(Reposted from Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder, Human Workplace; June 17, 2013)
There are job interview questions that strike terror into the hearts of job-seekers, and then there are interview questions that are merely depressing.
Certain interview questions are depressing because they cause a job-seeker to ask himself “The person could have constructed any number of thoughtful and provocative questions, and all s/he could come up with was this lame-ass leftover from 1963?”
There are interview questions that convey so loudly “The person who is interviewing you today has neither intellectual curiosity nor spark” that a switched-on job seeker, having heard the question, may not even want the job anymore.
One of those done-to-death and pointless interview questions is the one that goes “With all the talented candidates around, why should we hire you?” It’s a horrible question, because well-brought-up people don’t praise themselves, and well-brought-up people don’t ask or expect other people to praise themselves, either.
Now, we’re not castigating everybody who still asks this question, because some companies require it. That’s not anything they should be proud of, but old traditions die hard. For some reason, the business world, which should be all about innovation and speed and experimentation, tends to develop a protocol once (a set of interview questions, for instance) and stick with it way past the point of usefulness.
We can do so much better, so easily! Why not ask an interview question like “From what you’ve learned about our business so far, what do you think we should be focusing our energy on, more than we are?” That question requires a job-seeker to rise up and see the business from altitude, and to show his or her brain working. We need to ask more eyes-open questions like this, and fewer boilerplate questions borrowed from the Mad Men era.
If we can step out of the frame that has deluded us for years into thinking “The employer is mighty, and I, a poor ordinary job-seeker, am an ant” then we can answer the interview question “Why should we hire you?” as a human being rather than as a servile drone.
MANAGER: So, that’s interesting, you went directly from the Navy Seals into the Rockettes chorus line. Good, good. Apart from your Grammy and the climbing Mount Everest thing, is there anything else you want to tell me about your background?
JOB-SEEKER: Not really – I’m interested in what you guys are doing, here at Acme Explosvies. I have a lot of questions to ask you at the proper time about the business, and about your marketing plans specifically.
MANAGER: Sure, we’ll get to that. But let me ask you – with so many talented people on the job market, why should we hire you?
JOB-SEEKER: (Oh God, no – really? Oh well.) That’s a great question. I’m glad you brought it up. That is a big decision that you are going to make, and my take is that I don’t envy you that decision process, and I’m not sure you should hire me.
MANAGER: Why not?
JOB-SEEKER: You know the company, and you know the role. You know yourself and your management style. I know me, but you know almost everything about what’s needed here given what you’re facing in the marketplace. And most importantly, you’ve met all the candidates for the job. I’ve only met me. So I don’t know that you should hire me, but I know one thing.
MANAGER: What’s that?
JOB-SEEKER: I know that when I find the job that is right for me and vice versa, I’ll know it, and my hiring manager will know it, and everything will work out just the way it should. That could be this job, or it could be a different one. I have total confidence in me, you and the universe to get the right answer.
You don’t have to grovel on a job interview, ever. You don’t have to be evasive. You can say flat out, “I don’t know that you should hire me – there may be someone in your interview roster who’s a better fit for the job.”
You can tell the truth, politely and forthrightly, on a job interview, and I hope that you will start to do that. Using our alternative answer to a job interview question that should have been retired long ago is one way to start reclaiming your power.
The more your mojo grows on your job search, the more appealing you will be to employers — the ones who get you and therefore deserve you, which is to say the only employers we care about — and the more you’ll appreciate what you bring to the conversation. If you’re going to get all dressed up, go on a job interview and spend time with people you don’t know who also aren’t paying you, don’t you at least deserve to show up at the interview as yourself?
Want to see this interview answer demonstrated? Watch Liz Ryan on Fox Business answering this interview question. Connect to Liz (firstname.lastname@example.org) on LinkedIn and if you do, send her a joke in the invitation! Join Human Workplace here. Join our LinkedIn Group, too! Twitter: @humanworkplace