How to answer the job interview question 'Why shouldn't we hire you?'

MANILA, Philippines – Here's a truly puzzling job interview question that always pops up whenever we ask our readers to raise items they have trouble with: "Why should we not hire you?" 

A similar question, of course, is the more common "Why should we hire you?" Both are not necessarily the best questions to assess a prospective candidate. The former appears designed to intimidate and rattle because it feels like you'll be forced to touch on your weaknesses (hence the difficulty of many answering the question, "What's your greatest weakness?"). 

In my experience, when you're out of your comfort zone at a job interview and caught by surprise, it's a sink or swim situation, and it may be that they're looking for someone who can remain composed despite all that. 

So how would you answer it? 

Here are two strategies to attack this question:

1. Just answer. Professional coach and HR practitioner LA Cruz says you can bring up a few things that might cause employers to think twice, like lack of experience – then countering that with a good quality, like being willing to learn. 

Here's a real example that's been used at an interview: "I realize that I'm a fresh graduate with limited work experience, but I've held leadership positions in my college organization and led a team on a number of successful projects. I'm confident I can work well with a diverse team and can work through new challenges that come my way." 

If you choose this strategy, bear in mind that non-verbal cues matter in this situation. 

The interviewer will be looking right at you to gauge a.) your reaction and b.) your recovery.

You don't want to be stammering your way through. Keep eye contact steady, your gaze level (not shifty). Sit up straight, keep your voice at an even pitch. 

Alternatively, you can also:

2. Challenge and counter. "I would challenge him and say, 'I prefer to talk about positive things such as my strengths and how they can add value to the company,'" says Rappler columnist, author, and motivational speaker Jonathan Yabut.

Said nicely, this might express that you aren’t easily intimidated and are focused and engaged.

You don't want to appear combative or agitated. Just like in the first strategy, non-verbal cues will be very telling.

One thing many people do when they're nervous is to keep talking, eventually going into unrelated matters. If you tend to do this, take extra care to keep your answers concise, without seeming clipped or uncomfortable. 

For a number of fresh grads or even younger colleagues I've coached, I often tell them to have an "elevator pitch" ready even before they head into an interview. That's a seconds-long intro of who you are, what you're about, and why you're looking to join that particular company. If you only had 30 seconds to impress a prospective employer, what would you say? Prepare that, practice with a friend, keep it in mind always. 

Good luck on your next interview! Go get 'em! –

Wyatt is the Lifestyle and Entertainment editor of Rappler. Before that, she was the deputy editor of meg magazine. She's worked closely with numerous interns and fresh grads over 5 years and is the creator of Rappler's Career section. 

Now you're ready to ace that job interview. Click here to start looking for jobs on the Rappler x Kalibrr job board!