How to Answer the Interview Question: Why Should we Hire you for the Position?

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By Sarah Marten

The dreaded question “Why should we hire you?” is posed in one guise or another in most job interviews.  We spoke to two human resources managers in UK universities to help our readers answer this question effectively.

Firstly, you need to consider how your competencies, skills and experience fit the role you are applying for.  Analysing the job description and selection criteria is also important.  Helen Downton, Human Resources Services Director at Buckinghamshire New University explains:

 “We may be looking to an academic to increase the research activity, although this is not always the case. But we are always looking for someone to complement our existing team, and the job description and selection criteria will help candidates grasp an idea of the skill set and experience we are seeking.”

 Secondly, think about whether you can provide more than is being asked for.  Like all employers, universities are looking to people who can meet the job requirements, but they are also looking to “add value” to their organisation.  So, if you have skills which go beyond the bare necessities of the job whether they be:

  • bringing income to the university
  • presenting bids and securing research funding
  • publishing research articles in refereed journals
  • improving quality standards
  • establishing international links

If they could be a valuable addition to the role, make sure the interviewers are aware of it.

Jane Tyrrell, Associate Director of Human Resources at Aston University states:

“As well as researching the university carefully you also need to find out as much as possible about the school or department where the vacancy is based.  Is there a primary focus on teaching and learning or research, or a combination of both? How do your personal values and ambitions fit with what the department is trying to achieve? How does your area of teaching and/or research or your skills fit with or complement the specialisms of other staff? If you can understand this, and get the message across to the interviewers, it will help them see what you will be able to bring to the role in the longer term.”

Lastly, you need to appreciate how the role you are applying for fits into the wider higher education context. For example, higher education is becoming increasingly competitive and universities want to ensure their students get the best experience possible. This is going to become even more important with increased tuition fees in 2012.   Does this affect the role you are applying for?

As Helen explains:

 “All the roles within a university impact on the customer in some respect. Academic staff have direct contact with students, but there are also many other professional roles which are also student focussed. Here at Buckinghamshire New University we have an ethos of putting students first. This is more important now than ever. Students are becoming more demanding in terms of what they expect, and all staff need to be aware of this."

Before the interview:

  • Research the role and the university thoroughly. Consider how your values, beliefs and drives match those of the institution
  • Think of four or five things which you can bring to the role in addition to being able to fulfil the basic job requirements.  For this you need an understanding of what makes you unique or different in the context of the role you are applying for.  These are the reasons why the employer should hire you over the other candidates
  • Think about and rehearse how you will get these points across to the interviewers. 

During the interview: 

  • Be adaptable and look for cues about what the employer is looking for as the interview progresses
  • Describe your experiences, achievements and strengths honestly. You will feel much more relaxed if you are being genuine. The employer will be looking to see if you have the right personality – both for the job itself and the team in which you will be working. If this is your first job after completing your studies then personality is just as important, possibly more so
  • Express yourself: Clearly.  Concisely.  In a positive and enthusiastic manner. You need to demonstrate how passionate you are about working for the organisation.

Further reading:

Personality, How to Unleash your Hidden Strengths, Dr Rob Yeung, Pearson, 2009. An excellent book to help you analyse the strengths in your own personality

Get the Job you Really Want, James Cann, Penguin, 2011. This book is superbly written, and offers great advice for jobseekers in any employment sector

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