If a potential employer or a hiring manager asks you about how you could contribute to or add value to their company, what’s the best way to answer?
Here’s how to convince the interviewer that you’re the right candidate for the job position, as advised by experts.
Alan A. Golik
Executive Legal Recruiter, Shelton & Steele, LLC
Exhibit knowledge of the company and bring about related experiences
I believe that when it comes to the ‘what can you bring to the table’ interview question, it’s imperative to have your own due diligence with the business that you are now in the middle of trying to join.
What I mean by that is having your own initial research of the company, the role that you are applying for, as well as the industry that it is a part of.
This in turn immediately showcases to the interviewer/company that you have an interest in their way of operations, and then you can accordingly unveil and tie in your skills to the respective position.
Understand the difference between being confident in your capabilities and self-aggrandizing yourself with a “you need me” attitude. Be open about yourself and who you are as a person, but don’t market yourself as a new product for the company.
Share how you deal with situations that are commonplace in the industry you’re interested in
If you’re applying for a managerial position and explaining how you dealt with the previous conflict of interests, altercations, or other person-to-person dilemmas that arose in your job.
How did you respond? How did others around you respond to your actions? What went great? Did you do the right / best thing to your knowledge?
Don’t downplay your strengths
If you’re good at something, and especially if others have complimented your skill, don’t be afraid to show it off. Again, don’t self-aggrandize, but don’t be afraid to exuberate your enthusiasm.
Your interest in the company will naturally flow to the interviewer as a positive feedback of someone that knows what they’re doing, yet wants to learn more in this environment.
Mental Success Coach | Author, “Success Mindsets”
Organizations want to hire people who can demonstrate a track record of meaningful contributions. They want to know that the person they are hiring can step in and add value.
Thus, to answer this question, you need to be able to articulate that you have a track record of meaningful contributions.
Provide specific examples of meaningful contributions to past organizations you worked for
I want to emphasize “very specific examples.” This is because anyone can say that they have meaningfully contributed to their prior organizations. So, the way interviewers determine those who say that they have from those that actually have is by the specificity in their answers.
Thus, in preparation for your interview, you should identify 2-3 ways that you meaningfully contributed to each prior employer that you had, and then prepare specific examples or information that you can articulate in the interview related to your meaningful contributions.
An example of a poor answer is: “In my last job, I completed every project that my manager gave me and never hit a deadline.”
An example of a great answer is, “In my last job, I came on at the same time as another employee. We were both tasked with hiring at least two high-level medical sales reps (a very difficult task).
At the end of the summer, we hired two employees that I had sourced. My colleague didn’t source any hires any during that same time frame. Thus, when the Summer ended, I felt confident that my hard work had meaningfully contributed to our organization’s objectives.”
Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
Focus on how you would help the company by increasing profits and decreasing costs
Write a list of specific examples of you helping your previous employers increase profits or reduce costs. Then, during your job interview, enthusiastically mention your bottom line achievements.
Everyone can do this – regardless of the job they are applying for. Obviously, sales reps should tell examples of increasing sales. Operations managers should brag how they decreased costs and improved productivity.
But how about some jobs where the profit improvement may not be readily talked about? Don’t worry as there always is some way you increased profits or decreased costs.
For example, an applicant for an administrative assistant might tell how she found cheaper suppliers for the company. I recall one administrative assistant who would see the company’s big phone bills. Lo-&-behold, she figured out a way to save the company $50,000/year in phone bill costs.
And an applicant for a janitorial position was able to say how he told the company of cleaning methods that used less expensive cleaning supplies.
So, regardless of the job you are applying for, show up for your interview with a list of your bottom line accomplishments. And, get the hiring manager to discuss the company and position – and offer a couple of ideas how you could help the company with your proven track record of increasing productivity and profits or decreasing costs.
Chief Career Advisor, The Bauke Group
Pull from past experiences
When an interviewer asks, “What can you contribute to this company?” they really want to know about the specific skills you have that will help them fulfill a need.
It helps to know what their particular challenges and priorities are, so doing your research in advance will help your ability to focus your answers.
Now is a great time to tell a story when you addressed or solved a problem, exceeded a goal, or created a new solution. Be as specific as possible.
Pulling from past experiences will prove your worth, skills, and accomplishments and should closely match what is needed in the job you are applying for.
Director, Successful Release
Reinforce your strongest attributes
To answer this question well you should touch on a couple of the strongest attributes you have already discussed in the interview a few that you haven’t.
This question is often asked toward the end of the interview and it gives you a chance to compact your candidacy into an elevator pitch.
“As you can see from my resume and from our discussion today I have deep experience as both an analyst and manager of analysts solving complex problems under tight deadlines.
I’ve worked in several different industries in different capacities which have given me both new perspectives on solving problems as well as a flexible skillset that allows me to be successful in very different environments.”
Get specific and quantitative if you can
The more specific you can get, especially when using data and results, the more memorable and convincing you will be. Try to be specific about what impacts you think you can have and how you can measure that success based on your experiences.
“In previous roles managing marketing budgets for other top companies I was able to reduce our spending by 15% in the first year while also improving the quality of our campaigns.
In this role, with the marketing budget of $10,000,000 as we discussed, I believe I could save you over $2,000,000 in the first year without any sacrifice to the quality of our campaigns.”
Career Coach | Director, Brain Happy
This is a wonderfully-broad question that can allow you to show off your skills and demonstrate what you already know about the company you are interviewing for.
Match your answer with the organization’s values and mission
Find out the organization’s values and mission sentence (these are usually listed on websites – often in the footer section) and prepare an answer that matches your interests, skills, and work style to their values.
For example, let’s imagine that on a company website, there is a sentence that states: “Our work is fuelled by a passionate desire to make a positive difference to our clients.”
Your answer to how you can contribute should, therefore, include how much you like to make a difference, and preferably includes an example from your previous work where you have gone the extra mile and had a really happy client.
Soft skills like communication, adaptability, positivity, teamwork, and getting along with others remain consistently as some of the most desired skills employers look for.
Fitting into the organizational culture is just as important as being competent at your role. People want to work with someone they like, want to be around, and will enjoy working with. So it is no surprise that if you can demonstrate how likable you are, you’ll score a considerable number of points.
For example, you might want to tell your interviewer how you once went out of your way to help a co-worker, organized regular entertainment or sporting events at work, or regularly bake cakes for your team.
We are hard-wired to judge people for their trustworthiness within seconds of meeting them and so demonstrating your integrity is a must. Being positive about your current workplace (no matter how bad it actually is) shows that you are tactful and can be trusted (definitely never bad-mouth a current workplace in an interview).
This is where showing some vulnerability wouldn’t hurt either. You could explain that your current workplace has been a really supportive place that has allowed you to grow and contribute by providing a safe place to take risks.
If you have ever taken a risk that has paid off for the company, now is the time to talk about how this contributed to achieving a specific goal.
Director of Operations, MyCorporation.com
Detail how your skill sets have helped achieve certain goals in previous roles
You should feel comfortable when answering this question. Do not try to respond with an answer that sounds impossible for any one person to accomplish on their own.
Instead, draw upon past experience and achievements from previous workplaces to outline what you can personally bring to the table in your next line of work.
Any additional data you have to support how your past contributions led to an increase in sales or revenue for the business is also important to draw upon.
Co-founder, Beam Jobs
Talk about a positive, measurable impact in a past project and relate it to the job you’re applying for
The “What can you contribute to this company?” question is the perfect place to show off the research you’ve done on the role and company you’re interviewing for.
When you get this question, you should specifically talk about a past experience or project you’ve worked on then relate that project to the current role or company you’re applying for.
For example, let’s say I’m applying for a digital marketing role at a healthcare company and in a past role I worked on the paid ad strategy for a finance company.
It seems that it would be tough to relate these experiences. But when asked about what you can contribute to the company you can dive into your experience using Facebook ads to drive growth and how you noticed that they don’t currently deploy Facebook ads.
You should expect this question in an interview so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare a well-crafted response!
Marketing Director, Mashvisor
Make your response unique to the company
Every employer wants to know that a job applicant has done thorough research on his/her business and understands the nature of the company. Employers want to hire people who are interested in their company in specific and not someone who just wants to make money, regardless of how and where.
Answering the question “What can you contribute to this company?” provides applicants with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their interest in a particular business and that they’ve done all the due diligence.
That’s why you should avoid generic answers such as “I’ll contribute with my energy, enthusiasm, leadership skills, etc.” These are cliches that no employer or recruiter wants to hear.
Instead, you should have a tailored response to the particular company and for the specific job position for which you are applying. For instance, when we hire people for our Marketing Team at Mashvisor, we want to see that they will provide some marketing expertise or experience which we don’t already have.
Corporate Trainer | Executive Coach | Management Consultant |
Think beyond the obvious skills
Most applicants will most likely go for being driven, motivated, self-starter, conscientious, etc. However, what really makes you stand out is bringing something utterly unique to the table.
For example, I had a young client for whom the role called for ‘project management and organizational skills’ which on the face of it they didn’t have because of their age.
As I did a quick review of their life, I pointed out they had completed a complex personal project which applicants twice their age have never done, and one which also landed them on television, radio, and the in the local press.
Bring the experience to life
As per the above example, not only could my client ‘talk’ about their project management and organizational skills, they could bring it to life in glorious technicolor, and in a way which left the interview panel both engaged and impressed with their creativity and ingenuity; which were also skills and attributes on the required contribution list.
Answer the question in the organization’s context
Rather than rolling out a bland or rote rendition of your CV, answer this question in the organization’s context. What do they want? What are their core values? Which role are you applying to fill? What are the key skills and expertise required?
I recommend my clients start from that vantage point and perspective because there’s no point going on about what a valuable team player you are if the role requires you to work remotely from home on your own, and vice versa.
Instead, answer from the perspective of the employer and what would bring and add value and contribute to their organization. If something is missing, for example, they lack a key skill or area of expertise, and you have it, say so, and paint a picture of how your being there will enhance the organization.
Listen for clues within the interview
If you have taken the initiative before the interview, and are listening during the interview process, the organization has most likely told you exactly what they need. Your job is to honestly show and articulate how you will both fill and exceed their requirements.
Bring in what other people have said about your contribution
Think about how people and experienced your contribution first hand, and highlight the aspects relevant to the job you’re going for.
If you have a relevant unique skill or talent, work that in, because our hobbies often demand things of us which can also be of value in the workplace.
Project Manager, PM by PM
We regularly interview candidates for our own requirements as well as our client’s requirements. Somehow we reject a lot of candidates as they don’t do proper research before applying to a company.
Tell how past experiences will help in the company growth
A candidate must know the company and its culture and must highlight their unique points which will help in the company’s growth.
The candidate must be serious about his/her profile. He/she should describe his/her tasks or situations that he/she were in and how he/she solve that problem with his/her abilities and describe his/her accomplishments, always end with a positive note and try to connect the answers with the employer’s goals.
The candidate must not provide vague answers, they should provide logical and specific answers with confidence. By providing answers to the questions or at the time of describing his/her abilities or accomplishments the candidate must be kind and generous they should not be egoistic.
The candidate must tell about what percent of the increase in the sales he did in his/her last job role this way the candidate will show the interviewer that he/she can contribute to the company.
While answering the questions the candidate must carry a positive attitude and must show their interest in the job profile.
Chief Operating Officer, AiLaw
Discuss what you have achieved in the past
If an employer asks about what you can contribute to the company, you’ll have a good chance to show the interviewer why you’re the right candidate for the job.
The best way to answer a question about contributions to the company is to give examples of what you have achieved in the past and to relate them to what you can accomplish for a company in the future.
You should research the company before the interview, so you are familiar with their objective and mission. Try to identify the company’s specific needs and then respond by giving examples as to why your skills, accomplishment, education, and experience will make you an asset for the company in fulfilling these requirements.
You should compare your goals with the objectives of the company and the position, as well as explain what you have achieved in the previous jobs. You should be positive and reiterate your interest in the company, as well as the job.
Founder and CEO, Looka
Emphasize unique experience, skills, and good personality
As someone who’s done a fair amount of hiring for Looka, I’ve heard a lot of different answers to this question, but the good answers all had one thing in common.
The best answers to this question are the ones that go beyond the job description to speak to that individual’s unique experience, skills, and personality.
It’s one thing to say that you can contribute all the bullet points from the job description’s list of duties—it’s something else entirely to talk about how you want to use your experience and expertise to launch a new project, contribute to the company’s culture, and innovate on previous processes.
When you’re faced with this question, remember: you need to show employers what you can contribute beyond the basic requirements for the job. This isn’t a question about the baseline, but a question of ‘above and beyond.’
Writer | Filmmaker | Professional Speaker
What this question really means is, “what have you done for your previous employers that you’ll be able to do equally well for us, if not better”
Focus on your recent accomplishments
The most effective method for answering this question comes down to your accomplishments. Take time to reflect on your career, and focus on your biggest accomplishments over the past three years. You will want to share concrete examples of your accomplishments.
Were you directly responsible for an increase in sales or profits? If so, be precise on how much did you personally bring to the situation.
What ideas were you responsible for bringing to the table that resulted in either increased productivity or increased sales. How will you replicate those efforts for this company?