Interview Question: “Why Shouldn’t We Hire You?”

“Why shouldn’t I hire you?” is almost certainly near the top of a list of difficult interview questions. These types of questions can really throw you off, especially if you don’t prepare for them ahead of time. It can be difficult to react when asked a negative question, especially one that could have a significant impact on an organization’s hiring decision.

This is a more aggressive form of the standard query, “What is your greatest weakness?” The main idea for both of these questions is to use your response to emphasize a strength.

TIP: If you answer right, this question provides you with an opportunity to shine.

What the Interviewer Is Looking For

From the perspective of the interviewer, this type of curveball question serves two purposes:

  • During an interview, recruiters want to acquire a balanced perspective of prospects, which includes both your talents and shortcomings. This inquiry can help you identify some of your flaws.
  • Hiring managers want to see how you handle yourself when you’re up against a wall and have to think on your feet.

How to Respond to the Question “Why Shouldn’t We Hire You?”

What should you say when asked why you weren’t hired? The easiest method to respond to this question is to turn it around to highlight a strength. Select an attribute that can be viewed positively within this company culture or job profile (whereas in another corporate setting or job, this same quality might not be embraced).

For example, if you enjoy occupations and businesses that encourage autonomous thinking, you may say, “You should not hire me if you are seeking for someone who thrives in an environment where management rigorously dictates how each task should be performed. I work best when I am given general parameters with the target outcome and then given some discretion in how I would carry out that activity.”

Examples of Excellent Answers

Examine the sample responses and use them as a starting point for your own response. Make sure your response is tailored to both the role and the organization.

Answer Example #1
If you’re looking for someone to run meetings, I’m probably not the proper person for the job. Meetings suit me better as an active participant than as a leader. But execution is where I truly shine—so frequently, a meeting creates a lot of wonderful ideas, but none of them are completed. Following up on meeting tasks and completing projects in general is one of my strong suits.

Why It Works: This response demonstrates that you are serious about the subject and cites something that would be a problem in some roles—but not, presumably, in the one for which you are interviewing.

Answer Example #2
If an extrovert would not fit in at your firm or in this job, you should not hire me. I enjoy interacting with coworkers and consumers. I can stay focused, but developing strong relationships with others is my top goal.

Why It Works: In sales or customer-facing roles, extroversion is a plus, if not a need.

Example Answer #3
When it comes to projects, I never miss a deadline. But I have to admit that I’m not excellent at getting to work on time at 9 a.m. If it’s crucial to your organization that employees arrive on time and with vigor, I’m probably not the ideal fit. I’m a quintessential night owl, which means I work late at work.

Why It Works: In this response, you’re careful not to come out as lethargic or incapable of getting the job done, but you’re open about how you work best.

How to Give the Best Response

Concentrate on a Personality Trait

Another smart solution is to stress a personality attribute that may be advantageous in some positions but not in others. Make sure your response matches the personality of an ideal candidate for the job.

Be truthful.

It is just impossible for any employee to be without flaws. So, if you respond, “There’s no reason not to hire me,” you’ll come across as dishonest. It will also give the interviewer the impression that you are either immodest or unable to think on your feet. Neither of these outcomes is desirable. Mention anything, even if it’s something minor, like being a little slow in the morning.

Mention a Flaw Cautiously

Another way to answer this question is to think about how you would react to the question “What is your greatest weakness?” Mention a shortcoming, then explain how you want to improve in that area. Again, avoid mentioning any flaws that would make you unsuitable for the post.

What You Shouldn’t Say

Don’t be overly pessimistic.

You must provide a reason why the interviewer should not hire you. However, that bad aspect should not be the emphasis of the response.

TIP: Make a rapid shift in your response to something more positive.

Don’t Give a Reason for Disqualification

If the position requires a detail-oriented individual, this is not the time to admit, “I’m one of those persons who would forget my head if it wasn’t attached!” Make certain that your response does not highlight a weakness that is a deal-breaker for the position.

Don’t Ignore the Question.

As previously said, you must provide a reason why companies would not want to hire you, and it must be realistic and honest. Yes, you should emphasize the good, but failing to react to the question at hand reflects poorly on you as a candidate.

Athina Iliadis is a Human Resources Professional with over 25 years’ experience in corporate environments working for companies such as Pearson, LexisNexis, Hershey, and Reckitt. In her current role as a consultant working with clients around the world, she coaches managers and employees on HR issues, supports leaders in their business, produces content about careers, interviews, and job opportunities. She is fluent in English, French and Greek, and she holds a BBA with a major in HR from Université du Québec à Montréal. Find her on LinkedIn and at

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