Answering the Interview Question Would You Rather Be 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. This type of question will also show how you might interact with co-workers and customers.

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.

How to Respond

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. 

When to Focus on Respect

For example, 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. 

For example, you might say:

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.

Be Prepared to Follow Up

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.

In the example above, you might be asked to give an example of how you gained the respect of a customer in the past. In response, you could say:

One of my new clients was concerned about the quantity of packing material that was used in the production process. I brought her to a plant where our equipment was in use and demonstrated how efficiently it utilized resources. I helped her price out the payback schedule if she purchased the new machine, and she was able to write a justification that was approved by her boss. She has called upon me for advice many times since then and continued to purchase our products.