Interview questions: How would you feel about working for someone who knows less than you?

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It’s not ideal to work for someone who does, in fact, know less than you. In fact, it’s kind of aggravating. But typically, they don’t know less than you in all areas. There is usually a reason they are where they are. They must know more than you in at least one little area, or they wouldn’t be the person in charge. Right?

Even if you can’t learn something from them (because for some reason they’re The Anointed One), then help them be successful. Because if you help them be successful, typically they will help you be successful. But I digress... The real crux of the issue this question tries to get at is this: Do you understand that there are people who know more than you and you can learn something from them?

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There are some personality types this is a big issue for, but typically the folks who have a problem with this are older employees, the Over - 50 crowd, who don’t think they can learn anything from some young whippersnapper. If you’re an older worker, you have to be aware of this stereotype and be careful of what you say in the interview. If you talk critically about the ‘younger generation,’ or tell a story about some 25 - year - old idiot you worked with last, it will just reflect negatively on you. Even if he was an idiot.

This interview question is poking around for your sore spot. (It’s similar to the ‘ how do you handle stressful situations ’ question.) They’re looking for negativity. Are you going to be negative? I hope not.

In some jobs, you are going to go in and work for someone who’s younger than you. For some people, that’s no big deal and you can tell it’s no big deal when you talk to them about it in the interview. They say things like, “I usually find that even if someone knows less than me in one area, they know more than me in another one. I can learn something useful from just about everyone and I enjoy the process.”

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For others, who use that snarky tone and say things like “It can be aggravating, but I try to teach them what I know without being too threatening” or something similar that sounds positive but really isn’t, what flashes through the interviewer’s mind is, “My gosh, I’d hate to be the one managing this person because they are trouble.” And your job offer disappears, just like that.

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