There are many types of interview questions: easy ones, challenging ones, oddball ones, brainteasing ones, and, perhaps the worst kind of all: trick ones.
Take, for example, “Would you rather be liked or feared?”
This is a trick question because neither option is the right answer.
James Reed, author of “Why You?: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again,” and chairman of Reed, a top job site in the UK and Europe, writes in his book that what the hiring manager really wants to know here is: “What’s your leadership style?” and “Do you have the poise to wriggle out of a trick question?”
Reed says the best way to answer this one is to opt for the unsaid option: “I’d rather be respected.”
He explains that this is one of the few instances in which it’s OK to dodge the options given by the hiring manager, and to choose another adjective, so long as you acknowledge the original framing of the question.
Here’s the full response Reed recommends you try:
“Hmmm, well I certainly wouldn’t want to be feared. I think fear is a terrible motivator: people are often feared because they’re irrational and acting for personal and unpredictable reasons. I definitely don’t operate that way and I wouldn’t like anyone to think I did.
“Everyone wants to be liked, but I don’t think being liked per se is enough. You can like someone and still think they’re no good at their job. Also, sometimes you need to do unpopular things to get the job done. I’d sooner aim to be respected. That’s a good mix of personal connection — being liked; the ability to get done what’s necessary — being feared; and making my coworkers understand that I do whatever’s best for the team as a whole.”
Ultimately, Reed writes, hiring managers want to get a better sense of your character, “in particular your integrity,” he says. And to do that, they will often ask questions that come in the form of moral dilemmas.
“The best way to tackle a character question is to show that you make conscious and clear decisions according to a set of values that you’ll bring with you to the new company,” he explains.
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