If you were asked, “what can you bring to the company?” during an interview, how would you answer?

Experienced job seekers understand the need to do everything they can to prepare themselves to answer a wide range of questions they might encounter during an interview. Like most of those candidates, you've probably spent a great deal of time preparing to answer questions about your work history, knowledge base, and skills. But what if the interviewer suddenly asks a question like, “what can you bring to the company?”

In this post, we examine the reasons why interviewers ask this type of question and what they hope to hear from prospective job candidates. We also offer some tips to help you prepare a response and provide examples you can use to help you craft a solid answer to this important question.

Why do employers ask the “what can you bring to the company” interview question?

If you're not expecting an interviewer to ask what you can bring to the company, then this question might very well catch you off guard. After all, isn't that something that only the employer can determine? Obviously, the company will make that final decision as it evaluates each candidate to see who will be the best fit for the job. Still, there are several reasons why a hiring manager might ask you some version of this question.

The primary reason that questions like this get asked by employers is to provide an opportunity for you to make a case for why they should hire you instead of another candidate. They want to see how well you can market yourself and your capabilities, and test your understanding of how well your skills and experiences align with the job role. If you're unable to explain the value you can provide to the organization, chances are that they'll pass over you and offer the job to someone else.

What do interviewers want to hear you say?

To effectively answer this question, you should try to understand the specific things that employers want to hear when they ask, “what can you bring to the company?” Believe it or not, they're not really looking for you to provide some big declaration about how you can take the company to the next level of success. No, they're simply looking for you to show that you understand the company and the job, and recognize how your abilities, character traits, and past experiences can provide real value to the organization.

How to prepare an answer to this question: tips you can use

The best way to prepare for this type of question is to craft some sample responses before you go to the interview. The following tips can help you with that preparation:

Research the company and job role

All great interview prep begins with an effort to understand the company, the job role you're seeking, and how you fit within the organizational culture. Study the company's website, social media presence, press releases, and other available information to identify its core values, mission, and culture. In most instances, you'll probably have already done some research while tailoring your resume to align with the open position.

Examine your skills and experiences

You will then need to look at your own skills and experiences to identify a time when you used a relevant skill to achieve positive results for a previous employer. This event and skill can form the foundation for your “what can you bring to the company?” response.

Create an answer using the STAR method

When asked an open-ended question like this, it's often wise to rely on the STAR method when you craft your answer. This technique provides a simple structure and format that will help you to tell interesting stories that convey useful information to interviewers. The STAR method simply requires you to tell your story in this order:

  • Situation: Begin by describing a situation where you had to overcome a challenge

  • Task: Describe your role and assigned responsibility in addressing the problem

  • Action: Detail the specific things you did to effect a positive outcome

  • Result: Provide quantifiable details that demonstrate how your actions produced value for your employer

It's also important to tie your story to a specific need that the hiring company has expressed. That will help to ensure that your story resonates in a way that enables the interviewer to understand the type of value you're offering as a job candidate.

Be specific - generalities won't impress anyone

Don't try to speak in overly broad terms. Your answer to the question, “what can you bring to the company?” should always focus on specific benefits and value that your skills and experiences will enable you to provide to the firm if hired.

Be brief, but also compelling

You also don't want your answer to drone on for too long, since that will slow the conversation and could cause the hiring manager to lose interest - or even regret asking the question! Try to create a response that is like an elevator pitch – just a few short sentences that provide a bird's eye overview of how you used a relevant skill to achieve something positive for a past employer.

Focus on the job role and company

Whenever possible, you'll want to try to focus on answering the question in a way that showcases your potential value in the job role and for the organization. Often, the best way to achieve that goal is to ensure that your story demonstrates your ability to meet the job's requirements while also providing measurable benefits that previous employers have enjoyed because of your efforts.

“What can you bring to this company?” sample answers

Before we look at some sample answers to the question “what can you bring to this company?”, let's consider some of the possible versions of this question that employers might use in interviews. For example:

  • Why should we hire you?

  • What can you offer to this company?

  • What can you bring to the team?

  • What type of value can you bring to this role?

  • Tell me about a time when you made a real difference at work

These and similar questions are all designed to get you to describe your skills and experiences in a way that highlights your unique value proposition for the employer. Learn to recognize them so that you know when to use your prepared response.

Example answer #1

I know that this company continues to be one of the most innovative firms in the industry and is proud of its world-class team of creative professionals. Throughout my career, I've prided myself on my ability to continually push my own creative boundaries in ways that drive innovation and growth. I'm reminded of my time at Atlas Inc, where I served as Product Design Manager for six years. We had a client who had contracted us to produce a variation of one of our products with new, but not yet incorporated, features.

I was asked to lead my team to modify our existing product to include those features and we were given just days to complete the task. Unfortunately, the feature was not yet ready for inclusion in that product, due to compatibility issues. In concert with two of my best team members, we brainstormed a design change that helped us to overcome that challenge. We ended up bringing the project to completion one day ahead of schedule, and the client was so pleased that they increased their business with us by 21% that year.

Example answer #2

This role's focus on leadership and research capabilities really drove me to apply for the position. My previous jobs have always been research-related and I've been fortunate to learn and develop my leadership skills as previous employers turned to me to lead various teams and projects. One of those leadership roles involved the same types of challenges that will be faced by the person you hire for this position.

For example, the job description highlighted the need to operate within tight budgeting parameters. At XYZ Inc., my research team was assembled during the 2008 budget-cutting period, so we were operating under serious financial restraints. To overcome those budget limitations, I worked tirelessly to negotiate better deals with suppliers and clients and successfully applied for three different grants in the first year of my tenure as Team Leader. I would bring that same knowledge, effort, and drive to succeed to this role as well.

Example answer #3

The job description you provided highlighted the need for candidates who can successfully manage multiple major client accounts, through a variety of mediums. That's been a specialty of mine for more than eleven years, so I believe that I have the experience and competencies that you're looking for. In my current position as Senior Client Manager at Acme, I've focused on ensuring that every client receives the level of care that they need to sustain the best possible relationship with us.

When I first landed in that role, however, that wasn't the case. While our Client Service Specialists were all talented and committed to meeting customer needs, the technology and processes in use inhibited their effectiveness. After identifying the need for tech upgrades and a process overhaul, I was able to implement changes that improved our client retention by 43% over a one-year period. Those new processes helped us to draw in new clients as well, leading to an overall 27% increase in profits that year.

Things you should not include in your answer

Before we end this post, it's important to include some advice about things that you want to avoid saying in your answer. As you prepare your response, make sure that you follow these simple rules:

  • Don't include any irrelevant skills or experiences in your story. For example, if the job requires you to manage the company's social media, don't tell a story about how you used your tinkering skills to help a previous employer repair a conveyor belt. Keep it relevant!

  • Avoid saying anything negative about previous employers, past co-workers, or your rival job candidates.

  • Don't hesitate too long before you answer the question “what can you bring to the company?”, since that could be perceived as a lack of confidence. It is good to pause for a second or two so that you appear thoughtful, but then make your case boldly.

  • Do not be overly humble. These types of questions should be viewed as an invitation to celebrate your achievements and make the best possible case for your candidacy.

Be ready for this question!

The next time an interviewer asks, “what can you bring to the company?,” you should be prepared to provide a stellar answer. Just make sure that your response focuses on how your skills and experiences can provide real value to the employer and you'll make the type of impression that can help you to land the job.

Need guidance to help you navigate your next job interview? Consult with our team of interview coaching experts today.

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