Why you and not someone else? 4 tips to help you answer this in an interview

How to answer the question "Why you and not someone else?"

“Why you and not someone else?” is the question many applicants dread hearing in an interview. Whether you find it uncomfortable, intimidating or a bit cheeky, it’s best to be prepared for it. This question may seem straightforward, but it requires preparation if you are to strike the right balance between “selling yourself” and “playing small”. Here are four tips from recruiters to help you to shine in an interview by answering subtly and intelligently.


1. Understand the purpose of the question

First, it is important to understand why recruiters ask this question. It usually comes at the end of the interview and lets recruiters check your understanding of the position, your level of self-confidence and your ability to sell yourself.

Marc Janot, a senior IT talent acquisition specialist, said: “This question makes much more sense for certain positions, such as sales, where we are looking to find out the applicant’s ability to sell themself and therefore to sell a product, for example. But in general, it allows the recruiter to know if the applicant has thought about how they can add value to the company. The recruiter can thus discern their professional maturity.”

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2. Don’t be defensive

Many applicants hear the words, “Why you and not someone else?” and think it is a trick question. They wonder: “Are they trying to throw me off? Making sure I’m not too arrogant?” In reality, this question is a gift from your recruiter. It gives you the opportunity to charm them, to showcase your best qualities as well as your skills. This is your chance to impress them, to go back over your most memorable experiences or to bring up your strengths, especially those that you did not have the opportunity to discuss during the rest of the interview.

So it’s important to remain calm when faced with this question and not to lose your nerve but to answer in a confident, structured way. You need to show the specific connection you have with the company, so ask yourself: What makes me unique? Don’t hesitate to get the opinions of your friends, loved ones or former colleagues on this. Above all, stay authentic. Chaimaa El Bezzi, a recruitment manager with the Adecco Group, said: “To answer this question, I advise applicants to start by thanking the recruiter for asking it, which shows that they are not afraid of the question. Also, you have to be very careful with your non-verbal language, which says a lot about you. Avoid looking surprised or frowning when asked this. Look your recruiter straight in the eye and keep a slight smile. All this helps to build confidence in the interview. This will make the recruiter much more receptive to your answer.”

3. Structure your response

Improvisation is not a good idea during a job interview. To avoid being thrown by the question and going off on a tangent, it is strongly advised to prepare a list of three to four relevant points to make. For a successful charm offensive, make sure you cover the following two aspects:

Your experience in relation to the position

It goes without saying that by asking the question, the recruiter is trying to find out if you’re really right for the job in order to avoid a possible error that could cost the company financially. Your answer must therefore be related to the position so as to reassure the recruiter. It is useless, for example, to bring up your capacity for mental arithmetic if you’re applying for a position that requires creativity. Pierrick Mongeal, a human resources manager at Maison et Objet, said: “I advise applicants to link the highlights of their professional experience, as well as their know-how and interpersonal skills, to the profile expected by the company. You should not hesitate to emphasise the elements that make you ‘unique’ compared to the other applicants in order to stand out and you should explain why this difference could provide added value when you are in the job. This will allow us, the recruiters, to assess the applicant’s level of understanding of the position, their capacity for commitment and their ability to plan for the future.”

El Bezzi advises applicants to gently repeat the context to confirm that they have understood it correctly: “Before answering the question, ‘Why you and not someone else?’ an applicant can begin with a reminder of the context, by saying, for example: ‘According to what I understood from our exchange, you are looking for a marketing expert who is very comfortable with data. In my previous experience, I worked closely with the data team on a major project that resulted in an additional £40,000 in revenue for the company’.”

Be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of going on for too long diving into the details of each experience or you risk repeating previous discussions. The idea here is not to go back over your experience––because that information is already in the CV, the cover letter and at the heart of the interview––but to underline the most important aspects of these experiences that are directly linked to the company’s needs.

Be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of going on for too long diving into the details of each experience or you risk repeating previous discussions. The idea here is not to go back over your experience––because that information is already in the CV, the cover letter and at the heart of the interview––but to underline the most important aspects of these experiences that are directly linked to the company’s needs.

Your personal qualities looked for in the position

Skills and know-how alone are not enough to win a job. What will really make the difference are your soft skills and your personality.

Did your former manager appreciate your capacity to adapt? Do your friends love your ability to listen? Are you a generally empathetic person? Don’t hesitate to tell your recruiter about it, while creating a connection with the position in question. Jessica Koffi, a talent acquisition specialist at Innoha, said: “You have to be able to explain how your qualities represent added value for carrying out the tasks, missions or projects in the position you are going for and to show how they are close to the values of the company you want to join.”

You can also emphasise your passion for or strong interest in the company and the sector. If you are interviewing in a company specialising in the restaurant business, do not hesitate to emphasise your interest in this field. For example, you could say, “Having grown up with parents who were restaurant owners, I have been immersed in the restaurant industry since I was young and I particularly understand its codes and the way it works.”

4. Stay believable, don’t overdo it

One of the biggest challenges in this kind of situation is managing not to come across as arrogant while still being able to sell yourself. It’s all about finding balance.

“Why you and not someone else? Because I am the best?” Even if you are tempted to answer this way, being vague is a very bad idea. Prepare some concrete answers to present to recruiters. If, for example, you want to highlight the fact that you know how to manage stress well, you could say, “In my previous experience, I had to work on a £100,000 contract with a very demanding Fortune-500 client. I had less than a month to draft, validate and get the contract signed by my client, who was not very responsive. With a lot of perseverance and hard work, I ended up signing the contract on time.”

Avoid lying at all costs. Koffi said: “It is important when discussing your strengths to ensure that they are real and ring true. For example, if you talk about being dynamic but you present yourself in a way that is not at all dynamic, it can make you lose credibility.” To back up what you’re saying (and avoid sounding too pretentious), you can even tell a few anecdotes about experiences that have helped you to develop these skills or qualities.

And finally, keep in mind that while this question used to be pretty much unavoidable in job interviews, today more and more recruiters consider that the answer can be arrived at through the other questions asked in the interview. Diatta Marna, a recruitment officer at Walters People, said he never asks this question: “I find this question useless because we are dealing with people who are looking for an opportunity––such as a job or an internship–– and who are quite motivated and determined, otherwise they wouldn’t be here talking to me. Instead, I assess the person’s skills and attitudes throughout the interview.”

Nonetheless, don’t let your guard down. Be prepared to show the recruiter why they should choose you over someone else, even if they don’t ask you the question directly.

Translated by Kalin Linsberg

Photo: WTTJ

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