Answering the Dreaded “Why Shouldn’t We Hire You” Question

Most jobseekers are prepared for the most popular interview questions, no matter how tricky they seem. But a lesser-known question that can trip up even the most prepared candidate is the question “Why shouldn’t We hire you?”

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask This Question?

This question seems so impossible to answer that many interviewees wonder why hiring managers bother to ask it.  The truth is that, like many curve-ball-type questions, “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” serves two purposes.

First, hiring managers want to see what you do when faced with an unexpected obstacle that forces you to think on your feet. In this way, “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” is no different than any other “weird” interview question, like “Why are manhole covers round?”

Second, “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” is the same question as “What is your greatest weakness?”, only less directly. In both situations, the hiring managers want to know whether you have the self-awareness to know your weaknesses and the initiative to address them.

How Should You Answer?

Because this question seeks to test your resolve and your awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses, the best answer is one that demonstrates that you know your own strengths, you’ve discovered your own weaknesses, and you know how to use what you have to make up for what you lack. Answered correctly, “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” offers you an opportunity to shine.

Here are two effective ways to address this tricky question:

  • “Here’s one of my weaknesses, and here’s how I deal with it.”  The most straightforward response identifies a reason you’re not a perfect candidate, and then explains how you manage this flaw.  When answering in this manner, it’s best to choose a weakness in a “soft skill” like time management rather than a weakness in a “hard skill” like a lack of experience or education that is essential to job performance.  This way, you demonstrate an understanding that no one is perfect, but you don’t give the interviewer a genuine reason not to hire you.
  • “I don’t know, but I can tell you why you should hire me.”  If you’re stuck when it comes to describing one of your weaknesses, consider simply returning to your strengths – especially if you have a particular strength you haven’t yet discussed in the interview.  Keep in mind, however, that this approach is weaker than the first one because the interviewer may notice you didn’t actually answer the question.

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