The presidential primaries will heat up next week as voters in Iowa and New Hampshire go the polls. There have been rallies, debates, TV appearances, and lots of activity. But it all boils down to one basic question on the mind of each voter: “Why should I hire you?” Whichever candidate answers that question best gets the job.
That question applies to many of our students too. As they advance in their careers, a part of that journey requires them to interview and convince a hiring manager (or committee) that they are the best candidate for the role. So how do you answer the question “Why should I hire you?”
Well, this is a sales question – you’re selling yourself after all – and sales people know that this question boils down to features vs. benefits. And if you ask any successful sales person, they will tell you…always lead with benefits.
What’s the difference? Features are attributes while benefits are gains or advantages that solve a larger problem. Think of your smartphone. Why did you “hire” (buy) it? Because you could make calls, send email, surf the web? Yes, but those are all features. Dig deeper and you’ll realize you bought it for it’s primary benefit – it’s a tool that connects you to your world wherever you go. That’s the gain, or the problem solved. All those features – calls, email, internet – support the primary benefit. Same goes for that winter sweater you just bought. Yes, it’s made of cashmere and comes in your favorite color – all features. But you bought it for its benefits – it makes you look good, or it goes perfectly with those shoes in your closet.
So let’s apply this to interviewing. Most people typically answer the question by promoting their features. They’ll talk about their experience (“I have 10 years of experience as a…”) or educational background (“I earned a certificate in…”) or highlight their positive character traits (“I’m a team-player…”). These are all fine, but there are two issues. One, everyone does that, so you won’t stand out. Two, you’re talking about your features, not the benefits you’ll bring to the organization that’s considering hiring you.
Instead, lead with the benefits the company will gain by hiring you and support it with your features. Talk about what problem you will solve to make the company better (lower costs/ increase revenues/ etc.) or make the hiring manager’s life easier. And this requires research because you have to know what problems you can solve and then match your skills (features) to the problem. So, do your homework (research!) and listen carefully during the interviewing process.
Here are some examples of leading with benefits:
- I will develop a mobile marketing campaign that reaches your target market on social media and increase traffic to the website. (benefit) I have 5 years of experience developing marketing plans that integrates Facebook traffic…(feature)
- I will shorten the product development cycle by several weeks by combining the lean startup methodology with new collaboration tools. (benefit) In my current role, I implemented..(feature)
So the next time you’re in an interview and someone asks you the infamous “Why should I hire you?” question (or some variant like “What makes you different?”), think about your smartphone or the sweater you recently bought. Think about the benefits you’ll bring to the company, and back it up with your features.
Oh, and good luck making sense of the noisy presidential election season!