Years ago I was applying for a job I really wanted. I had gone through all the tests and interviews with consultants, had several different interviews with HR people and various line managers and had at last been informed that I was “the” candidate they would recommend to the VP who would be my boss. After about three months of interviews and test I was finally sitting in the VPs office and he sat quietly reading my CV. When he had finished reading he arrogantly dropped my CV on the floor, looked at me and asked “Why should I hire you? I can find hundreds of people with a CV like yours!” Needless to say I was amazed at his attitude. The only thing I could think of in answer to his question was “I thought you were only looking for one person for this position”.
When I got home from the interview I told my wife that I didn’t think I was going to be offered the position and even if I were offered the job I wasn’t going to take it because the guy who was going to be my boss was a jerk. The next day the head of HR called and said that they would like to offer me the position and could I please meet him so we could discuss the terms. I explained to him how I had been treated during the interview and how disappointed I was to have to turn down there offer. I really wanted the job but I didn’t want to work with such a horrible boss. The HR director explained that he knew that the VP could be a bit eccentric from time to time and often gave a bit of a “hard ass” first impression but most people who got to know him really liked him and he consistently scored high on employee surveys.
I finally agreed to take the position and got to know my new boss and really liked him. One day I asked him why he had behaved so badly in my job interview. He told me that he had already known from all the tests and interviews that I was qualified for the job. What he wanted to find out was how I could handle myself in tough situations. He said he had been delighted that I was quick on my feet, kept my integrity and used humor to manage the situation.
I do not recommend his methods. Even if his motives were good his behavior was bad and nearly cost them their favorite candidate. In fact, I have stopped using this kind of questions when I interview people. It is fair to discuss with a job candidate about their qualities related to the position. I do not think it is fair to ask people how they measure up against other candidates when they don’t even know who they are competing with. It is my job to judge which candidate is best.