The Most Important Interview Question

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The most important interview question you can ask is also one of the simplest:  “Why do want the job we need to fill?”  While there is  no single correct answer there are some very promising ones, and some that are major red flags. 

The best answer is something like, “Because you need what I have to offer, and your position would be an ideal next step for me.”  Let’s take a look at why this is such a good response.

 First, “you need what I have to offer” indicates that the candidate understands your company’s needs.  This means that he knows the industry, your niche in it, and the specific challenges you face.  Either this is his home territory, which is an advantage, or he has taken the initiative to do the homework to make himself an expert in these matters, sometimes an even greater advantage.  Second, understanding himself well enough to know what he does and equally important does not bring to the table is critically important in fitting into an organization.  Third, the fact that he wants to do what you need to have done, presumably where you need it done, is a strong predictor that he will be happy, and therefore productive, in your role.

 Another very strong response is, “Because I love doing what you need to have done.”  Without exception, the most successful candidates we ever see are those who most enjoy their work.  Doing work that a person loves is not only a reflection of his enjoyment; it also indicates that the person is effective in positioning himself where he wants to be.  The same strengths that enable him to do what he wants to do will help your company do what you want to do.  Like the previous response, this one also indicates that the person understands your company’s probable needs.  The best thing about this response is that the enthusiasm of a happy employee is contagious.  If he loves coming to work in the morning, others will enjoy working with him, and the culture of the company will be more positive.

 An answer that I would consider to be a red flag would be something like, “I just need a job.”    In times of high unemployment it can be tempting to take advantage of a surfeit of candidates to bring on board the most readily available.  While this may seem like the easiest and cheapest route to take, it may not take you where you want to go.  Bremer Associates recommends that instead you take advantage of a large candidate pool to be sure you get the very best candidate fit.  With many more candidates to assess, the process may take longer, but the results will bring more lasting value.

A second red flag answer is negative comments about the candidate’s current company or supervisor.  An answer like, “My boss drives me nuts,” or “My company is going nowhere” is a preview of what he might say about your company in a future interview.  It also reflects a passive, blaming attitude.  A better response would be something like, “I feel I have learned as much as I can in my current situation, and it is time for me to take my next step.”  Such an answer reflects willingness to take responsibility and take initiative to make positive changes. 

The question, “Why do you want this position?” also opens up the conversation, enabling the candidate to draw illustrations of his fit from details that might not appear on a resume or application.  This gives you a chance to make a better, more complete assessment of the candidate’s fit for your company and for any specific position.