I am a member of a couple of boards to which job seekers post comments and questions regarding their job search experiences. Recently, a young lady posted a comment that expressed her frustration that an interviewer has asked her 1) where her moral compass was; and 2) why should we hire you. She was upset because when she told the interviewer that she did not understand exactly what they were asking, they offered no clarification. She subsequently took a pass on the question…giving no answer. She went on to write that she was applying for clerical and paraeducator positions with the local school district and felt that they were not the types of jobs that are expected to save the school district from destruction. As you can imagine, many other board members offered advice. Some even called the “moral compass” question harsh, inappropriate, etc., and/or provided examples of responses they would have given. I am so happy that her interview was over and that she would not have the chance to follow some of the advice that she received because she would definitely not get a job offer if she followed some of their advice.
As you progress in your career search remember three (3) things:
1) That the employer with whom you are interviewing is a business and you are asking to become one of their representatives. A businesses’ employees are the first face of the organization that clients, the public, etc. see or interact with in the daily course of operations. This tends to be especially true of clerical/office support professionals who often serve as front desk receptionists and/or customer support representatives. Individuals in these positions often set the tone for the customer’s experience with that business, so it is very important to hire people with high moral standards. If the interviewer is able to successfully and accurately hire for moral character along with the technical skills to perform the job, they will hopefully not have to worry about you, their new employee, failing to put their customers first. For example, when a customer approaches you for help, you won’t hold a personal conversation on your cell phone while attempting to help the customer. You will actually dedicate your time at work to performing the duties for which you were hired. That is having a moral compass of dependability. In addition, even though some may disagree, you represent your employer twenty-four/seven (24/7) whether you are on duty or not. As a result, please remember that you are ABC Company’s employee even during that quick trip to the gas station or the grocery store before or after work, while still proudly displaying the employer’s I.D. badge and uniform. Don’t get into a dispute with another person and end up on the evening news;
2) Businesses assume an inherent amount of risk (liability) just by being in existence. I think we all agree that we live in a very litigious society, so many people are willing to sue for just about any reason. That being said, when that risk is activated, it costs the business money, and eventually costs the employees in additional pay that they could be receiving. In addition, a business’s success rest squarely on their reputation, so a poor public perception can break a business. Even one business missing from a community can have a negative economic impact on the community due to a lack goods, services, and fewer jobs; and,
3) Smart businesses do what they can to reduce risk on the front end. While successfully passing a pre-employment background check and a drug screen says a great deal about your character, employers must often try to delve deeper into your character to determine if you are a good match for their organization. Consider the case of the young lady who was applying for clerical and paraeducator positions within the school system. As I shared in my response to her post, I am a Human Resources professional with over twenty-five years of experience. I have lost count of the number of workplace investigations that I have conducted because an employee’s, staff-level and executive-level, whose moral compass was not pointed in the right direction. They included high-ranking executives who mismanaged money, employees who stole company property, including money, and getting paid or hours that they did not work because they falsified time sheets. As a clerical employee, particularly in the public service, you could have access to information that you could manipulate to benefit an acquaintance, friend, or family member if they happen to be consumers of the services that your organization offers. As a potential paraeducator, you are responsible for ensuring the well-being and development of our most precious jewels…our children. It is of paramount importance that you have the right type of demeanor to interact appropriately with students and their family members, and to create and educational environment that encourages learning. My sister is a paraeducator and children have hit her and spat at her. She also has to interact with parents who are not always pleasant, so she must have a strong moral compass to try and ensure that you would not react inappropriately. Her and/or her colleagues’ inappropriate behavior could bring unwanted attention and disgrace to the organization.
The young lady in question commented that she was a good person who loves children and animals and would have no problem passing a background check and drug test. What she does not realize is that she started down the path to the right response by explaining the she did not fully understand what they asking. That says a great deal about her tendency towards honesty. She could have followed up by stating that, “Based on the term moral, I suspect that you want to be confident that I am a person who knows that difference between right and wrong and chooses to do the right thing when faced with the choice.
The question of why should we hire you is an attempt by the potential employer to get a glimpse of the value that you bring to the table. No one knows better than you the strengths that you possess. For example, you could describe a time when you calmed a stressful work situation; how you went above and beyond to provide quality service to a customer; a time when you showed creativity and resourcefulness in working with limited resources to successfully complete a task/project, etc. This question is just the one to which you need to respond by “tooting you own horn” or by patting yourself on the back. You can do so without sounding arrogant. During the interview for my current position, one thing that I did to show my commitment to continuous improvement and learning was to describe how I learned WordPress® independently and used my new skills to start my blog, http://Nnamtique.com. It resonated with the IT Director who was one of the interview panel members and I am happy to say that I got the job.
I hope that this post has helped you to understand why such interview questions are not meant to be rude or harsh, but are vitally-necessary to helping the interviewers meet their objective of making the best possible hire for their organization. Here’s to your career search success!
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