What Would You Be Looking for in an Applicant?

How to Answer Interview Questions About Who You Would Hire

Woman being interviewed by employer

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Sometimes an interviewer will turn the tables, and ask about who you would hire if you were the employer.

By asking a question like, "If you were hiring for this job, what would you be looking for in an applicant?" the interviewer is trying to determine what you think the job is all about. This type of interview question can be a test to see if you know what you are getting into and if you have done your research about the job.

This question might seem tricky at first. But, it's easy to form a strong answer if you think carefully about the job description and the company. Get tips on how to answer the question, as well as sample answers.

How to Answer Questions About Who You Would Hire

Research the job. The first step in preparing a good answer to this question is to carefully review the job listing and then identify the employer requirements and preferences for the position. Check the employment section of the company's website to see if there is a more detailed job description than the job advertisement that you found.

The company website might also have information on the type of employees the company looks for generally. Check the company’s “About Us” page for this kind of information.

You can also search Google by the job title for the position to gain a sense of what other employers with similar jobs may be listing as qualifications. Review job descriptions on LinkedIn and notice what professionals are listing as accomplishments within their profiles.

Make a list. Make a list of the skills, personal qualities, areas of knowledge, and other credentials that you think would be most important for the position. Try to focus on the assets that you know you have. As you make the list, think of examples of how you have demonstrated each of the skills, qualities, and other credentials that you list.

Answer, but ask for feedback. You can start your answer by saying something like, "From what I could glean from examining your website and similar jobs, you are probably looking for the following strengths in a candidate," and then you can continue to list off and explain yourself. A sure-fire way to support your answer is to ask for feedback to see if you might have missed any important considerations. 

Explain how you fit the requirements. You might get asked a follow-up question in which your interviewer asks how you meet the requirements you just listed. Some employers will make specific inquiries about individual traits that you have mentioned, saying something like, "Yes, leadership is important for the job. How have you demonstrated leadership ability in your past jobs?" You'll need to be prepared to share concrete examples of how you have applied your assets to get positive results in past work, academic, or volunteer roles.

Sample Answers to "What Would You Look for In an Applicant?" 

  • Based on the job description, and what I know about ABC Company, I would look for a candidate with strong communication skills, and the ability to work well in a team. Most of the tasks for this position involve communicating in some way with other departments in the company, so I would want someone who can work with others well, and communicate complex ideas clearly. At my former job at XYZ Company, I performed similar tasks, and communicated with both colleagues and upper-level executives in person, on the phone, and via email. I also worked on a variety of group projects. I know these experiences make me an ideal candidate for the position.
  • Based on the job description, you are probably looking for a candidate with strong technical skills, but also the soft skills to effectively communicate technical concepts to customers. With ten years at XYZ Company under my belt, I have developed the necessary technical skills for this position. I have also been praised by former employers for my ability to explain technical ideas to people in other departments. I know I could meet these two key criteria for the position.
  • Of course, anyone in the role of program coordinator needs to have strong organizational and communication skills. Those are two strong points of mine. At ABC Company, I had to coordinate between multiple departments and juggle an ever-changing schedule of events and speakers. But another thing I noticed from your social media and browsing your website is the importance of a can-do attitude. It seems baked into your company culture. So I think anyone in this role needs to have a Swiss Army Knife quality — able to take on a wide variety of tasks and execute them well — along with an upbeat, positive way of doing things.  
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