Article by: Liz Ryan
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.