Interviewers for professional positions will often ask about your work philosophy, and they’ll want to hear examples that demonstrate your philosophy in action. You’ll get this question most often in careers that involve counseling, nursing, teaching, and executive management.
Your philosophy is the approach that you take to your work. It shows your potential employer whether or not you fit in the style or culture of the company. Interviewers ask these types of questions to get a sense of your values and to determine if your philosophy is consistent with the orientation of their organization.
Think of your philosophy as your brand, a clear-cut statement of who you are and how you apply that to your work.
What the Interviewer Expects
Your interviewer wants to hear many things in a job interview, but most of all, a potential employer wants to know what to expect from you as an employee. So be ready with a well-thought-out, intelligent answer.
Before you even start thinking about the details, keep in mind that honesty about yourself and your philosophy goes without saying. Don’t makeup things about yourself to fit the job. If you have to do that, then that job probably isn’t right for you. As your craft, your philosophy, remind yourself to be real and be consistent.
Interviewers want to see a philosophy that reflects enthusiasm for your work, a strong work ethic and the depth of your experience. For some positions, potential employers may also be testing to see if you’ve kept up with trends in your field. Your resume details your work experience, but your philosophy sums up how you approach your work and what makes you successful at it. That gets to the heart of the matter for interviewers.
Determining Your Work Philosophy
Don’t be daunted trying to define yourself. Do a self-assessment for your career. Think about what makes you good at what you do. For example, are you resourceful, someone who can think outside the box and find a solution no matter the limitations? Or are you a hard worker, giving that 110% effort every day? Are you a team player, someone who sees teamwork as essential to a successful organization? These are categories of attitudes toward work that make up a personal philosophy. Other categories include creativity, learning from failure or mistakes, being a visionary, dedication to helping or serving, motivation, being adaptable to new or constantly changing circumstances, ability to balance, thriving on uniqueness, being focused, or providing strong leadership. No one is just one of these categories. Mix and match and come up with your work ethics and attitudes to create your unique personal statement.
How to Prepare
To prepare your answer for a specific interview, start by researching the mission statement of the company you're interviewing with. This statement should be available on the company’s website. Learn about the goals and means of the company. Research its market niche. Understand its risks, demands, and competition. And then define how your philosophy will help that company in its goals.
If you have any network connections at the company, you can also set up an informational interview to learn about the workplace culture.
It may help to review some of the theorists who have shaped current practices in your field, but it is acceptable to mention that you are eclectic in your approach, tailoring your actions based on the situation. Just make sure you can describe the specific approaches you most often take to back up your answers.
When asking follow-up questions, interviewers may ask for examples of how you have applied your philosophy. So be ready to describe specific situations, the actions you took, and the positive results you generated through your approach.