Going for a job interview can be nerve-wracking.
Will they like you? What will you wear? Is your résumé good enough? Most importantly, are you ready to answer the difficult questions?
While most interviewees anticipate the traditional “what’s your biggest weakness?” question, what they don’t expect to hear is the more complicated, trick question: “Give us one good reason not to hire you”. This one throws many candidates off guard, leaving them unable to provide the most suitable answer.
Why would you want to give any reason not to be hired, right?
This tough question is most likely going to come up during your job interview, so, to help you construct a confident and perfect answer, we’ve prepared a quick and helpful guide with sample answers.
Read on to find out how to respond to the complex and not-so cliché interview question “why should we not hire you?”.
Why interviewers ask this question
Interviews are your chance to shine. An opportunity to brag about your skills. A way for you to land the job of your dreams.
So, why would you want to highlight any negative traits? Why on earth would you want to emphasize reasons that might make you fail this interview?
Well, like the common interview question “what’s your greatest weakness?”, this one aims to reveal how well you can think on your feet and how honest you are.
As a matter of fact, it’s also designed to cleverly reveal your strengths — if you’re able to turn it around (more on that later).
You might think that interviewers ask this question to intentionally trip you up and fail the interview. But, really, what they’re trying to see is how well you handle being on the spot, and if your response is impressive enough.
It may seem they’re trying to reveal your weaknesses, but this question is actually designed to determine your strengths and if you’ve got what it takes for the role.
Other ways your interviewer could pose this question include:
- Give us one good reason not to hire you.
- Why shouldn’t we hire you?
- What might stop us from hiring you?
How to prepare a response
Depending on how the interview goes and how confident you feel at the time, you can use your weaknesses, strengths and knowledge of the company to successfully answer this complicated question.
Here are a few tips on preparing your answer before the interview.
1. Identify your weakness
When asked the question “give us one good reason not to hire you”, one way to go about it is to be honest and actually reveal your weaknesses. Let’s face it: there’s no such thing as the perfect employee. Everyone has flaws and areas of their careers they could improve upon.
Prepare for this question beforehand by truly understanding where you need to improve in the workplace.
But be careful here. You’ll mention your weakness, but you’ll also add that you’re working on improving it. Your answer will depend on the job you’re applying for, after all. For instance, you’re not going to pick “shy” if you’re applying for a sales position. Refer to a flaw that’s unrelated to the job role and mention how you’re dealing with it.
You also don’t want to be overly negative about it. Describe your weakness with a positive attitude.
2. Know your strengths
This question is designed to play tricks on you, but what if you played tricks on the interviewer, too?
Before the interview, scrutinize your résumé and really nail down your strengths. Essentially, you’re being asked about your flaws, but you’re going to be smart about it and actually put the focus on your strengths.
But how do you do that without messing up?
As mentioned above, you’re going to mention a weakness that isn’t related to the job role and then put more emphasis on a strength that’s beneficial for the role. If you’re interviewing for an accounting position, for example, you can mention your disinterest in managing people, but then flip the answer around and focus on your skills in managing spreadsheets and reports instead.
You can highlight your strengths so much to the point where the interviewer will “forget” what the question was in the first place!
3. Research the company
As mentioned earlier, one way to answer this question is by turning it around. And to do so, you need to really know where your strengths lie and understand the company culture.
Prepare for the interview by identifying how the company functions and nailing down what the job role truly entails. You can research this information by scrolling through the firm’s website and social media accounts. Once you have an idea about their goals and expectations, work up a response to this question by toying with these elements and twisting it around.
For instance, if you know the company focuses a lot on teamwork, you might say that they shouldn’t hire you if they’re looking for someone who likes working independently. You’ll then twist your answer by adding that you thrive in a team.
This way, you’ll fool them by mentioning a weakness that’s actually considered a strength in their eyes.
4. Remain professional
This question can certainly catch you off guard. In fact, it’s likely that it’s being thrown at you for this very reason. Hiring managers want to see the whole picture before onboarding new employees; by pushing you against the wall, they can gauge how you respond to unexpected situations (like the one you’re in right now!) and see how well you can think on your feet.
Though on the inside you’re probably wondering “how on Earth should I answer that?”, maintaining your composure is important. Expecting this type of question to pop up and understanding the purpose it serves are two good ways of staying calm.
It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with common behavioral interview questions anyway, prior to your interview.
5. Buy some time
Though this question can make even the most well-prepared jobseekers lose their cool, there is no reason to panic should it crop up. Remember, when you strip it down to its basics, an interview is ultimately a conversation between you and another person, and you’ve survived plenty of those so far.
With that in mind, it’s perfectly fine to ask for a moment to gather your thoughts. Before explicitly asking for a breather, you can buy yourself some time by repeating the question. If by the time you’ve done this your thoughts are still tumbling all over, you can say something along the lines of: “That’s an interesting question! Let me just think about how I could best answer that for you.”
If you’re still struggling to think of how to answer the question, here are a few example answers to give you some inspiration.
Example 1: Acknowledge your weakness
Be honest and choose a weakness to share, but also mention you’re taking steps to improve:
“Well, sometimes, I over-analyze things. I tend to overthink a little bit and go over minor details too thoroughly. But as I learned in my previous job, this can be a hindrance, and so I now look over things a lot quicker with a clearer mind. I’ve practised by creating a mental checklist, or I even sometimes make notes on paper. This way, I can remain focused.”
Example 2: Segue from a weakness into a strength
Answer with a weakness but put focus on your strengths:
“You shouldn’t hire me if you’re looking for someone with managerial skills. I’d say I am quite weak at managing people and teams — I’m not really suited for that responsibility. But on the other hand, I’m exceptional at managing statistics and reports. I have quite the mastery of Microsoft Excel. I know it like the back of my hand.”
Example 3: Pick a “trick answer” for this trick question
Mention a weakness that’s seen as a strength in their eyes:
“I don’t think you should hire me if you’re looking for someone who likes working independently. I thrive most when I’m in a group. It helps me be more creative, and I enjoy bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with joint solutions. Working alone doesn’t let me reach my full potential. I believe collaborating on a project benefits everyone’s productivity.”
Example 4: Tell a story
Bring up an example of how a weakness in the past became a lesson:
“In the past, I would often let stress get the best of me. This had an impact on my physical health, which in turn compromised my performance at work, resulting in more stress. Though this is something I admittedly still struggle with on occasion, I have found effective ways to manage it.”
Example 5: Throw a verbal boomerang
Your hiring manager is the expert here — they know it, and so do you. You could always cleverly point that out:
“To be honest, I decided to apply for this role after having carefully read the job requirements. I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t think I was a suitable candidate for this position. At the same time, you are to be the judge of that, and I fully trust your judgment in assessing both my strengths and weaknesses. If there is a reason you shouldn’t hire me, I’m sure you’ll have pinpointed it by now.”
What not to say
Staying humble in an interview can generally increase your odds of landing the job. Too much humility, however, can be just as counterproductive as too much arrogance. Try to strike a balance between displaying modesty and confidence in your answer!
Example: “I’m not very good at multitasking. Oh, and my time management is not always the best — and I don’t really like working with others…”
Explanation: Avoid overemphasizing your weaknesses or naming too many. While we all have flaws and it’s good to be aware of them, this isn’t the time to flaunt your being aware.
Example: “The only reason you shouldn’t hire me is if you don’t want your business to succeed.”
Explanation: Hiring managers tend to value confidence in prospective employees, but take care not to sound conceited or arrogant.
Example: “I’d prefer not to answer that.”
Explanation: Though a valid response, save it for when you hear inappropriate (and illegal) questions like “are you married?” or “do you have children?”. Don’t try to dodge challenging interview questions otherwise, as there’s a good reason behind everything you’re being asked.
This trick question may take you by surprise if you’re not prepared for it. But you can avoid freezing up and saying the wrong thing by cleverly wording your answer and considering all the factors mentioned above. This way, you can guarantee leaving a good impression on your potential employer and, hopefully, landing the job!
Just remember: never, ever give them a real reason not to hire you.
Still not feeling confident? Check out these interview mistakes to avoid:
What other ways could you answer this question? Let us know how you’ve handled this hurdle in the past in the comments section below!
Originally published 21 February 2020. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.