How To Answer Interview Questions About Being Liked or Respected

A serious woman conducting a job interview with a candidate.
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Interviewers will use many different questions to determine what type of employee you would be if hired. They may use questions like "Would you rather be liked or respected?" to gather insight into your motivations. Another variant of this question is "Would you rather be liked or feared?" 

Although there is no universal right answer to this question—and your emphasis may vary based on the context of the possible job—there are some general guidelines to consider.

What Interviewers Want to Know

Interviewers have a few priorities when they ask you if you'd rather be liked or respected. 

First, they're interested in getting a sense of your priorities and thought process. This question can also reveal your leadership style. Plus, it can show interviewers how you might interact with co-workers and customers.

How to Respond to "Would You Rather be Liked or Respected?"

Either option is fine in response to this question. Keep in mind that in most work roles, being respected should be given greater emphasis, since it is typically linked more closely to competence and productivity. However, a significant factor to consider is the nature of your relationship with your colleagues. There are situations where you'll want to focus on the virtues of being liked—and, of course, you may want to opt to mention the value of both being respected and liked. 

When to Focus on Being Respected: If you are interviewing for a managerial or executive role, you should certainly emphasize that being respected would be a priority for you so that your employees will enthusiastically carry out your directives. It is important to add that although receiving respect from subordinates is necessary to a supervisory role, so too is giving respect. 

Make sure you express that you understand the reciprocal nature of professional and personal relationships.


When to Focus on Being Liked: In roles where teamwork and collegiality are important, you can reference your interest in being liked to create a harmonious workgroup. 

If you are interviewing for a position that involves frequent contact with clients, in which a personable nature is required to establish rapport or maintain a positive relationship, then you should mention the benefit of being liked in regard to this component of your work.

You will also need to deliver product information and solutions, so respect will also be important to inspire confidence in your customers.

When to Mention Both: Most interviewers will accept a nuanced answer in which you mention the value of both being respected and liked. However, you should be prepared to discuss the relative importance of one or the other if pressed.

The most critical aspect of your response will be the rationale you provide for your answers and how you connect your assertions to effectively carrying out some aspect of your role. 

Examples of the Best Responses

Example Answer #1

On the job, I would rather be respected. My success as a salesperson has stemmed largely from my ability to anticipate the needs and problems of my customers and to present my products as a way to meet those needs and solve those problems. Once respect has been established, I find that my customers continue to come back to me for additional service. Of course, I want my clients to like me as well, and I do the little things like bringing them a favorite food or taking them for a round of golf so that they also see the personal value of our relationship.

Why It Works: This candidate shows they understand the value of both being liked and respected. They offer a clear explanation for why gaining respect is their priority, along with how they earn it.

Example Answer #2

In this client-facing role, it's so important to build rapport to be successful. So I'd prefer to be liked, since it means that clients appreciate my work (and, in turn, value the company). Of course, making good conversation isn't enough—clients value people who get the job done and meet their needs.

 Why It Works: This candidate explains how being liked helps them perform their job and fulfill company needs. 

Example Answer #3

As a manager, I'd prefer to be respected. While it's nice to be liked, and can definitely lead to a strong, effective team atmosphere, sometimes a manager has to request or do unpopular things. Overvaluing being liked can make you reluctant to request that people work late or buckle down. A respected manager can motivate people to do work and complete tasks under any circumstances.

Why It Works: For managerial or supervisory roles, respect should be emphasized over being liked, as this response does. 

Tips on Giving the Best Answer

Keep these tips in mind when forming your response: 

  • Explain your reasoning. With this type of question, there is no correct answer. Rather, interviewers are eager to see how you think. So, explain why you have your preference. 
  • Choose your answer strategically. Depending on your role, being like may outweigh the merits of being respected — or vice versa. Keep the job responsibilities and requirements in mind when choosing your preference. 
  • Talk about respecting and liking others. This is a question about you, but it's also a question about how you relate to others. It's a good idea to mention the value of respecting and liking others in your response. 

What Not to Say

Here are some responses that are best avoided: 

  • Don't trash one option. Ultimately, it's good to both respected and liked. So while it's fine to emphasize one of the two qualities in your response, that doesn't mean you should speak negatively about the other one. 
  • Avoid appearing dictatorial. A focus on being respected should acknowledge that respect is earned, not automatically granted. You can touch on how you gain respect in response, but stay away from answers that use phrases like, "I demand respect." 

Possible Follow-Up Questions

As with most interview questions, you should be prepared for a follow-up question asking for clarification or an example of how you have demonstrated in the past whatever you are asserting. As well, you may receive other follow-up questions, including: 

  • Do you work well with others? - Best Answers 
  • If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say? - Best Answers
  • What do people most often criticize about you? - Best Answers
  • Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? - Best Answers
  • How would your colleagues describe your personality? - Best Answers 

Key Takeaways

  • Interviewers are looking to get a sense of your priorities, work style, and how you relate to others.
  • Keep the role in mind, since some jobs may demand being liked over being respected, and others may require the reverse.
  • Since both being liked and respected are good qualities, it's OK to mention both in your response.