This is the kind of question that makes everyone tremble. But it’s bound to be asked so you need to have a positive answer prepared in advance so you’re ready.
Tips to help you answer this very awkward question:
When an interviewer is asking you about this, he or she is trying to find out what you would do in situations in which someone above you made an error. Would you be willing to mention this? How would you handle the situation?
You may or may not have faced this circumstance in the past, but you’re bound to at one time or another in your career. Employers know this so if the question comes up in an interview, here are some suggestions:
Give an example. If you have been in this situation in a previous job, you should discuss it with the interviewer. Avoid citing minor examples. Discuss a circumstance that had a direct impact on the company’s profitability.
Do not say you would ignore the mistake. If you are faced with a situation where you are 100% convinced that your boss is doing something wrong, tell him or her what you think. In doing this you must be diplomatic and watch your tone. But you cannot be fearful of your boss or assume they’re going to retaliate in some way. A good manager is a professional and should be able to take criticism. In many cases they like being challenged by those on their team. It’s all in the delivery though, so tread lightly.
Diffuse the negativity. Upon being asked this interview question, eliminate any negative tone in your voice. Express yourself with humility in acknowledging that your boss is your superior and in authority. Despite this, explain that you’d be willing to speak up about the mistake.
Determine the best approach. When you discover that someone over you has made a mistake, the best approach is to speak to him or her privately. It would be counter-productive to mention this in front of others. Be professional.
Speak respectfully. You wouldn’t just call your boss out on their mistake as if it were okay to speak your mind. Your boss must be spoken to respectfully, no matter what he or she’s done or how it will affect the company.
You are not the police. You should not come off as if you are out to get your boss. This is not a criminal you’re dealing with. When you’re a professional, working on a team with others, your job performance can be affected by the poor decisions or mistakes of the team leader. Nonetheless, you need to be diplomatic, yet truthful in conveying your concerns.
The STAR approach works well. Answer this question by using the STAR approach, with S = Situation, T = Task, A = Action you took and R = Results you got. When you answer in this manner your interviewer should be impressed and hopefully you will be the star out of all the candidates interviewing for the position.
Keep in mind that you may be asked some awkward questions, but that is no reason to be intimidated. If you’ve prepared yourself in advance you’ve anticipated these types of questions and are ready. Just know that it isn’t necessarily a mistake to point out a mistake. The outcome will depend on how professional you are in dealing with the situation.
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