Killer Interview Question: Why Shouldn’t We Hire You?

Killer Interview Question: Why Shouldn’t We Hire You?

Another killer interview question to prepare for. What do you do if someone asks you: why shouldn’t we hire you?

Door picture from Shutterstock

This question — used at Twitter — is a more vicious version of the familiar “What’s your biggest weakness?” As with that question, the key strategy is to use it to highlight one of your potential strengths without sounding ridiculously arrogant. It’s also reasonable to acknowledge the oddness of the question, pointing out that you’ve applied because you believe you’re a good fit.

How would you handle this question?

If You Want To Work For Twitter, You’d Better Be Able To Answer These Questions [Business Insider Australia]


  • This is a silly question.

    It’s a bit of a show-off question.

    Ooh look at us, aren’t we daring to ask such a quirky and abrasive question.

    There is no good response to this question. The applicant will squirm, it’s just a question of how much they squirm, and how much enjoyment the interviewer derives from watching them squirm.

    You might as well ask the applicant to put their hand on a hot stove and time how long they keep it there for.

    5 seconds, you’re hired.

    Interviewers, and especially employers (as opposed to recruiters / other middle men), need to remember that the interview is the first step in developing a relationship with your employee.

    Do you really want to show them that you’re willing to rip out their kidneys for no good reason? It’s probably better to show you’re a supportive and understanding employer.

    Well, there’s my 2 cents.

    • I wonder what kind of responses you would get if you did the ‘hot stove’ thing, but with ice water in a bucket (so it wasn’t actually physical injurious; mentally, however…)
      I imagine it would be illegal, but I’m curious. I’m not even sure how I’d respond to that.

      Note: I should point out that I have asked questions which I was almost certain would make the interviewee squirm. However, it was when someone had listed themself as an ‘expert’ in something and I was testing their actual knowledge extent. For example, one candidate whire on their resume that they were ‘expert’ in TCP/IP and networking, so I asked them to briefly describe BGP (border gateway protocol). As it turns out, they didn’t know the acronym BGP.

      • I imagine it would be illegal, but I’m curious. I’m not even sure how I’d respond to that.

        Any sensible applicant with an ounce of pride would respond by walking out of the interview.

        An interview is a 2 way street. It’s not all about the applicant. It’s not all about the employer.

        Both parties need to play fairly with each other.

        I should point out that I have asked questions which I was almost certain would make the interviewee squirm

        There’s nothing wrong with asking tough questions. It’s expensive to hire applicants (regardless as to any recruitment agency fees involved) and the employer absolutely MUST get it right – unless they’re a big corporation and can afford to make mistake after mistake.

        I ask tough questions, but I tend to preface them – by letting the applicant know that we view it as a tough question – and that takes the heat off.

        A lot of applicants turn simple questions into tough questions, by trying to evade providing any answer, and unfortunately most experienced recruiters aren’t dumb enough to fall for such tricks.

        Questions should be asked for a reason – and if there’s a reason for the question, an answer is to be expected. Applicants can’t pick and choose which questions to answer.

        Having said that, if the question is pointless, as with Twitters question, the applicant should realise that the employer has at least some issues.

      • I wonder what kind of responses you would get if you did the ‘hot stove’ thing, but with ice water in a bucket (so it wasn’t actually physical injurious; mentally, however…)
        If it was almost entirely ice, you’d be more likely to increase the severity of your burn 🙂

    • I agree mostly – especially when @anguskidman himself writes so many articles from memory about like, “how to spot a bad employer”.

      Still, I can see some merit in these compared with the previous posts in this series.

      • To be fair, he identifies and acknowledges the viciousness of the question, but it does seem that it’s been excused due to it being related to a company responsible for a global phenomenon.

  • “Uh, well, I actually think you should hire me, but if you’re asking for my biggest weakness, it’s… [insert something that’s actually more a backhanded strength]”

    • “My problem is that I’m way too dedicated, and if you’re not careful I may wind up working so many late nights and weekends that my health is at risk.”

      (That one was semi-serious, if exaggerated. The rest of these not so much:)

      “My dedication to security is so great that if you sack me I will feel obliged to commit suicide to ensure that I don’t leak the secrets in my head”

      “My knowledge is so broad that your other staff will feel like falling in admiration at my feet, which may damage their productivity.”

      “I’m held in such high regard that I may be called away for brief periods by the office of the Prime Minister.”

    • Show them you have a sense of humour, Best said with a dead straight face.

      “Why shouldnt we hire you?”

      It’s simple. I’m going to embezzle a couple of million dollars from the company.

  • Easy question, and an opportunity to turn it around on them and drag out anything you’re concerned about that they might not be up front about. For example if you’re leaving a job because you’re sick of being expected to do free overtime on weekends, your answer could be

    “Well you shouldn’t hire me if you’re looking for someone who is going to sacrifice work/life balance to live and breathe the job 24/7. I’ll put in 100% while I’m there but I also value my weekends and evenings with my family. Is that likely to be a problem with working here?”

    • While I think the question is absurd and makes an already stressful situation more anxiety-inducing for the candidate while gaining no real insight about said candidate, your answer is pretty good.

      You’re hired!

    • Undoubtedly your response is a clever answer.

      But is it a good answer?

      Well you’ve brought up a very delicate subject, and companies often don’t like to talk about delicate subjects. It makes them squirm. And the fact that you’ve raised a delicate subject may indicate that you don’t mind bringing up subjects that may embarrass the company / interviewers.

      I’m not saying that it’s wrong to do that, but I am saying that there are risks involved with doing that.

      You could equally say that if I’m ever paid a day late I will walk out of the job immediately and hang any projects I might be involved with. You’d be in your rights to do that. But is that something that an employer wants to hear? Nope.

      Again, your answer is clever, it does show honesty and thought etc, it is entirely reasonable and the employer might fully agree with your sentiments and your approach – BUT it is raising and discussing subjects that have a negative connotation, and although that’s perhaps to be expected given the nature of the question, it may not help your application.

      I’m just stating my opinion. Everyone’s free to disagree, of course. But the more I think of this question the more I think that the interviews might as well ask you to throw up on the desk so that they can examine what you had for breakfast.

      (As opposed to just asking you what you had for breakfast).

  • It’s a stupid question, if it is intended as a question. I rapidly lose patience with interviews in which the interviewer is trying to pry into your psyche with all the grace of someone trying to look under a car hood by punching holes in it with an icepick. My preferred approach, if I didn’t actually want a job (assuming being interviewed by HR staff here, not a potential boss) would be to answer such questions as if they simply asked directly about the underlying thing.
    e.g. If someone asks ‘What are 14 things you can do with a shoebox’, respond with “Yes, I’m generally pretty good at divergent and creative thinking, and had to do a lot of that in my previous role at …”.

    With the ‘Why shouldn’t we hire you’ question..
    The response I’d like to make would be “You should. Did you have some other question in mind?”
    The response I’d think I’d make would be “You should, unless you’re looking for … (Ferret Chere’s answer here)”.
    The response I would actually make, I don’t know.

    • “someone trying to look under a car hood by punching holes in it with an icepick”
      Those are speed holes.

  • Why you shouldn’t hire me?

    Because, compared to me, everyone else in the department will look like they do nothing.

  • @Ferret Chere: +1.

    Loved your response and will use something to that effect should such a horrific question come up in a future interview.

  • I freaking hate all this psuedo-psychological BS in interviews.

    The bigger issue than this question, though, is that since Twitter use it, people run around going ‘Oh, we should use this interview question because this super-successful company does!’

    • Yep.

      These things become fashionable.

      Have 2 or 3 management consultants say it’s a good thing and we’ll all be doing it.

  • You shouldn’t hire me if you like hearing only the good news. If there’s bad news, I’ll give it to you straight, with no added sweetness.

    And I’ll start with the first bit of bad news right now: You’re never going to find the best candidate for the job with stupid, intimidating questions like that.

    Good day.

    • Yep.

      Don’t hire me if you expect me to be giddy over whatever nonsense someone read in a Self Help book is deemed gospel this week.

  • * I arrive to work late, drunk or not at all
    * I steal office supplies, including computers, desks and carpet
    * There was the death of a supervisor (nothing proven)
    * I “pop white heads with a compass I used in high school”
    * I “don’t own a toothbrush”

    But umm.. I’m a networker, always pushing the envelope with maximum synergy and touching base with people in the loop, so yeah, I’ll see you bright and early Monday morning.

    • * I “pop white heads with a compass I used in high school”
      That is gross. You should be using a paperclip

      • Well, maybe I’m not “the norm”. I’m not “camera friendly”. I don’t “wear clothes that fit me”. I’m not a “heartbreaker”. I haven’t “had sex with a woman”; I don’t know “how that works”. I guess I don’t “fall in line”. I’m not “hygienic”. I don’t “wipe properly”. I lack “style”. I have no “charisma” or “self esteem”. I don’t “let my scabs heal”. I can’t “reach all the parts of my body”. When I sleep, I “sweat profusely”. But I guess the “powers that be” will keep suggesting I use a paper clip, at least until John and Jane Q. Viewer turn away so they can get back to watching commentators who don’t “frighten children” and don’t “eat their own dandruff”

  • “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” “Because as a professional I have high expectations of my management. I expect them to be the best. I applied hoping that you could fulfil that. Do you feel that you are the best?” (Guaranteed to NOT get you the job. But you can play with it if you want)

  • You shouldn’t hire me because I have more desire and drive than you, if you are not careful I’ll be sitting in your seat before you realise it.

    Fight fire with fire.

  • I don’t think this is any different to the “what are your weaknesses” question (it could be phrased better though). Both are opportunities to twist everything around to show off your good qualities. For example, “because I’m a perfectionist who doesn’t give up easily”, or some such (fluff it up a bit more, of course).

    • Fundamentally they’re the same question, but as the writer of the article suggests, this twist on it is a bit vicious. It’s just turning the scews, which is all a little unnecessary. It has a shock value to it which won’t put the applicant in the right frame of mind to present an adequate answer.

      • While I get where the author is coming from, I’ve been asked this question before and it certainly didn’t make me squirm nor did it seem all that out of place (the whole interview process is little more than a mind game).

  • Turn negative into postive ect… “You will unleash the Kracken. I am an unstoppable force, I am proud and passionate at what i do which is why I believe I am the best person for this job ect…..
    “I may also lead the staff petition for a coffee maker in the kitchen.. ” just saying…

  • “Clearly you are an idiot and I am wasting my time.” Then leave.

    I called off two interviews early due to stupid questions like this. It’s actually a good way to tell if you are going to be a good fit for the company.

  • “You should not hire me if you have an applicant who is better qualified AND shows more potential”. Which is the reason that I am confident that you will hire me.”

    • That’s pretty much what I was thinking…seems like a fairly obvious and honest response…you shouldn’t hire me if there’s someone better…duh.

  • Well, I guess it depends really on the cultural background. Whatever is a ‘good’ response to this depends highly on were this question is asked. In some parts of Europe the interviewers really want to lear wheather you reflect well on yourself. Its not the question of “why should we not hire you”, but more “we really want to know who we hire – including his/her weaker points”.

  • Tell them you have a referee who will act as devil’s advocate and tell them why they shouldn’t hire you.

  • You shouldn’t hire me only if you want to grow slow. I am aggressive and possibly the amount of revenue and projects I can bring in wouldn’t be possible for you to handle.

    From a Sales Pro 😉

    • As this question is a particularly stupid role reversal so the answer is : ” That is not my business , I am just an applicant prepared for the job “. That’s all.

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