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Personal Values

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Based on thousands of interviews over 22 years in recruitment, what is the interview question candidates struggle most with?

Over my 22 years in recruitment, I have interviewed thousands of candidates, and I have found that many find it most difficult to answer questions about a subject they should know intimately - themselves.

It seems it is not something most really think that deeply about or prepare answers on for an interview. And the question candidates have the most trouble answering about themselves is this:

“Tell me about your personal values?”

In fact, the majority of people stumble in answering this and struggle to come up with a thoughtful response at all. I would say 80% of people give an answer of “honesty and integrity”, while another 10% come up with “honesty, integrity and respect”.

I’d estimate only about 10% make a good fist of delivering an answer of substance.

Why? Well, I would say that in order to answer this question well, a person would need to have gone through a period of self-reflection, spending time thinking about who they are as a person, and what it is that they stand for.

Personally, I have spent time self-reflecting, and have developed personal values that I live by on a day-to-day basis. To provide some further insight, and as an example for those perhaps looking to develop some personal values, here are some of my beliefs that I would use if I was asked the question “Tell me about your personal values?”

  • I believe in listening to others

  • I believe that I might very well be wrong

  • I believe in actions not words

  • I believe the best indicator of whether you will be successful at work is whether you have a successful, healthy, happy personal life

  • I believe that luck is hugely prevalent in outcomes

  • I believe in being kind while I apply my own perception of what is fair

  • I believe in taking responsibility and looking at what I did to contribute to a situation

  • I believe in the enormous power (and bias) of friendships and relationships

  • I believe the upside of trust is magnitudes greater than the downside of trust

  • I believe in understanding and empathy

  • I believe in being kind to myself

  • I believe in courage and backing myself

  • I believe self-discipline is important in success

  • I believe that we can choose how we react to things and choose whether we focus on the good or the bad in life

As you can see, I have framed my values using verbs and not nouns. Just like company values, I think personal values are best expressed by sayings such as “I choose to always to do the right thing” rather than the word “integrity”.

So, what do you believe? What are your personal values? If you’re in the job market at the moment, I would recommend spending some time thinking these through.

And if you know already, let me know in the comments section!

Remember though, answers including honesty, integrity and respect are not allowed! I have never interviewed someone who believed they didn’t have these three attributes, it needs to be more than this!