Can you answer the inevitable interview question?

Whether you’re pursuing your next career move or sitting across the table trying to fill a key vacancy, this query is a fulcrum of the hiring process. Here’s what’s riding on the response.

“Why should I hire you?”

It’s one of the most popular questions in interviews—and for good reason.

Employers want to know whether you’re right for the role, and they want to hear it from you.

It’s a question that fills most of us with trepidation. There’s no way to dodge it. You’ve got to explain in credible detail exactly why you’re better than all the other applicants for the job. You’ve got to convince them that what you’ve got is worth having.

The key thing to remember is that the hiring manager is putting his or her reputation on the line. Sell yourself with confidence, and this question can be the key to unlocking that job offer.

Do your homework

Your first step is research. Start by reading the job description. Then read it again-between the lines. The organization may be asking for soft skills like flexibility or high emotional intelligence, while what they’re really looking for is someone who can adapt to new tasks and be proactive, or who understands others and can manage effectively.

By decrypting the jargon in job descriptions, you can gain an understanding of the kind of experience and skills you want to show the interviewer.

Next, take a look at the usual resources: quarterly reports, websites and industry or organizational news. This should give you a good idea of what the organization is all about, as well as help you gain some insight into the focus of the business and provide you with an understanding of important growth areas across the industry or sector.

After this, explore the organization’s social media presence, including blogs and general company output. This is crucial to one of the most important factors in hiring nowadays: culture fit. You want to know the kind of work environment you’re stepping into so you can use your experience to show you’ll be a good fit for the organization.

Once you’ve got a thorough understanding of the job, the organization and its culture, you can tailor your answer to the organization’s needs. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve researched the organization and care about it, increasing your chances of saying what the hiring manager wants to hear.

You’re not misrepresenting yourself-just selecting your most desirable qualities and demonstrating that you are, indeed, the best person for the job.

Go for quality over quantity

The key things you want to get across in your answer are experience, skills, accomplishments, training/education and culture fit.

Keep your answer concise. You’ll probably lose the interviewer’s attention if you use more than three or four examples to cover each area. You also want hold some things back for later, even if you’re using your killer answers straight away.

  • Experience and training. Use your experience to give a general picture of you as a candidate and show that you’ve got the knowledge to succeed. If the organization is hiring a project manager and you have project management experience, the interviewer probably already sees you as a potentially good fit. This is your opportunity to get specific and connect your experience to the organization and its industry, as well as any problems that you know the organization has.
  • Accomplishments. Employers love quantifiable accomplishments that prove you can offer a strong return on investment immediately. Wherever possible, deliver relevant numbers, whether you’ve managed 24 people, increased sales by 150 percent or completed nine successful projects with clients A, B and C.
  • Skills and culture fit. Once you’ve identified the skills and attitudes that are important in the culture of the organization, provide some examples of times you’ve displayed them. Consider factors like whether they’re looking for someone who is supremely organized, someone who’s a great leader or an employee who’s keen to come up with innovative solutions to problems.

Listen and react

No matter how much research you do, be prepared to think quickly if you’re asked a variation of “Why should I hire you?” that you don’t expect-perhaps in an area that the organization hasn’t been open about for some reason.

Think about all of your skills and experience beforehand so that you have a variety of responses and examples ready. Aside from all your research, the things the interviewer tells you when you meet will be your best resource.

You can easily get so wrapped up in your answers that you forget to listen, but listening is probably the most important skill in a job interview. Pay careful attention to everything the interviewer says, and you’ll get a clear idea of what he or she wants to hear from you.

Save something special

Once you’ve established your ability to deliver on core competencies of the job, you can demonstrate that hiring you isn’t a risk. So far, so good. But what sets you above the rest of the top candidates? You have to offer something that others don’t.

Whether you have some coding experience despite coming in as a marketing candidate or you’re fluent in a foreign language that could help the sales team to expand into an emerging market, try to finish your answer off with something impressive, relevant and interesting. If you can find an answer that wouldn’t be typically associated with the role, but could be advantageous, even better.

“Why should I hire you?”

This question is a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the rest; don’t be afraid to do so.

Matt Arnerich is a content writer at graduate recruitment specialists Inspiring Interns. A version of this article originally ran on the Personal Branding blog.

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