Punk Rock HR Question 18: Why Do You Want To Work Here?

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Laurie:

I have an actual HR question for you. I’ve just about had it with my current employment situation. It just so happens that a job I have coveted for many years has opened up. I have applied for it, and should hear something after mid-month.

My question has to do with a potential interview. I haven’t done one in a few years, but I had an awkward experience at the last one. I was employed but looking — and I had about three years of experience in the field, which is exactly what the open position was advertised for. The team of three that interviewed me were not HR people — they were the “in the field” folks I would be working for and/or with.

The awkwardness came about when one of them asked me “Why do you want to come work for us?” and I answered in complete honesty, “I don’t yet know that I do. That’s one of the reasons I am here today — to learn more about your firm.”

The asker of the question was obviously insulted, or at least off-put, by my answer. The air became uncomfortable after that, the interview petered out, and I left, confident they would not bring me back for the next round. And they didn’t.

Here is my question:

as they knew they were hiring (a) someone with experience who was (b) employed at the time, was it wrong or foolish of me to make it clear that this was a two-way deal, i.e., I was assessing their suitability as much as they were assessing mine?

When I was younger and unemployed, I would blow sunshine up the interviewer’s ass about their company’s’ wonderful reputation and how I aspired to be a part of that. But they held all the cards in those days. I don’t need a new job now — I’m just willing to consider the right one. Nowadays if I leave it is because I am being wooed away from something.

If this comes up again in my next interview, should I tackle the situation differently?

Thanks!
Sergei Prokofiev

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Dear Sergei,

Go ahead and asses the company’s suitability during the interview process. I would just encourage you to be a little more subtle. There are employers out there who are both arrogant and old school. Unfortunately, they believe that it’s 1958 and you need them more than they need you.

I see the “WHY DO YOU WANT TO WORK HERE?” question from an employer as an opening for you to start asking questions. I would encourage you to be gentle with your response, though. One assumes that an interviewee is screening a potential employer, so you could give them just a scootch of sunshine up their asses while asking tough questions about a company’s culture, its values, and its financial viability.

Wait a second! On second thought, f@#% ’em!

You could be blatantly honest — i.e., I don’t know why I want to work for you. Why don’t you tell me why I should? — and see what happens.

I’ve done it, and it works.

Love,
Laurie

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