Nail The One Question Every Interviewer Asks

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job interviewer holding resume as she interviews candidateWhen you prepare to interview, it's tempting to believe the only way to win the job is to spend days or weeks memorizing answers for 501 possible interview questions. It's overwhelming, and luckily, it's not true. While it is a good idea to research the organization, consider potential questions the interviewer may ask and think about how you will respond, it's a waste of time to try to memorize answers to hundreds of random questions you may never be asked.

Instead, spend your time preparing for the one question EVERY interviewer asks: "Why should I hire you?" You've never been asked this key inquiry? Think again. It's the underlying question behind every other interview question, and it's a big interview mistake to fail to provide the right answers. It's the one thing every hiring manager needs to know. It may take many forms, for example, "What do you offer this organization?" or "Why are you the most qualified candidate?" In essence, interviewers want to know they won't be making a mistake by hiring you.

Consider these four keys to addressing this underlying interview question:

1. Identify the connections between what the company needs and what you offer.
This requires you know as much as possible about the job and the organization. The job description is your best friend in this regard. Study it and be able to articulate exactly how you can help move the organization in the direction it wants to go.

Don't stop with the description, though. Review everything you can access about the company. Do your research! When recruiters and hiring managers complain about candidates, one of their biggest concerns is that candidates do not make the effort to learn what employers expect them to know about the job. Study their online content, including the website, and social media outlets and make an effort to talk to people who either currently work or have worked in the past at your target organization. The more you know, the better you will be able to address the underlying question, "Why should we hire you?"2. Prepare to specifically discuss your past accomplishments as they relate to the organization's current needs.
"Past performance is not indicative of future results" is a common disclaimer that investment companies tell their customers, but when it comes to hiring people, your past performance is crucial and employers believe it does predict your future results. In order to tell a potential employer why he or she should hire you, you'll need to be able to point out specific instances describing when you've handled the kind of problems and challenges facing the person who will fill this role.

If you worked as part of a team, make sure to specify your contributions. Do not speak in generalities, be clear about your roles in past successes so that the employer understands exactly how you can use your skills if you join his or her organization.

3. Articulate your ideas.
Once you understand the problems facing the organization and the role you wish to fill, it's up to you to be prepared to talk about how you can tap your past experience to solve those problems. No employer would spend the money to fill a role if they did not have a problem to solve, so you will do yourself and the interviewer a favor if you can make it clear how you might suggest addressing the issues, you'll be ahead of the majority of your competitors.

4. Don't forget to address your soft skills in the interview, such as attitude, communication skills, time management and critical thinking.
Otherwise known as "emotional intelligence," soft skills may make a difference between an employee who can do the job and one who does it well. Whether they admit it or not, employers want to hire candidates who are likable and easy to get along with. A recent study from Millennial Branding showed soft skills topped the list of "must have" skills that employers want, with 98 percent of employers saying communication skills are essential and 92 percent naming coordination skills.

More from Miriam Salpeter:
Most revealing interview questions
Snap judgements interviewers make
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