Difficult Interview Question: What Would You Do If You Were Asked to Perform a Task That You Know Would Hurt the Company?
One of the benefits of being in power is that you get to make decisions and others have to listen to you. One of the weaknesses of not being in power is that to a certain extent you have to do what you are told whether or not you think it is the right thing to do.
When you apply to a job that does not have much authority, you may be asked what you would do when you know a course of action is wrong, but you are told to do it anyway.
How to Answer
Though the question may look like one of commitment and leadership, this is actually more of a communication question. The best thing to do is explain how you will disagree with the course of action (tactfully, of course) but that you would probably do it anyway when instructed.
“I would talk to the CEO and tell her what my supervisor instructed me to do, then tell them what should be done instead. Then let the CEO decide if it is best.”
So your plan is to be a tattle tale?
“First I would draft up my reasons for disagreeing with the course of action, including offering alternate solutions and backing them all up with research, if possible. I would either present this information in a meeting or via email depending on schedule factors. If my supervisor still instructs me to go along with the plan, then I will do so, but at least my objections were noted and alternative solutions presented. If possible, I will also get started on anything that can help fix the problem in case the plan does perform as poorly as expected.”
You are not in a position to refuse to do something your supervisor tells you to do. That is insubordination. You are in a position to at least explain your thoughts and present other opportunities. So tell the interviewer that you will first share your thoughts with the supervisor, but that you also respect the chain of command in the workplace. Offering to start on alternative solutions or projects just in case is nice but not required.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Respect the position hierarchy.
- Share that you will explain your thoughts and present alternative solutions.