As if interviewing isn’t stressful enough, each interviewer has different criteria and methods they feel will best assess a candidate. Some like to confront a candidate aggressively to see how the candidate will respond, especially to difficult, open-ended questions. Often, the questions will focus on weaknesses or failures. One of the most difficult to answer is “Why shouldn't I hire you?”
Hiring managers ask this question for three reasons. First, they want to make you a little uncomfortable to see how you react. Second, they’re evaluating your ability to self-assess and admit limitations. Third, they may be fishing for a weakness that they haven't spotted.
This is just a different version of “Tell me what your weaknesses are.” Don’t say you don’t have any weaknesses – we all do, and if you say you don’t, you’ll be out of the running. You need to show the interviewer that you’re able to recognize places in your professional life that need improvement.
The key to answering this question is to call attention to a weakness, then explain to the interviewer what you’re doing to correct this weakness. The solution should not be external. You should be the one taking action and actively working on the issue. This question is about confidence and the ability to prove that you know how to work out a problem.
Here’s one potential type of answer:
"I can’t give you a reason why you shouldn't hire me, as I feel I'm a great fit for this job. However, like all people I do have a weakness and it is [time management, for example]. I realized this in my last job and now [first thing every morning and last thing every afternoon I go over a checklist to make sure I am getting my projects done, for example]."
Another approach is to briefly state your strengths, then mention your weaknesses, and relate these to the job. For example, say you are an experienced plant manager interviewing for a new position:
“Throughout my career, I have done an excellent job of motivating teams, holding employees accountable for their performance and controlling costs. I've picked up a lot of technical knowledge along the way, but I am not expert on the equipment. I have succeeded by using the technical expertise within my team.”
You can even show your knowledge of the position’s needs and question their perspective by adding something like, “If your organization needs a hands-on plant manager that can troubleshoot processes, I'm probably not the best candidate for the job. I will perform much better in a role where technical expertise exists but needs skilled leadership to maximize its effectiveness.”
Don’t be afraid of this “trick” question! You can use your answer to show a potential employer that you are a self-aware problem solver and therefore a strong candidate.