There are some job interview questions you just know you should prepare for. "What ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?" is one of those questions.
Interviewers ask questions like this to assess how well you understand the job responsibilities, as well as what you know about the company. And they also want to know how you will help make the company more successful or profitable.
It is easy to feel intimidated by this question. How can you really know what impact you will make if you haven't worked for the company, or haven't held the job you're gunning for? The best you can do is focus on your past successes and relate them to what the company needs, and what the job calls for.
Answering this question will be much, much easier if you've done research on the company. Thoroughly review the job description and underline the things you have done well, or enjoyed doing, in a current or previous role. It's always best to lead with your strengths.
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What to Emphasize
You want to present yourself as capable and confident when answering this question. To achieve this, keep these points in mind:
Focus on the company's needs
There are lots of ways you can make an impact, but rather than list them all, tailor your answer to align with the most important needs of the position and the company. Review the company website, talk with employees (if you can), and watch the news for insights into what issues the company is dealing with. Use your research to tailor your answer.
Toot your own horn
If you've won an award or recognition of any kind, mention it in your answer. Any recognition from a previous employer is the type of proof a future employer is interested in. It shows you were valued for your contribution.
Back up your claims by using numbers to show how you have added value in previous roles. For example, did you reduce the time it took to complete a task? Did you improve customer satisfaction? Did you increase a company's sales by a certain percentage? Numbers provide concrete evidence of how you contributed to a company, and how you will likely contribute in the future.
Connect the dots
Help the interviewer understand exactly how your past achievements relate to the job. Specifically state how they tie into what the company needs. For example, after you've shared one of your accomplishments, summarize the key skills you used and how these will benefit the company.
Accentuate the positive
It's unlikely you'll have all the skills requested—few candidates do. Don't worry. Talk about your successes with—and eagerness for—learning new things quickly. Also talk about your love of finding solutions to tough business problems, as well as overcoming challenges. Sharing these stories provide proof that you can rise to the challenge of learning new things.
Mistakes to Avoid
"What ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?" is a common type of question interviewers use to assess candidate. Make sure you avoid these mistakes:
Don't be vague
In other words, don't just say you're hard-working or have great communication skills. Generalizations won't help the interviewer know you can actually do the job. Back up your claims with examples of times you've dug in and done difficult work or you communicated important information to customers.
Don't be long-winded
There are many ways you could potentially contribute to the company. Pick the best and most relevant examples. Usually, two-to-three key points is enough to provide proof you will excel in the job.
Leave out the irrelevant
Avoid highlighting your skills that are unrelated to the job. If you can't logically relate them to the job, there's no need to mention them.
Don't be arrogant
It is possible to come across as too confident. Even if you've done the job before and have had great success, don't overdo it. State the facts and avoid boasting about your actions.
Here are a couple of example answers to the question that really, truly show how you would contribute to a company!
"Communication and meeting deadlines are two areas of strength that I feel will benefit your department and company most. During my time at ABC company, I streamlined communication among 10 project members, onsite and remotely. This helped keep all members up-to-date and improved our ability to meet deadlines. You mentioned your department has had challenges getting projects done on time, and I think my experience would help improve this for you too."
"In my previous jobs I have managed teams, and managed projects. I created and implemented measurement tools that helped my company evaluate and improve business practices. In fact, I received the "Most Innovative Solution" Award for one of the measurement tools I created. I also enjoy using my research and analytical skills to uncover and correct inefficiencies within the company. This has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I would love the opportunity to bring these strengths to your team and company."
By preparing your answer using these guidelines, you show the interviewer that you understand the role, know about the company, and that you are a candidate who delivers value. Best of luck with laying out your answer!