There's a good chance you'll be asked something along the lines of "What can you contribute to this company?" in your next job interview. It's one of the most common job interview questions because it helps the hiring managers assess whether or not you'd be a good fit for the company's specific needs.
It's easy to feel intimidated by this question. It's a particularly tricky graduate interview question as graduates don't have a load of experience. And how can you know what impact you'll have without working for the company or at least having held the job you're applying for?
The best you can do is to focus on your past successes and how they relate to what the company and job calls for. Answering this question is much easier if you've done your research on the company and the role, so be sure to thoroughly read the job description.
The good news is that open ended questions like this gives you a great opportunity to explain to the interviewer what makes you the best candidate for the job and how your specific skills, previous work experience, and personality will be an asset to the particular company.
A good answer to this common interview question can be the difference between you getting a job offer or not, so it's worth taking the time to prepare some concrete examples.
What employers want to know
The hiring manager wants to determine whether or not you are the right candidate and whether your skills and related experience are sufficient to do the job.
An interviewer needs to assess whether or not you'll be able to help them accomplish their goals if hired. So when they ask about your contributions, they are looking for specific examples from your previous job that shows them you aren't opposed to hard work and have the skills required to succeed.
How to answer "What can you contribute to this company?"
"What can you contribute to this company" is one of the most common interview questions and is a behavioral interview question.
The best way to answer behavioral interview questions is to give concrete examples of what you have accomplished in previous roles and how they relate to the potential employer's goals.
Behavioral interview questions are designed to help the interviewer assess whether your skills and experience relate to role.
Unlike traditional interview questions, behavioral interview techniques aim to tease out who you are, your best skills, and how you approach difficult situations. The idea is past behavior can often predict future behavior and your ability to meet a company's needs will carry over to other situations.
And the best way to answer behavioral interview questions is to use the STAR method.
How to use STAR interview technique
The STAR interview method provides a clear framework for job candidates on how to answer behavioral-based interview questions:
- Situation: Describe the situation you were in or project you needed to complete. The key is to use a specific situation rather than a generalized description of your past experiences.
- Task: What were the goals you were working towards?
- Action: Describe the actions you took. Focus on the specific steps you took and what your contribution was rather than describing what your team or company did.
- Result: Outline what the result of your actions were and don't be afraid to take credit for what you did. That's what the hiring managers wants to know.
Research the company and role
While researching the company and the role can take time, it's a worthwhile investment as it'll help you answer not just "What can you contribute to this company" but many other common questions.
Try to identify the company's needs and then respond by giving examples as to why your education, skills, accomplishments, and past experience make you an asset to the specific company.
Ideally, prepare a few answers ahead of time that align your personal goals with the objectives of the company and the position. The closer you both align, the better your chances of getting the job offer (and the better it'll be for you!)
There are a bunch of places you can research companies:
- Himalayas: A remote job board with in-depth company profiles on thousands of remote companies.
- AngelList: A tech & startup job board with thousands of company profiles.
- Crunchbase: Crunchbase is a platform for finding business information about private and public companies.
- Glassdoor: Glassdoor is a great place to find what current and former employees think about the company.
Match your resume, credentials, and accomplishments to the job description
If you really want the job, be sure to write a bespoke resume based on the job description. You'll want to highlight how your previous employers fit in with the role you are applying for. Just be ready to answer how your credentials and accomplishments in previous roles relate to the company's goals.
Remember, you want to impress the interviewer with your accomplishments to date and show how you'll be able to do similar things if you are hired.
Sample answers to "What can you contribute to this company?"
Here are five example answers to the question "What can you contribute to this company?"
Example answer #1
"I can improve your email open rates.
In my previous role, email open rates were falling off for our weekly newsletter and a large number of emails were not making it to our subscriber's inboxes.
My task was to increase the open rate by at least 15 percentage points.
The action I took was to design an email sunsetting policy that removed inactive contacts after a month and to A/B test subject lines each week to drive open rates up. I also setup a double opt-in policy that ensured only people who wanted to receive the newsletter would.
The result was an increase in open rate from 13% to 35%."
Why this is a good answer: This is a great response to an open ended question as it successfully uses the STAR method to answer the question and shows the hiring managers what you were able to do in a prior role and how you could apply it to their company.
Example answer #2
"I can improve your conversion rate from trial to paying customer.
In my previous role, the conversion rate from trial to paying customer was 10%.
My task was to improve the conversion rate by at least 20 percentage points.
The action I took was to design and teach our salespeople how to follow up with prospects by using email automation. I also wrote the initial email scripts for the salespeople to use.
The result was an increase in conversion rate from 10% to 45% driven by prospecting being prompted to convert."
Why this is a good answer: As with the previous answer, the applicant has provided a quantifiable achievement in conversion rate. An increase in conversion rate (and the ability to explain why it happened) shows the interviewer that you have the ability to contribute to the company's bottom line.
Example answer #3
"You told me that one of your company's goals is to improve retention.
In my previous role, the 3-month new user retention was 30%.
My task was to improve new user onboarding and reduce customer churn.
The action I took was to design a new onboarding experience that guided new users through the platform and taught them about the key areas of the applicant.
Because new users knew how to use the platform, the tended to retain better and the cohort of users that came through after we released this feature retained at 75% after 3 months, a 45 percentage point increase."
Why this is a good answer: The candidate outlined how their previous experience related to something that the hiring manager told them during the interview. This not only shows that they are listening but that they can think on their feet.
Example answer #4
"You told me that one of your employer's goals is to reduce their burn rate.
At a previous company, I was in charge of our AWS billing and was tasked with reducing it.
The action I took was to identify EC2 instances with low-utilization and reduce costs by stopping or rightsizing. I also contacted our Account Manager at AWS and was able to receive a one-time credit of $50,000."
Why this is a good answer: It shows that the candidate has both technical and people skills that they can bring to the company as they were able to reduce costs by identifying underutilized assets and negotiation.
Example answer #5
"I hired over 100 software engineers at my previous role.
I think this is pretty relevant to this role because you told me that Engineering Managers have to recruit their team themselves and the company is scaling quickly."
Why this isa good answer: The candidate provided a clear example of how their past experience relates to the role they are applying for.
Tips for giving the best answer to "What can you contribute to this company?"
Remember your goal is to present yourself as capable and confident so keep these tips in mind when you are answering open-ended questions like "What can you contribute to this company?"
Emphasize your accomplishments
Sharing concrete examples from your past jobs is the best way to show potential employers that you are the right candidate for the job.
Remember, you want to use specific examples that describe the situation, task, action, and result. The STAR method is the most effective tool you have at your disposal to show how your previous positions relate to the role you are applying for.
Don't be afraid to use a diverse set of examples that outline the depth and breadth of your related experience. Just be sure to always tie it back to real examples that outline how you'd be able to do the same at the new company if you were hired.
Interviewers ask this question because they need to assess how you'll add value to the company. The best way to show that you can add value is to use numbers that describe how you've added value in the past.
For example, did you increase the company's top-line revenue by a certain percentage? Did you grow the company's blog by 500%? Did you hire 25 people?
Data can bolster the impact of your answers and provide real proof of how much you contributed in a previous role and how likely you are to contribute to the company you are applying to.
Understand the employer's goals
Make sure that whatever examples you use actually relate to the particular role and company. Remember, the interviewer is trying to assess whether you have the skills necessary to do the job they are hiring for. Not that you have the skills to do a job.
If there are any specific skills or qualities that you know are particularly important for the role or company, focus on those first. For example, if you know that the company really values higher education and you have a PhD, it's probably something that you want to emphasis. Likewise, if you are applying to a startup who cares about growing fast, it's probably not something to focus on.
Connect the dots
Help the hiring manager understand exactly how your past experience relate to the job. Specifically state how your achievements and skills tie into what the company wants and needs to do next. When you answer this question, you want to summarize your best skills and how they'll benefit the company.
Focus on the positives
If you're applying to a new role, there's a good chance you don't have all the skills that they would like. But don't worry, most candidates won't either.
Talk about what skills you do have and your ability (and eagerness) to learn new things quickly. Also emphasize how you enjoy finding solutions to tricky problems and don't mind figuring new things out.
Mistakes to avoid
There are some things you shouldn't say and things you should avoid doing.
Not answering the question
If the interviewer asks about what you can contribute to the company and you can't think of a single example, tell them that. It's better to be honest. This also gives you the opportunity to change the question and provide examples of times you've been able to upskill quickly in new roles.
Lack of preparation
This is an obvious one but something that a lot of candidates overlook. It's much easier to understand the impact you could have at a company if you know what the company actually does. This is why you need to research the company before your interview!
Letting your ego get in the way
While you want to show the company how much you can contribute, you don't want to come across as someone who is hard to work with or someone who has an inflated ego. Yes, it's important to emphasize your strengths but you also want to show that you can work well in a team.
Don't exaggerate things or lie
There's nothing more disappointing to a hiring manager than an outright lie. Don't say that you double your target or that you opened up a new growth channel if you didn't. Chances are your answer won't come off as truthful anyway and all you'll do is hurt your chances of getting the job.
Sharing examples that aren't relevant
Keep your responses focused on the job you are applying for. The examples you share should be specific enough that the hiring manager can instantly understand how your skills and experience could be beneficial in the new role.
Don't say just say you're hard working or are a great communicator. You need to provide examples. It's best to back up any claims you have with data to help the interviewer understand the impact you had.
There's a good chance that you've contributed to your previous employers in many ways. That doesn't mean you need to list out all of them. Pick the best and most relevant examples for the role and leave out the rest. This usually means providing one, two, or three key examples.
Leave out the irrelevant
Avoid highlighting skills or past experience that is irrelevant to the job. If you can't logically relate it to the role you are applying for, there is no harm in leaving it out.
Focusing on failure
Avoid examples where you weren't able to hit your target. If you do need to tell a story without a positive outcome, do your best to anchor on the things that you learned from it and what you would do differently next time.
- Brush up on your interview skills: Learn how to use the STAR method and prepare for common behavioral interview questions. Don't forget to ask the interviewer questions too! This will help you make the best impression on the interviewer.
- Research the company and job: Before the interview, take the time to research the company and read the job description thoroughly. This will help you understand as much as you can about the organization's mission, goals, products, services, employees, and culture.
- Stay positive: When answering the question, always frame your answers in a positive manner. More importantly, remember to be friendly even if you don't get the role the interviewer will remember that you were nice and may reach out in the future.