Interview questions: Tell us about a time that you went against corporate directives

18.05.2016 4515

I once did a survey of job seekers as part of my mock interview program , asking them to give me actual questions they’ve been asked in job interviews, and this was one of the responses. I almost couldn’t believe it. This is not a normal or typical interview question. To me, this is a little like saying, “Tell me about the last time you shoplifted.”

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I might have disagreed with my boss a time or two, but I never went against corporate directives, and I hope that you haven’t, either. Usually, going against corporate directives means that you don’t care that much about your job.
(Side note: Don’t say that you might have disagreed with your boss but never gone against corporate directives, like I just said above. The natural follow up question to that is, “Oh, really? When?” They might think to ask about your disagreements with your boss, and they might not. But the general rule I would follow is: On negative questions, don’t volunteer more information than what they’re asking for.)

If you get ever get asked this question in the interview, you might think that they’re asking you to describe your independent, maverick spirit, but I would beware. Maybe there are some companies where being a maverick is a plus, but I’m not sure that I know who they are. Google’s corporate culture is famous for its unorthodox style, but I think that even they would have a problem with someone going directly against Google policies.

It would be a very, very special situation where taking that kind of action would cast you in a positive light with the company (former or prospective). Like maybe some kind of whistleblowing situation. Unless you’ve got some story about how you saved the company from ruin by going against your evil boss who was bent on destruction, I think I’d pass on answering this question.

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I would turn this question (and any other question that seemed overly negative like this one) back to them and say, “I’ve never gone against corporate directives. Does that happen a lot here in this company? Is that an action that’s valued here?”

Maybe you’ll get a picture of corporate culture that will either make you think, “Finally...a place for an independent thinker like me!” or will send you running for the hills to get away from what is surely a chaotic environment.


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