Dear Real Recruiter,
What’s the best way to answer when the interviewer asks why they should choose you over another candidate who has the same qualifications?
Not Just Another Number
Dear Not Just Another Number,
Standing out in your job search is crucial, but it’s also hard. The truth is, a lot of people are just as qualified as you when it comes to comparing resumes.
So, don’t think of it that way! Instead, dig into the intangibles of who you are. No, not the straightforward qualifications or keywords that got you the interview, but the actual you.
That’s the good stuff. The secret sauce. The reason they’re going to select you over the other “equally qualified” candidate. Here’s what you can emphasize.
1. Your Grit and Determination
Your rival may have everything you do on paper, but do they have staying power?
No job, no matter how glossy it appears from the outside, is without its challenges. Unexpected dynamics, resource and training shortages, internal political bottlenecks, irate customers, failed product launches—these are all potential realities looming in your future.
Disappointments are a given. The real question is how will you handle them?
In a rapidly-changing business environment that is complex, unpredictable, and intense, no one wants a flake. Demonstrate to your interviewer that you have the fortitude, conviction, loyalty, and staying power to see yourself (and them) through whatever comes your way.
2. Your Enthusiasm
Do you love what you do? Are you passionate about your career, or is it just a means to a paycheck?
You and your rival can both do the job, but if this work lights you up, then let your interviewer know that.
People are attracted to people who are excited about and genuinely love what they do. A client of mine just told me, “I’ll take less experience. I need someone who loves the game. The details. The sport.”
3. Your Cultural Fit
Skill sets are one thing, but employers are increasingly concerned with the cultural dynamics of the workplace and an employee’s fit within it.
Not only are they assessing your skills, but they’re also trying to imagine how you will integrate within their existing team and cultural framework.
As an interviewee, it’s your job to pick up on those cues and speak to them. What are the values and qualities they’ve said are important? Are they looking for someone devoted to their colleagues and interested in mentoring? If so, speak to that. Are they looking for someone coachable? If so, display that you’re receptive to feedback and learning.
Interpersonal dynamics often trump skill set when it comes to making a hiring decision (particularly when candidates are evenly matched) and could easily elevate you above the competition.
Remember that if you’re asked by an employer why they should pick you over another candidate, this is not a curveball question but rather an opportunity to reiterate all the wonderful qualities and intangibles you possess.
It’s not just something your mom told you—you are talented and capable and deserving, so let the real you shine.
Jessica Vann is the Founder and Principal of Maven Recruiting Group, a boutique firm in San Francisco specializing in administrative and human resources staffing throughout the Bay Area. Vann earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley with a double major in economics “to be practical” and rhetoric “to feed [her] soul.” Born and raised in San Francisco, Vann lives in the Bay Area with her family.