"Why do you want to work for us?"
It seems a lot of employers still ask this question, but I personally can't work out why. It may be appropriate for graduates who are looking at a variety of companies and are basically choosing based on brand names at a job fair, but here is what goes through the mind of an experienced candidate with choices when they are asked this question:
1. You think I need this job and want me to beg you for it.
2. You think your company is so great I should want to work here before you tell me anything and you want me to explain to you why.
3. You think I'll give you some new ideas as to why you should stay.
4. You're not sure how to sell me on this job or company so you really hope I already want it so badly that you don't have to tell me why to take it.
5. You're on an ego trip because you get to choose who gets this job and asking this question makes you feel important.
I guess a good candidate could have a serious answer to this, but what could you possibly learn from it? You might learn that the candidate has done some serious research on the company before arriving. But you could find that out from asking them, "what do you know about us?".
I've had feedback from other recruiters that the question is used to make sure candidates are serious about their organisation. But at a first interview with candidates that have choices it's too presumptious to ask this question. A lot of times in recruiting we use the analogy that recruiting is like getting married. Asking this question is the equivalent of asking someone, "why do you want to marry me?" on a first date. Anyone tried that with any success?
If the position is important enough for you to get the right person then getting them to join for the right reasons for them is just as important. That kind of symbiotic result is what produces success, a meeting of equals. But the question of "tell us why you want to join our company" isn't the kind of question that demonstrates a meeting of equals, it's a question that demonstrates the power of interviewer. Most candidates don't want to feel dominated at work. They want a place that will be fair and allow them to achieve while helping the company achieve.
Employers can go on asking this question when times are tough and when they feel the upper hand, but it'll backfire when you need intelligent candidates with choices to join your company.
Need intelligent candidates? Email me: email@example.com