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Published: Jan 20, 2016 6 min read
Christopher Reeve unveiling Superman costume under work clothes
Warner Bros.—courtesy Everett Collection

Every question in a job interview should be reinterpreted as, “Why should I hire you?” When you’re making small talk from Reception to the interview room, that chit chat is really, “Do I enjoy your company enough that I should hire you?” When the interviewer asks you to walk through your resume, s/he really means, “Walk through all of the milestones and choices and results that back up why I should hire you.” Every part of the interview process is meant to establish whether you are right for the job. Here is a five-point checklist of the messages you want to get across in order to make the strongest case:

I have the skills to handle the role

First and foremost, the employer wants to know you can do the activities and responsibilities that go with the job. So if there is technical knowledge required (e.g., specific software, functional expertise), you need to weave in what you know and how you’ve applied it. If you need to work with specific types of clients (e.g., Fortune 500, high-net-worth, mom and pop stores), you want to share examples of when you’ve done just that. If you haven’t specifically done something listed in the job, prepare an alternative – either that you took a class or demonstrated the skill in a volunteer capacity or did something similar (and be prepared to establish how similar it is).

I will fit in with your people

However, in most companies, you are not just working in a vacuum. You will be interacting with, perhaps even managing, other people. You need to know what kind of population your target employer already has and talk about your past experiences in a similar workplace. For example, if your target employer has a very flat, collaborative staff, you want to emphasize the teamwork aspects of your previous experience. If it’s a metrics-driven, analytical place, be sure to share the metrics of your past accomplishments. You want to prove that you belong and will fit in seamlessly.

I will fit in with your culture

In addition to the people and the personalities and workstyles they bring, the history, size and overall culture of the company are other aspects you need to demonstrate fit with you. If your target employer is a fast-growth, frenetic start-up, don’t spend a lot of time talking about your Fortune 500 experience. If you only have large company experience, emphasize the entrepreneurial nature of your group or the situations which required you to work in a fast-growth capacity. On the flip side, if you have only worked in smaller offices and you are eying a big company, you want to show that you can navigate multiple layers and hierarchy. Perhaps you’ve served Fortune 500 companies, or perhaps your job requires that you work with various people at all levels, thus representing a similar, if not identical, cultural experience.

I'm relevant to current market conditions

Timing is critical in the job search, and it’s helpful to establish you are the right hire at the right time. Is your target employer dealing with a particular problem that you have solved before? For example, it might be implementing a new software system, and you lived through that very migration in a previous employer. Your target employer may be expanding to the new tween demographic, and that is your marketing expertise. When you establish relevance to a particular market condition your target employer is facing, that may take precedence over whether or not you can do the rest of the job, fit with the team, or fit with the company.

I'm motivated right now

But regardless of how much your next employer may want you, you will always need to prove you want them. This means knowing about the role, their people, their culture, and the market conditions and being excited about working there. It means coming into your interviews with high energy. It means stating unequivocally that you would love to work there. I see too many candidates act like they don’t want the job, perhaps thinking it will make them more desirable if they play hard to get. No, it just makes them look like they don’t want the job, and this is not at all desirable to employers. You must be motivated to make a move now.

For your next employer, show that you can execute the responsibilities, with their people, in their culture, in the current market conditions, and with a genuine desire to go all-in. If you can hit these five points convincingly, you have proven you’re right for the job.