“Why Should we Hire You?” is a challenging question to answer on the spot, especially with the complexities of a scientific role in the mix. How can scientific candidates adequately respond? You’ve landed your dream interview and everything seems to be going well when the interviewer asks “why should we hire you?” In a moment, you must provide an answer that deftly balances confidence with humility, ambition with prudence, and ability with potential – or risk derailing the entire interview. As one of the 27 most commonly asked interview questions, “why should we hire you?” holds special significance in the interviewer’s repertoire. The purpose of this question is manifold for the employer, and the candidate’s response provides answers to larger questions such as: “What makes this candidate better than the other applicants?” “Does this candidate have what it takes to meet and exceed the job’s functions?” “Is this candidate someone I personally want to be around?” To some degree an appropriate response to this question relies on preparation. Keep reading for four different techniques to answer the tough and timeless interview question “why should we hire you?” Connect to Broader Organizational Values One big-picture approach to answering the question is making a personal connection to the employer’s stated company values. It doesn’t have to be a complicated or an overly profound link – simply determine which value or two you most identify with and be prepared to elucidate your connection. There are a number of places a company’s values will be on display to learn this information. Here are a few. Company Culture Blogs Some companies make it a point to share their values through a company culture blog. If the organization you intend to work for maintains one of these blogs, take some time to read through recent posts and search for language that answers the question of why the company does what it does. As a parent, you could connect to the company’s values by discussing how much your child’s safety means to you and that through your prospective work, you’d be thrilled to be making products safer for all children. Recent News Webpages Not every company runs a culture blog but almost every company will have a news webpage, and it can serve as an equally clear beacon of organizational values. Taking a look through Aptuit’s recent News posts, a clear theme starts to emerge: collaboration. Many of the stories speak about new partnerships being formed. One title in particular ‘Why We Need a Culture of International Collaboration to Fight Antibiotic Resistance’ makes it easy to envision an interview response along these lines: “The challenges we face as scientists working to overcome antibiotic resistance are too large for any individual to tackle alone. It’s imperative for employees and the organization to be open to collaborating with others in order to innovate and distribute new antibiotics that are more advanced to treat this this bacterial resistance. Based on my past experience working with global pharmaceutical companies, I understand the importance of teamwork and cross-collaboration between scientists as well as sales and financial departments in order to produce the most effective drug possible while also meeting company goals.” Mission and Vision Statements If neither of the resources mentioned above can be found, it’s a good bet a company will display mission and vision statements on their website. These statements are often filled with lofty, aspirational language that is ripe for extracting values. Battelle’s vision statement describes their commitment to the “translation of knowledge into innovative applications that have significant societal and economic impacts”. A solid rejoinder to this statement might be something like “As exciting as science is, I’m most passionate about its applications that directly improve people’s quality of life”. Pinpoint a Specific Desired Quality If a broad approach is not the avenue you would like to take, getting super-specific on a few of the job’s most important aspects is a viable alternative. To take advantage of this approach, identify the most critical skills or qualities amongst everything that is listed in the job description. Search for words that are repeated throughout . Take this job description for example: there are no less than 10 occurrences of variations of the word “process”! Intuitively, being process-oriented is something 3M’s ideal candidate will have, and so directly addressing this desire when asked why you should be hired would put you ahead of other candidates. The key is to be particular. This technique is most effective when you can find several words that are repeated, list them out, and then settle on the one or two that you can best speak to. If you try to address all of them, you may appear more disjointed than you intend. Bonus Tip: pay attention to what the interviewer is saying during the interview as well. If they mention one of these key words, bring it up again in your answer to their question. Highlight Unique Stories that Set You Apart It’s safe to assume that every candidate who’s advanced to the interview stage meets the basic requirements to be qualified for the job. Because of that, the interview is where it is most important to highlight what makes you unique. No two lives are the same. Take a moment to think about the memorable, unique experiences that have had an impact on you. Perhaps there was a particular lecture that inspired you to pursue your current scientific discipline? No one else can speak to that experience but you. Maybe there was a journal article which caused you to reevaluate the reactant purification process you had been working on? What did your chemistry professor say in your undergraduate class that sparked your interest in chemical thermodynamics? The point is your cumulative scientific acumen is forged through a culmination of many aggregate experiences, and throughout the course of your journey, there are bound to be applicable examples of why you are uniquely positioned to exceed at this specific job. Presenting these moments in a narrative enables deeper human connections with the person interviewing you, and provides valuable insight into your thought process. Demonstrate Non-Scientific Skills While it may seem counterintuitive to answer this question in a way that does not emphasize scientific knowledge, demonstrating a more comprehensive skill set positions a candidate as well-rounded. The scientific functions of the job may constitute the core of what the employer’s organization truly needs help with, but at the same time, each employee is expected to be a three-dimensional human being that is pleasant to interact with, capable in their duties, and is aware of the broader organizational context underpinning daily operations. Before entering the interview, be sure to take time to reflect upon and evaluate your transferable skills outside of the lab. Here are several examples you could incorporate. Project Management Organization is imperative for any professional role, but can take on even greater significance in a scientific discipline. For example, some biosimilar manufacturing processes must be carefully observed and managed – or months of work, large portions of budgets, and an executive’s patience can be erased overnight from a simple operational error or lapse in established routine. For those seeking concrete validation of their project management skills, the Project Management Institute offers certifications that are globally recognized and respected. Ability to Work in Teams Certain roles within science can be solitary. However, each individual’s actions contribute to overall organizational objectives. So no matter how lonely the lab may feel at times, the ability to work well with others is imperative. But how can effective teamwork be displayed in an interview? Discuss the number of different divisions/disciplines your job responsibilities require you to work across. Explain the frequency and magnitude of expected communications between yourself and colleagues at your last position. Mention the role you play in communicating scientific activities to a non-scientific audience. At the interview stage of the hiring process, differentiation is key to standing out from the competition and getting the job. By showing that you’re able to effectively work with others, you may put yourself ahead of competing applicants. Now Get Ready to Answer “Why should we hire you?” is an intentionally difficult question to answer and the response can signal many things to the person asking. By adequately preparing, scientific candidates can respond by connecting to organizational values, pinpointing desired qualities, highlighting unique stories, or demonstrating non-scientific skills. With an effective response provided, the interviewer will feel confident in giving the candidate their seal of approval and advance them down the hiring process. Have you provided a great answer to this question in the past? Let us know in the comments!