29

Int. Why should I hire you?

Can. Why should I come work for you?

I don't mean it in a combative or adversarial way. I'm really nervous about this question and I don't know if I'll be able to give a good answer under the pressure.

I'm thinking that reversing the question may give the interviewer the opportunity to summarize the workplace ethos, benefits, their targets etc. (if they decide to answer) while giving me time to compose myself and somehow incorporate their answer into my own.

Would that be a wise strategy? Have you ever come across something similar?

  • 45
    Doing this is a bad idea. – jmorc Aug 1 '13 at 20:25
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    Both questions should be answered - neither is the answer to the other. – Meredith Poor Aug 1 '13 at 21:44
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    If you're going to reverse a question like that, I would definitely recommend reversing it after you answer it, not instead of answering it. – Carson63000 Aug 2 '13 at 2:45
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    For me, this question is literally stupid, but arrogant and aggressive between the lines. Literally stupid, because if the company doesn't know if they need a programmer, why they are doing this interview? Internally arrogant and aggressive, because it's a hidden message: "Your technical skills don't impress me, now I'm bored, amuse me!" – Web Devie Aug 2 '13 at 7:14
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    Try to read the question as something like "What are your best reasons for me to prefer you over another applicant?" -- if you know you're a good fit for the position and have some unique or special qualities, it's an easy question to answer, not a hard one. What are the three best things about you that make you a great person for them to hire? I've never asked this specific question when I've conducted interviews, but I would have no trouble answering it for any job I'd apply for. In fact, that's exactly the sort of question I love, because I sure as hell know why I'd be a great choice. – Glen_b Aug 4 '13 at 1:21
32

No, this is not a good strategy.

First: The entire interview is for the interviewer to pose the question "why should I hire you?" over and over again in different forms.

Second: An interview is a highly asymmetric situation in several ways; one which I think you're overlooking is that you, the candidate, have all the time in the world to research the company, its products, whether its ever had a workplace safety complaint or harassment action filed against it, whether its made any "best places to work in the region" lists, and so on. "Why should I work here?" is an entirely fair question to ask, but its one that you should be able to get an answer to yourself beforehand.

The interviewer, by contrast, has seen your resume, maybe has the transcript of a phone screening if you did one, and that's it. A bad hiring decision can be extraordinarily costly, particularly to a small company. But for legal, ethical and budgetary reasons, it's not really a great idea for interviewers to try and do a lot of research on a candidate before the interview, the way that you can do research on the employer.

Cut the interviewer some slack; they've got a very small window of time in which to make an important decision, so do everything you can to get them the information they need about you.

Third: a good interviewer will work ways to "sell" the company to you during the interview. If they think you're a good candidate, obviously they'll want to sell themselves to you because they know that you have choices about where to work, and they'd rather have you then let you go to the competition. If they think you're not suitable, if they're smart they'll still sell you. You might become a customer, and you might recommend other people to interview even if you don't make it yourself, if they sell you on the company.

So then what are good strategies?

  • Be prepared for boring interview questions. The real answer to "Tell me about your biggest weakness" should be "I can't resist giving sarcastic answers to lazy interview questions" but I don't recommend it.

  • Do ask clarifying questions if the question is genuinely unclear. When I interview people (for technical positions) I pose deliberately underspecified problems to see how the candidate deals with the situation. This is entirely reasonable; my job entails constantly dealing with underspecified problems. But ask those questions for clarification, not to stall.

  • You probably dealt with a recruiter or someone else in HR. Ask them for a brief summary of the benefits package and whatnot ahead of time, so as to not waste valuable time in the interview.

  • 5
    "Why should I work here?" is an entirely fair question to ask, but its one that you should be able to get an answer to yourself beforehand. No, the best way to find out why you would want to work somewhere is by asking someone who actually does work there, not by looking at workplace safety stats. – jwg Aug 5 '13 at 7:22
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    I don't agree. You're assuming that candidate applied for that job. That's often not the case if candidate has been found by head-hunters, and it's actually more the company trying to convince the candidate, than other way around. – vartec Aug 5 '13 at 15:25
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    @MarjanVenema: By doing so you open up your company to enormous liability. Suppose you discover in your researches that the candidate is: married, unmarried, has children, has no children, was arrested without charge, is of a particular religion, is of a particular sexual orientation. Suppose you then do not hire them. Could the candidate use the fact that you had such knowledge as the basis of a successful discrimination lawsuit? Even if their suit is unsuccessful, can you guarantee that your company comes out looking good in the press? It's just too dangerous, so I don't do it. – Eric Lippert Mar 26 '14 at 17:13
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    "the fact that you had such knowledge"? What fact? – Marjan Venema Mar 26 '14 at 17:33
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    Ywes\, If I do[n't w[nt thwe]m to [now\, I shoud[n't pbut it out thwerwe for thwe]m to fi[nd. (sorry pbout thwe typpo's ]my weypbord ws just dowswed i[n coffwewe... – Marjan Venema Mar 26 '14 at 17:35
30

Your question is legitimate. However, if you just ask it as a reply to the first question, you may seem hostile or evasive, which may harm your chances at getting the job, so I'd advise against it.

In some ways, the whole point of the interview is to answer the questions you mention. I have encountered questions along the lines of "Why should I hire you?". While I don't think I've ever asked "Why should I come to work for you?", I do ask things like "Do you like working here?", "What's the best part of working here?", "What's the worst part of working here?", etc. I'm often surprised at how unprepared interviewers are for questions such as these. I get the impression that they prepare to grill the interviewees, but spend no time reflecting on how to respond to questions such as this.

Since you've already identified a question the interviewer may ask, namely "Why should I hire you?", it would be good to come up with a reply before you get into the interview. That said, you don't want a memorized answer that makes you seem to be a robot, instead, you want to have reasons why you are a good candidate for that job. If you don't have any, then (other than wanting to make money) why are you applying for the job? Maybe it's your passion for your chosen profession or your expert knowledge of something they are looking for. Also, if the question comes up after you have received some insight into how you can help the company, this would be a good time to mention that.

When it is your turn to ask questions, you should feel free to ask something like "Why should I come work for you?" Look for answers beyond salary and other compensation - you want to find out if this potential employer will offer things like: a good, but not overwhelming, challenge; a positive place to work; and growth potential along a career path you want to follow.

13

Executive Summary

Have you ever come across something similar?

'Reversing' is a tactic often used by salespeople (namely Sandler Sales Training) to get information out of the prospect, making the prospect involved in selling to themselves, and help figure out the real things the prospect is interested in.

Would that be a wise strategy?

Responding to a question with a question has a high possibility of coming across as harsh or arrogant. If you are going to try it, I suggest:

  1. Only reverse appropriate questions
  2. Soften the statement
  3. Practice

Reversing Appropriate Questions

Once a prospect gets emotionally involved in a sales meeting, the reverses go unnoticed. However, you've got to be careful to keep your reverses from sounding harsh or arrogant. page 93

If the interviewer asks, "What was your last job?" obviously you should avoid asking, "What was your last job?" Some questions are going to be inappropriate to reverse.

For many 'standard' questions there is no intention behind them beyond confirming that you say the same thing you wrote on your resume. Trying to reverse these will likely just piss the interviewer off. When you get a more open-ended question like, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" or the like, that's when a reverse can help you get more information on what the interviewer is hoping to get from asking it.

Soften the Statement

*A softening statement preceding the reverse decreases the pressure on the prospect, keeps the prospect from becoming defensive, and encourages a "straight" response."

Some examples of softening statements include: "Good question...." "I'm glad you asked me that...." "That's a good point...." "That must be an important question to you...."* page 93

If the interviewer asks, "Why should we hire you?" you could say something like:

I'm glad you asked me that. I was worried you wouldn't invite me for an interview because I don't have the 5 years of experience you were looking for. What was it about me that made you overlook that requirement?

That definitely does not come across as arrogant or combative, and it will get you information on what it is the interviewer is actually looking for.

Regardless, if you do use this technique, and the interviewer asks the exact same question again, answer it!

Practice before the interview

While many of the suggested phrasings for the question above are okay, chances are they will come off sounding odd in an actual interview unless you practice them. Just try answering questions with questions as much as possible leading up to the interview. Some examples:

On the street:

Stranger: "Excuse me, do you know where Fake St. is?" You: "You seem to be in a rush, where are you trying to get to?"

At work:

Coworker: "Do you know what time it is?" You: "Good question -- why do you ask?"

etc.

By getting reactions when answering questions with questions, you will be able to better judge when (not) to use it in the interview, and how to gauge whether it is an effective way to speak to the interviewer.

  • 3
    If someone used any of the last three examples on me I would assume that they were, at best, insane. – jwg Aug 5 '13 at 7:28
  • I see. And what exactly would make you think they were insane @jwg ? – jmac Aug 5 '13 at 7:28
  • If someone asks for the time they probably want to know the time, not validation for asking a good question, followed by a discussion of their schedule. – jwg Aug 5 '13 at 8:28
  • @jwg If it was so critical to know the time at the office, you have a watch, cellphone, or a computer nearby to check (not to mention a dozen wall clocks most likely). Asking someone gives you an opening to reply. It's not insanity, it's conversation. – jmac Aug 5 '13 at 10:08
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    I don't recommend answering any questions that explicitly point out your shortcomings, especially when that isn't even what the interviewer asked about. ie. I don't have the 5 years experience... They never asked about your lack of 5 years experience, why go out of your way to point that out? They may not even have realized you are missing that particular desire but you've just made them readily aware of it. – Dunk Oct 15 '13 at 19:56
12

I would not ask it in conjuction with the why should I hire you question. But when they ask you if you have any questions, I would ask it then although I would rephrase it to be less aggressive. I might ask, "What are the top 3 reasons why this is a good place to work?" This way you get a sense of whether your priorities and theirs match.

One reason "Why should I come work here?" seems off putting to me is that is it really awkward to answer if you, as the interviewer, have determined not to hire the person or are not yet sure if this is the person who will be hired. A salesguy doing the interviewing might not have trouble with the ambiguity of that, but a non-sales manager (especially an introvert which is common in technical fields) might feel uncomfortable like he was promising something he didn't know he could deliver. Making the interviewer uncomfortable is not the best way to win a job.

  • 1
    I don't think that your second paragraph makes much sense. The question obviously means 'If I was offered a job, why should I accept it?' The question 'Why should I hire you?' does not imply the interviewee's acceptance of any offer either. – jwg Aug 5 '13 at 7:26
5

I don't mean it in a combative or adversarial way. I'm really nervous about this question and I don't know if I'll be able to give a good answer under the pressure.

while giving me time to compose myself and somehow incorporate their answer into my own.

The other answers do a good job of answering why you should probably not get hostile (which is what you would do). Being hostile to an interviewer by turning the tables on them like this comes across as childish and argumentative. Probably not the best idea in an interview.

I want to add a bit about how to better deal with the fundamental issue here, of nervousness.

There are a few things you can do to decrease your nervousness.

  1. You can take a second and think to respond! You don't have to start answering immediately. Take some time and collect your thoughts. It's amazing what taking a second or two does for nerves. And, it probably makes your response come across better anyways (this is true for most questions) since you don't look as rehearsed.
  2. Practice talking about yourself and why you are a good asset. If this is really hard, ask some of your friends. Some people really are not good at talking about this and without practice you won't get better.
  3. You could put together a proposal of sorts as to the benefit you would bring them over, say, the first three months of employment. Just a single printed page with some detail about what you would do. So when asked you could say, "Well, here's what I was thinking my first three months would look like - does this match what your expectations are?" This lets you not focus so much on YOU but talking about what you would do, which you can prepare ahead of time.
4

As an initial response, I'd see this being a poor tactic. The idea here is for the Candidate to give a brief pitch of why the Candidate is qualified and the best for this position. By flipping the question right away, this would appear to be defensive on taking a question that most people would expect in a job interview. Realistically, most places have enough information on the websites for why it is a great place to work that this may not work like you think.

However, after giving an answer, I could see asking the question though I'd suspect you'd get the boilerplate of, "Well, we give competitive salaries, a good work environment, challenging work, etc." so be prepared to possibly refine the question a bit. If you refined the question to be, "Why should I join this team?" then you may be getting a bit of a different answer as the key here is to change the context of the question as the company would likely have the boilerplate answer whereas if you drill down then the answer may vary. For example, within an IT department in a development team, there may be specific things developers may want and this is a way to get those expressed that may not be seen in the initial, "Why should I work for you?" question as the "you" could be the manager, the company or a few other entities in theory.

Another strategy would be, "Before I answer that, could you tell me why I should work for you?" would likely go over much better and produce the desired result. This way you aren't showing that you don't want to answer but that you want some more details before answering.

  • Responding to the last bit: That's what I had in mind, your phrasing is much better – rath Aug 1 '13 at 20:27
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    I think the last bit is still wrong. It's not natural. It doesn't flow. – jmorc Aug 1 '13 at 20:36
  • @notmyrealname, one could flip the clauses, "Could you tell me why I should work for you before I answer that?" would be the same words in a slightly different order that I'd find more clumsy since it is ending with the clause. The key point here is that one wants to answer the question though more data would be helpful. – JB King Aug 1 '13 at 20:42
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    "As I know your time is valuable, Would you mind telling me a few of your potential goals for new hires so I can explain how I can meet and exceed those goals specifically?" – NRGdallas Aug 1 '13 at 21:02
2

If you were to turn that question on me, I would answer it for you and then immediately ask you the question again. Are you going to be any less nervous?

You should have well rehearsed answers to common questions like this one, tell me your greatest weakness, tell me about yourself, etc...

An interview is about the company finding a reason to say no to you. When they finally find a candidate to whom they cannot say no, they offer that person the job. Don't create unnecessary opportunities for the interviewer to say no.

Oh, and good luck!

  • Cheers. The point is not to get less nervous about the interview but less nervous about the question. Your reaction would be ideal, but as others have mentioned, it's probably not a common response. – rath Aug 1 '13 at 22:36
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    Agreed that you should have an answer. "Why should I hire you?" is a request for you to give your quick pitch on why you're right for the job. It's absolutely not something that you should ever catch you off-guard in an interview. – Carson63000 Aug 2 '13 at 2:46
0

In additional to the answers above, it is important to remember that when an employer asks why you are the best, there is a (in most cases) set of benchmarks against which this is measured (i.e. a job spec / role function description). They will have made it at least partly clear what they are looking for, and it is relatively straightforward to highlight your qualities in these areas.

When you ask an employer why they are the best, you are asking them to guess what your priorities are - they may say that their training programme is top notch (you may be comfortable with where you are) and fail to mention that there are pastries every Friday (which is actually a deal breaker).

When the time does come at an interview for questions to be raised, try to be specific - what factors within a company would make it superior? It will be far easier for employers to answer specific questions (particularly if the interviewer is not that close to the team you would be working for).

One final point to consider is that although interviews are by nature a two-way process, asking vague questions that the interviewer may not be able to answer (as per GreenMatt's answer) may make them uncomfortable, which is an undesirable result in this process!

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