Responding to ‘Values’ Interview Questions

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If you want to join a company with a strong values-driven culture, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook or Apple, you’ll need to exemplify those corporate values during the job interview.

But knowing how to respond to probes that examine your moral fiber or integrity can be difficult, especially when managers ask tricky or “gotcha” questions such as, “Have you ever downplayed an issue to make it seem better than it really was?”

Since interviews can be won or lost based on your ethical alignment, here are some ways to recognize and respond to values-based questions.

Research and Reflect

Companies that advocate a values-driven approach to business and relationships tend to be up front about their culture and priorities, said Ann Rhoades, president of People Ink and a founding executive of JetBlue, an airline known for its five core values: safety, caring, integrity, fun and passion.

“You can identify their standards and anticipate the type of questions you’ll encounter during an interview by reviewing the company’s website and mission statement,” Rhoades said.

The interviewer will be looking to hire a professional who not only has the required technical skills, but a value system that’s consistent with that of the company. With that in mind, once you’ve nailed down the company’s core values, practice answering hypothetical interview questions that put those values into practice.

For instance, in order to size up your honesty and judgment, an interviewer might ask a question along the lines of, “What would you do if your manager tells you to release an app that hasn’t been tested when the team is up against a deadline?” If the company has a reputation for only releasing software once it’s perfect, you’ll know what sort of answer will meet a positive reception.

Or, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your teammates about the cost effectiveness of a software design or solution. How did you handle it?” Such questions are designed to gauge whether you’ll stand up for your beliefs, and prioritize the interests of shareholders.

There’s definitely a wrong set of responses to those sorts of questions. “You’re better off being honest,” said Dr. Dale Olsen, president of SIMmersion LLC, a developer of simulated job interview and communications training. “Because if your core values differ from everyone else, you probably won’t last very long anyway.”

Take a Stand and Be a S.T.A.R.

Values-based questions often ask for examples from your previous work history. Creating short stories that illustrate your values, work practices and behaviors is a great way to prepare for an interview. Frame your answer according to Situation, Task, Action, Result (also known as the S.T.A.R. technique) to help explain intangible qualities such as empathy or humility.

Don’t try to evade opinion-oriented questions by giving cautious, middle-of-the-road answers. Values-based questions require authentic answers that emanate from deeply-held beliefs, so the interviewer expects you to take a stand, explained Ben Allen-Kingsland, SIMmersion’s business development director: “You need to come down on one side of the issue or the other and be consistent about your beliefs throughout the interview to prove that your values are aligned.”