Why Should I Hire You?

IT managers share their favorite interview questions and the thinking behind them.

Brian A. Young likes to spend time with potential hires, even if they won't report to him. "It's the most important thing you have the people so we take a lot of time in hiring," explains the vice president and CIO at Creighton University in Omaha.

Young, like many hiring managers, puts great effort into the interview process. He says it's a chance to move beyond the résumé and learn more about the skills and personality traits that candidates can't encapsulate on their CVs an especially important task as the IT labor market continues to tighten. (See "The Recruit/Retain Shuffle.")

"It's not frenzied, but it is tougher hiring people. A lot of the activity is to find good talent, [not] just bodies," says Shadman Zafar, CIO for the telecommunications line of business at Verizon Communications Inc.

Brian A. Young

Brian A. Young With that in mind, we asked some IT executives to share their favorite interview questions. Here are their responses.

Describe your toughest assignment so far. "You get an immediate feel for their weaknesses as they're telling a story," Zafar says. "You can also tell how they counter their weaknesses."

Share with me a conversation you had with your boss or others in your life where some feedback you heard was tough to take. "I think that shows a lot about someone's willingness to listen well and act on that feedback," Young says.

Shadman Zafar

Shadman Zafar In response to this question, a woman once told him that her boss said she needed to learn when to abandon e-mail and communicate in person. She said she then went around to friends to get their feedback so she could find ways to improve. She also said she was hoping to take a public speaking course to help her communicate better. Good answer.

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Wondering what to do when faced with a tough (or unexpected) interview question? See Tales from the Hot Seat (Or, How I Aced the Interview).
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What will you do if you don't get this job? Responses to this question show how seriously candidates take their career paths, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half Technology, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based IT staffing company. Individuals who are also applying for other jobs or planning to further their qualifications in a specific field demonstrate a commitment to their aspirations. That's a plus.

Katherine Spencer Lee

Katherine Spencer Lee But those who can't articulate a plan might just be trying something new on a whim. Moreover, Lee says a candidate's response tells her how fast she has to move: If someone says he has other interviews, Lee knows she has to act fast.

One of the more interesting responses she has had to this question is, "You can't afford not to hire me because I'll go work for your competitor."

Lee says she has hired candidates who have given that response, but it has to be delivered right. It needs to sound confident, not arrogant.

Why should I hire you? "It's the opportunity to see if the individual wants the job," says Sherry Aaholm, executive vice president of IT at Memphis-based FedEx Corp. "I want to see if they're passionate and if they've done their research into that position."

Sherry Aaholm

Sherry Aaholm One interviewee gave a classic wrong answer: "Because you already know me." A previous relationship won't get a candidate the job, Aaholm says, nor will such an uninspired answer.

Have you ever had to terminate someone? Aaholm says responses give her insight into how well candidates work with their teams, whether they're willing to help develop and train people who are struggling, and whether they can make the tough decision to let someone go when it's just not working out.

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