When you are called in for an interview, it’s important to be prepared with quick, solid answers regarding your qualifications. Many questions on this topic are subtle, but some interviewers will come right out and ask you something like: “What qualifications do you have that make you the ideal candidate for this job?” The impulse is often to respond by rattling off accolades that are listed on your resume. But there’s a better way to approach questions that are along the lines of "What qualifications do you have to be successful in this job?”
The first thing to keep in mind is that you should never, ever respond by comparing yourself to other candidates on the market. Firstly, you don’t know about the other candidates who are in the mix—you only know about you. Secondly, putting down the competition is never an effective strategy. It makes you seem insecure and haughty at the same time.
What should you do when responding to interview questions about what qualifications you have? Focus on your superstar achievements! Remember that by the time you’ve been invited in for an interview, the employer has already decided that you possess the necessary skills, education, and experience for the job. What they’re looking to do now is to further narrow the field of qualified candidates, and to discover the candidate who can most effectively and efficiently solve their business problems.
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Back to qualifications. Stop and think for a moment before responding to a question like “What qualifications do you have?” You need to respond succinctly and clearly, and you need to stick to the question. So don’t rattle off everything that is in your repertoire, and don’t try to present yourself as a Jack-of-all-trades.
Focus on three big ideas you want to convey. To support your claims, you will want to have some proof. I’m not talking about proof in the sense of something that can hold up in court, but proof in the sense of something that can validate your claim.
To do this, you could quote former managers, colleagues, or vendors. Another compelling way to back up your claims is to quantify an achievement. For example:
In my previous role, I was tasked with growing new product revenue by six percent. I exceeded that goal and grew my product revenue by a CAGR of eight percent.
I recently received XYZ industry innovation award—beating out a field of seven other nominees—for my work on ABC product marketing.
The interview is the time to sell yourself by aligning your background with the pressing business need the hiring company has. Whatever you do, don’t tank the opportunity by apologizing for not having certain qualifications when asked about what qualifications do you have. When you prepare for the interview, think about qualifications you might be asked about, and practice responding when asked about any that you don’t have. How can you spin that into a positive? Have you had any experience in any adjacent area, where there is transferable knowledge? Most importantly, don’t just list off your qualifications. Show the interviewer how they’ve helped you to succeed in your career.
As always, the most important thing to remember is that the interview is not solely about you. It’s about the employer and the business problem at hand. So the qualification of which you are most proud may not be relevant to that business problem. You need to be able to match up your qualifications with the needs of the employer.
Only discuss qualifications that will demonstrate how hiring you will benefit the business when responding to questions like “What qualifications do you have that will help you succeed in this job?”
The bottom line? Keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it relevant. And while you’re at, brush up on knowledge of additional common interview questions that you can expect to field.