“Why do you want to work for us?”

Have you ever asked a candidate in an interview the following question “Why do you want to work for us?”

For most companies, this is a staple question to ask each candidate early in the interview process and this might be a mistake. Employers probably ask this question to determine if the candidate shows excitement about the prospect of working at their company. This is not a bad idea if the candidate sought out this job opening on their own.

However, this can be an unexpected question when interviewing a candidate sourced through a recruiter. This is an important distinction to be made because candidates found through a recruiter are presented with a job opportunity and many of them agree to interview so they can discover for themselves if the position and the company is interesting enough for them to leave their current job. These candidates are often individuals who were not actively seeking a new position. Many of these candidates might simply have professional relationships with recruiters and have expressed an interest in being made aware of job opportunities when one comes along that fits certain criteria. The recruiter has already evaluated the individual’s skills and work history to determine that they are a good fit for your position and now the candidate is in a state of evaluating it for themselves.

Asking such candidates this question in the early stages of an interview might result in an answer that seems inappropriate to the interviewer because they are viewing the interview from the company’s perspective and not the candidate’s. Too often the interviewer will pass over high-potential, qualified, recruited candidates who do not provide an acceptable answer.

This begs the question, if “why do you want to work for us?” is the wrong question, what is the right question to ask?

What follows is a brief interview with our President, Alan Carty, on the better question to ask when dealing with recruited candidates, how frequently he sees this situation actually being a problem, his thoughts on the best recruiting practices for this market, and his outlook on what 2021 will hold.

Q: What is the better approach when interviewing a recruited candidate than the typical question “why do you want to work for us?”

A: A better option when dealing with a recruited candidate is as follows, “I realize that [Recruiter Name] informed you about our open position and gave you some information about our company, and hopefully you have had a chance to learn more about us through our website. Is there anything that you have learned that appeals to you, or do you need to have some questions answered before being able to answer that?”

Q: What is your experience with this issue in the past?

A: We are not privy to the dialogue in the interviews with the candidates however, we do hear from our clients when they feel that candidates failed to give them an acceptable answer to that question. We find that if the candidate is not prepared for that question, the employer is equally unprepared to extract the information they really want from the candidate. Employers should be wary not to jump immediately to “he/she failed that question.” By asking this question in a format similar to my previous answer, the employer provides an opportunity for a productive dialog that will benefit both parties.

Q: What are your thoughts on the best recruiting practices for this current market?

A: I often hear recruiters refer to the job market as being either a Candidate Market or an Employer Market, borrowing from the Buyer/Seller Market terminology used in real estate. Often companies change their interviewing practices based on which type of job market we are currently experiencing. Usually, they determine this based solely on economic indicators such as the unemployment rate. If they believe we are in a Candidate Market (low unemployment and therefore fewer candidates) they switch to an interview strategy in which they are “selling” their company more than they require the candidates to “sell” themselves.

I feel that when employers have an open position that is calling for a highly qualified candidate with a very specific skill set (which is nearly all the position we help to fill), it will always be challenging to fill because of how rare these candidates can be. In this situation, the employer’s focus must be on selling the company to the candidate versus expecting the candidate to be overtly selling themselves to the company. I view the interview process to be like balancing a scale. On one side there is the company and how much they are trying to sell themselves to the candidate; on the other side is the candidate trying to sell themselves to the company. A solid strategy is to always try to balance that scale, and only let economic indicators skew it slightly one way or the other.

Q: What is your outlook for 2021?

A: The outlook for 2021 is going to depend on the speed that we recover from the pandemic. We are certainly not at the beginning nor the end of it, and the most significant factor to the outlook of 2021 is how quickly we can move on from this pandemic and economic downturn it has caused. That relies heavily on vaccinations working and people continuing to use masks and social distancing until it is under control.

On a gut level, we have had a higher level of interest in our services since January 1st and I believe it will be a strong job market, within our niche. I believe there will be many individuals ready to make a job change because of everything that happened over the past ten months. There will be individuals who have taken a job that is not right for them in 2020 and will now be eager to look for a better job. Some people who previously felt locked into their current job because of geographical reasons and with the shift to remote working are now able to look for jobs anywhere in the country. There are a lot of factors that are going to influence more people than normal to start job hunting which leads me to be optimistic about a strong job market in 2021.

If your company is able, now is the best time to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to hire great talent. Partner with us to be introduced to talented engineers and automation professionals who are considering career moves this year.

Contact Automationtechies.

About the Author:

This article is written by Mackenzie Thielen, former Business Development Representative at Automationtechies.

Catch her on LinkedIn or by email.