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How do you answer this job interview question: “Why shouldn’t I hire you?”
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What do you say when interviewers flip a common question on its head? Here’s how to persuade a company to hire you while vetting the company to see if you really want to work there.

The question

How would you answer this job interview question: Why shouldn’t I hire you?

A question like this is meant to test your ability to see yourself…objectively. It may sound a stupid question, but it is really quite a clever one.

My answer

This is a tough question, and it’s tempting to just flip the answer for “Why should I hire you?” on its head with a bunch of double negatives, but that would be cheating 🙂

My specific answer to this wouldn’t be all that useful to others. Instead, I think it’s helpful to describe a framework anyone can use.

Here are two ways to answer this question:

1. Take this opportunity to demonstrate how well you understand the company and its needs

If you spent time preparing for the interview (see below my answer, for a link to download “How to ace your next interview” chapter from my book—that will help you prepare effectively), then you know what needs the company could satisfy by bringing you on board. This question gives you a chance to demonstrate that you really understand what the company needs and how you can contribute (and to show off a little).

Let’s say you found that the company is expanding into the western part of the country and is working to build their salesforce to grow top-line revenue. And let’s say you’re a software engineer who doesn’t do sales. That means your contributions to the company’s current goal could be something like this:

  1. Write better software that delights customers and keeps them around longer (greater lifetime value for customers).
  2. Improve the user on boarding experience for their software (more leads convert to new customers).

Given that those would be your contributions to helping the company reach its goals, you could reply as follows:

“It seems like you’re trying to expand your business and increase sales. I am excited to help your company reach those goals by writing high-quality software that delights customers so they stay with you longer, and so that it’s easier for them to get up and running to get value from your software right away. I’m focused on quality—quality of software and quality of the user experience.

You shouldn’t hire me if that’s not where you’re focused. If you’re focused on maintaining the status quo, or just cranking out high volumes of passable code, that’s just not what I’m passionate about.”

How do you answer when they ask "Why shouldn't I hire you?"

2. Take this opportunity to vet the company while they’re vetting you

It’s tempting to try to think of the most persuasive way to answer this question, and use this as a chance to boost your chances of getting hired, and that’s a fine strategy. But this also an opportunity for you to make sure you’re a good fit for this company before you make the commitment.

With a good answer to this question, you can make your case as a good candidate and persuade the interviewer to confirm whether your perception of the company matches reality.

If you’re a good candidate for the company and for the position, they will usually expend some effort to convince you to come on board. Listen carefully to the benefits they suggest. For example, one benefit could be that they let workers come up with their own ideas and strategies and give them lots of room to execute those strategies to see what works and what doesn’t.

Given that the benefit they’re suggesting is autonomy for their workers, you could reply as follows:

“I love the idea of having room to work on my own strategies to see whether they improve the business. That autonomy is very appealing to me and I think it will help me be extremely productive for the company.

If I misunderstand how much room I’ll have to work, then maybe you shouldn’t hire me. I’m really excited to work on unique new things to help the company, and I would be disappointed if that’s not the reality of how you operate.”

In short, use this question as an opportunity to emphasize the value you can add to the company and to confirm that your perception of the company matches reality.

Good luck!

Get a free copy of my chapter on “How to ace your next interview” to learn how to prepare effectively for your interviews and stand out from the crowd: How to ace your next interview It’s a chapter from my book Fearless Salary Negotiation—a #1 Best Seller on Amazon. And you can get the full book here: Fearless Salary Negotiation: Get it here