struggles in a certain area, for example, you can mention these things and then talk about how you might be able to help based on what you’ve done before. If you find it hard to brag about yourself, simply stating a few facts about your background may come more easily to you.
If you want to see how this advice might come together, check out these example answers. But remember that any answer to this question should be highly specific to you and the role you’re interviewing for.
For example a designer might say:
“I’m a great match for this role because not only do I have the experience in designing logos, websites, and other graphics for tech companies, but you can also see from my portfolio that my preferred style is very similar to your brand’s. Earlier when you mentioned that the original logo came from graffiti art influences like Lady Pink, I got so excited I almost interrupted you. In college, I did my senior project on her work and studied her use of shape and color to evoke emotion. She’s definitely one of my major influences to this day and being able to bring that part of my art to work with me each day would be a dream come true. And it would help me deliver results more efficiently, since I’m using the style I’m most comfortable and experienced with.
“You also mentioned that the first project for this role would likely be the design work for a marketing campaign to raise awareness for the new “individual” subscription tier for your software that has more features than the free plan, but fewer than the “pro” plan designed for multiple users. I was with my last company when we did a similar product launch, and as someone who uses software designed for businesses in my freelance work, I was really able to share my insights on what draws me to different productivity programs and makes me willing to spend money on an individual license. The graphics I designed for social media brought in over 500 conversions in the first month after launch alone. So I’d love to take what I learned from that project and apply it here.”
An entry-level candidate for a administrative assistant role could give an answer like:
“We’ve already talked about my experience as a staff assistant at my university’s admissions office, but I think that one area we haven’t touched on as much is how much multitasking and priority juggling I had to do in that role. For instance, one day, I was responsible for organizing mailers to be sent out to high school students, but at the last minute, I was asked by someone else to go help with check-in at a recruitment event that was short staffed. My manager—who’d told me to work on the mailers—wasn’t in the office, but I knew that an in-progress event took precedence, so I went, and when I returned, I was able to seek help from a coworker to still finish up the mailers on time. My manager was impressed by my judgement and initiative, which from what you’ve mentioned, will come in handy in this job when I may have competing requests from a number of departments and employees.
“I also spent four years in a community service club during school, and we often organized after-school tutoring and childcare sessions for events, so I know some of the logistics that go into planning events for kids. During my senior year, I was the club’s treasurer who was responsible for budgeting, planning, and booking our volunteer trips, which would help me book travel for employees and manage event logistics as needed. Plus, I was in charge of tracking the money we spent and reporting it to the university as well as reimbursing members who paid for things out of pocket, so I’ll be able to handle expense reports and similar tasks with ease.”