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I had an interview last week. I aced almost every 'riddle' they asked me and prepared well for the behavioral questions i expected.

However, one last question ruined it all. Since I am just 19 years old (with good grades and qualifications from a renowned institute in the country), the interviewer asked me: "why do you want to work? you're still young...", I was vulnerable and didn't know how to defend against it.

He also start attacking me with more sayings like: "you will have lower grades", "you will finish the degree late", "you will start to be careless about studying"... etc. Man, it wasn't my day at all after that happened.

It's an entry level position (student job) for software verification/testing, 20 hours a week, not heavy duty engineering.

How should I respond to such questions?

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I think you are misinterpreting the interviewer's motivations entirely, and understanding them is important to answering the question properly. There are two possible mindsets the interviewer might have:

  • "I like this applicant. What a nice young person. It sure would be a shame if 20 hours of work a week messed up this person's school work. I should offer some advice, like I would give to my own child or my younger self, and suggest that working while in school isn't always the right thing to do."
  • "I am worried this applicant will quit working for me and leave me in the lurch if the job starts to interfere with schoolwork. I hope that has all been thought about and there's a good plan for managing work and school at the same time."

The first motivation is not going to affect your chances of getting the job. The second might, so you need to answer in a way that shows you've thought about it, and you know you can manage both. You're confident that 20 hours a week leaves plenty of time for your studies, so you say that. You might also take this as a chance to express how much you like the industry you are studying to join, your excitement at getting to do real work on real projects, and your belief that what you learn about the industry on the job will actually raise your grades.

However you seem to imply in your question that you think the interviewer's mindset is more like this:

  • "My job is to make sure nobody gets hired. I'll find some way to stump every applicant, knock them down, ask them something they can't defend against. Vulnerable applicants will never get past me!"

While the occasional interviewer like this may exist, interpreting all questions as though they come from this mindset will hurt you in all your interviews. When you're asked a question, don't think about defending against it. Think about what the interviewer is trying to find out. When they ask "how well do you know C++?" it's pretty easy to establish they are trying to find out how well you know C++. When they ask "you're still a student, you're so young, working could hurt your grades or make your degree take longer, are you sure you want a job now?" they're trying to find out "is it worth hiring you when you might just quit if school work gets hard?" or "do you really want to work here or do you just need money?"

Guessing what they want to know enables you to answer the question in a way that makes you more likely to be hired. Not by lying, trotting out a prepared glib answer from "how to win every interview and always be hired" but by telling the truth about what is important to you, what motivates you, and the effort you've already put into your career (in this case, thinking about how to balance school and work, and the benefits to your studies of some industrial experience.)

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    As a side note, it's interesting the interviewer phrased it that way, your age is usually a no-go interview topic. On the other hand, making sure you can meet the requirements at work and in your life is normal and shows they care about their employees – beng Feb 26 '15 at 16:55
  • "do you really want to work here or do you just need money?" > If it wasn't for the money, I wouldn't be working anywhere myself... – Laurent S. May 6 at 10:25
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With honesty. Explain the thought process that lead you to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to start working. If you've answered the previous questions correctly, most likely they are not criticising you or doubting you, they simply want to find out how you think and what motivates you.

  • agree, but then he started telling me about getting lower grades and stuff like that..I avoided telling him about money, but rather wanted to expose my interest in the job itself. – ThunderWiring Feb 26 '15 at 10:39
  • You can be truthful without giving away too much. In this example, you could for instance say "I'm interested in the challenge that this position will offer me and then wages I will earn will let me take more advantage of the fact that I am still young, I will not be limited by money." Remember that in a job interview, the actual answer is of secondary importance, the interviewer wants to know what's behind the answer. In this case there was perhaps an element of risk assessment as well: what are you likely to do when you have to choose between work and good grades? – Cronax Feb 26 '15 at 10:47
  • i think this answer would've fit in nicely..thank you for sharing it, i will be prepared for this next time. – ThunderWiring Feb 26 '15 at 10:53
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For this affirmation "you're still young for this job..." a good answer would be: "this is a weakness that I am improving every day" ;-)

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    Not only is this not an answer to the question, it's not even based on an accurate read of the question. You are falsely quoting: the interviewer was not reported saying what you claim. What they did say was quite different, focused on the applicant's needs, not the job's. As for the actual job, software testing is one requiring precise attention to detail and likely a lot of drudgery that tries patience; flippant responses that dodge questions are the exact opposite of what an interviewer would be looking for. – Chris Stratton May 5 at 18:06
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There are two possibilities:

  • he/she wanted to test you reaction to stress on an topic requiring interaction. This is perfectly normal, and typically being honest is ok (e.g. the job interests me, I need the money, I believe practical experience is worth a lot)

  • he/she really believes that. Then this is so unprofessional that you actually don't want to work for them

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