Wall Street & Technology is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


12:38 PM
Alan Geller
Alan Geller
Connect Directly

This Top Interview Question Makes Candidates See Red

If you ask the question "Why should I hire you?" during an interview, the interviewer rarely gets a useful answer. So, why bother?

In a recent LinkedIn post titled "Would I Hire You? My Top 5 Interview Questions," Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president, and CEO of Lockheed Martin listed the interview questions that she's found most useful:

1. How did you spend the first 90 days of your previous job?

2. What is the biggest challenge you've faced and how did you handle it?

3. How would the people you've worked with describe you?

4. What is one area you'd like to improve and what are you doing about it?

5. Why should I hire you?

While Hewson is in the defense industry -- not financial services -- these questions are universal and utilized by hiring managers in all industries.

The fifth question in particular caught my attention. I left this comment:

As the Chairman, President and CEO of a Fortune 100 company, by the time a candidate makes it all the way through your firm's hiring process and is placed on your calendar, is that question really necessary? Why ask a candidate that question? I'd recommend that you ask yourself, ask your staff, and ask the candidate's potential line manager -- but not the candidate.

Although Hewson didn't respond, her post states what she looks for in a candidate's answer to the question:

The best candidates make a strong case for themselves. They can clearly articulate why they are the best choice for the job -- and they can tell me what unique qualities they bring that no one else can offer. I want to see confidence in one’s capabilities with awareness of one’s opportunities for growth. This is no time to be shy; it’s the time to be your own best advocate.

I left a second comment:

Why not just let the facts stand for themselves? Why does this need to be set up in such a way that a highly qualified candidate that finally gets recommended to a CEO -- supposedly by trusted staff members -- is asked this question? If you want to see how candidates respond under pressure then make that an explicit part of the interview process. I don't see any need to ask veiled questions here. If you ask veiled questions, expect veiled answers.

The "Why should I hire you?" question has captured a fair amount of attention within the LinkedIn community. Marcin Wolcendorf, a senior software engineer at Cuciniale GmbH left this response to Hewson's post:

Why should you hire me? If I knew the answer to this question after a relatively short interview I should be offered your place straight away -- because I'd know more about the requirements for the position and other candidates than you do. But as it is -- since you ask this "extremely intelligent" question -- the answer would be, "You should not. Sorry to have wasted your time."

Jon Keith, regional supervising principal at Pathways in Education wrote:

I'm not a fan of the last question. The best answer a candidate could give me would be along the line of "I don't know, you are the one who is interviewing all the candidates and who knows the model best. You are the hiring administrator and you are the one who knows best. I can only hope and be personally confident that the best candidate is me." Anything else is nonsense.

Paul Spencer, principal engineer at Hyde Engineering + Consulting observed:

I have asked candidates these questions and watched them answer with extremely false statements. I am one that will always put an "operational" question into the mix. If I am interviewing for marketing, I might describe a situation where a company started selling a product similar to mine and how the candidate would address the differences, the benefits of our product, and respond to issues where our product is weaker. I would ask an engineer how to perform a tech repair in the field. I would outline a research project concept that the interviewee is likely to be aware of and have them suggest the next steps to do on a project.

"Why should I hire you?" and variations of the theme have been the subject of other LinkedIn posts. "Serial entrepreneur and investor in people with passion," James Caan, wrote a post titled: "Why Would I Hire You?" Here's what he had to say:

Sometimes, it is the simplest questions which candidates can struggle with. If I was to interview ten people and ask them the question: "Why would I hire you?" I can guarantee that eight of the people won’t give the answer I am looking for. They will give a detailed list of their strengths, but it won’t answer the question I am posing.

What employers want to know is how you can add value to a role. Every single person in an organization should be able to quantify exactly how they add value. If this is a sales director, it would be how much revenue they bring in. If it’s a PA, how much time can they save the CEO in a day? Everybody’s contribution should be measurable and what you have to do in an interview is tell the interviewer what you will contribute. This is how you use your list of key skills and strengths. Simply telling me what they are isn’t good enough, as you’re not matching them up to the needs of the job."

John Prunty, assistant service manager at Adwest Technologies, Inc., left the following sharply phrased reply:

At that point I would say you don't have to (hire me), but when your competitor does and his sales go up like they will, then you will have your answer. Thank you and have a great day! Then I would leave.

Lastly, Joseph A. Iannone, sales consultant at Prime Motor Group, speculated on how the classical Greek philosopher Socrates might apply his famous Socratic method to the question:

Socrates had it right … your question is "Why would I hire you?" The question I would ask is: "Why is there a need to hire someone right now, and what expectations in this person are you looking for to fill those needs?" Before the so-called sale (hire in this case) is made, challenge the interviewer, as it must go both ways …"

There's a lot more that can be said on this issue. I believe that the "Why should I hire you?" question (especially if asked by a CEO in a final-stage interview) is more trouble than it's worth. What's your perspective?

Alan Geller is the Managing Director of AG Barrington, a specialized financial technology recruitment and placement firm. View Full Bio
More Commentary
A Wild Ride Comes to an End
Covering the financial services technology space for the past 15 years has been a thrilling ride with many ups as downs.
The End of an Era: Farewell to an Icon
After more than two decades of writing for Wall Street & Technology, I am leaving the media brand. It's time to reflect on our mutual history and the road ahead.
Beyond Bitcoin: Why Counterparty Has Won Support From Overstock's Chairman
The combined excitement over the currency and the Blockchain has kept the market capitalization above $4 billion for more than a year. This has attracted both imitators and innovators.
Asset Managers Set Sights on Defragmenting Back-Office Data
Defragmenting back-office data and technology will be a top focus for asset managers in 2015.
4 Mobile Security Predictions for 2015
As we look ahead, mobility is the perfect breeding ground for attacks in 2015.
Register for Wall Street & Technology Newsletters
Exclusive: Inside the GETCO Execution Services Trading Floor
Exclusive: Inside the GETCO Execution Services Trading Floor
Advanced Trading takes you on an exclusive tour of the New York trading floor of GETCO Execution Services, the solutions arm of GETCO.