“What is your philosophy towards work?” is an interview question that many people aren’t prepared to answer. But the ones that are will impress a potential employer.
This article will cover how to come up with a great answer to this question and discuss your work philosophy in a way that’s honest and effective.
Table of contents
The Reason Interviewers Ask This Question
Questions like this give hiring managers more insight into candidates’ values and work ethic.
Your philosophy towards work says a lot about who you are as a person and what values you’ll bring to a company. Everyone has unique experiences throughout their job history, and you’ll go through many moments that shape your outlook and philosophy towards work. Asking this question gives employers an opportunity to see how you’d act on the job and to test if you’re a good fit.
After all, you might have the qualifications and education required for the role, but will your philosophy hinder or help your ability to thrive?
That’s ultimately what hiring managers want to know. What interviewers are looking for may vary based on the type of person they seek. For instance, they may want a candidate who’s a go-getter and takes the initiative to go above and beyond what the role entails. Or, they may be primarily concerned with finding someone who can contribute to an existing team dynamic immediately.
Whatever the case, your answer matters. That’s why giving this question the ample thought it deserves before your interview is important.
BONUS: Thinking about your answer to this question, even if it isn’t asked, will give you information you may decide will be helpful for the employer to know. You could include it in your “tell me about yourself” answer or maybe it will help you develop a STAR story you know you want to use to address what the company says they are looking for in the job announcement.
How to Answer “What is Your Philosophy Towards Work?
“What is your philosophy towards work?” is an interview question that will have a big impact on your chance of getting a job offer. A good response will help you move toward the front of the pack. On the other hand, answers that fall short will do the opposite.
Follow these tips to deliver a response that works in your favor.
1. Consider Your Goals and Motivations
The first thing you should do when preparing an answer is to reflect on your goals and motivations. What do you want to achieve from this job, and what motivated you to pursue this path? Consider what matters most to you when searching for jobs.
Most people don’t give much thought to their philosophies about work, so you’ll need to reflect to figure out where you stand. Start with what motivates you to succeed.
For some people, the primary driver is financial. In those cases, your values about work may revolve around doing a fantastic job so that you can continue supporting the lifestyle you have. Therefore, the motivation you demonstrate to a hiring manager would be to put your best foot forward to excel at everything you do.
Conversely, there could be aspects of the job that you’re passionate about. For instance, you might enjoy helping others, learning more about the technical skills you employ, or pushing yourself to obtain as much knowledge about your industry as possible.
Think about your goals and what pushes you to pursue greatness in your career. Use that as your foundation for your philosophy towards work, and you can develop a knockout answer that impresses interviewers.
2. Reflect on What Made You Interested in This Position
Next, consider what encouraged you to apply for this position. When exploring your work philosophy, understanding why you decided to pursue a particular industry, company or position can shed more light on what you value most.
Reflect on what made you think, “That’s the job for me!” Was it the type of work you’d do in this position and the impact your job would have? Was it because you enjoy the company and what they do?
Explore all those facets of your job search. Knowing why you chose to pursue this position can help you frame your work philosophy in a way that shows hiring managers that you’re the person they’re looking for.
3. Research the Company
Another way to prepare a solid answer is to do your due diligence about the company. Researching your potential employers is always important before an interview. You want to know everything you can about the business to show that you care about landing this opportunity.
But for multi-faceted questions like this, your research can unveil information that helps you develop an answer that works.
There are countless resources available to perform company research. You can head to the official corporate website, social media pages, or Glassdoor. Reviewing the job posting for additional clues about what hiring managers want is also wise. If you wish to gain an insider perspective, you can reach out to current employees, too.
Your goal during research should be to understand the company’s values. Every business has corporate values and a distinct company culture. Hiring managers always consider how candidates fit the already established mold, and you can use your answer to this question to show that you’re the perfect fit.
Your research can also uncover what the company expects from employees. It’s a chance to learn more about the type of people they want to hire. For example, you might discover that the company is people-driven, providing goods or services that make a difference in the lives of real people. In that case, your answer could emphasize the importance of impacting lives in your work.
Learn as much as possible about the company’s goals, values, and philosophies. Your response doesn’t have to match the company’s to a tee, but you can use it as inspiration to ensure your response piques the interviewer’s interest.
4. Be Sincere
After your research, you may feel tempted to create a reworded philosophy that perfectly matches what you learn about the company’s values. However, you should avoid reciting anything that sounds too close to what you uncover. Your goal is to be sincere, not fake.
The problem with molding your response too closely to a company’s mission statement or corporate value page is that it comes off as inauthentic. Hiring managers know that questions like this often stump candidates, and they understand that people will do their research to make themselves as competitive as possible. They’ve seen every trick in the book and often see right through inauthentic responses!
Be sincere and discuss your work philosophy from a place of honesty. Employers appreciate honesty and integrity more than anything. Even if your values don’t align with the company’s perfectly, your sincerity may be enough to win decision-makers over.
Plus, you don’t want to get caught up in a lie. Hiring managers can always contact previous employers and references. If what they say doesn’t match the philosophy you portray, you could ruin your chances of moving forward.
You can still deliver a thought-provoking response with everything interviewers want to hear. However, you need to lean on honesty and ensure you confidently deliver your answer!
5. Keep Your Answer Positive
Our final tip is an easy one: Keep things positive!
Let’s face it: Past work experiences can make people jaded. Some job-seekers see employment as nothing but a means to a paycheck, and not everyone is interested in going above and beyond when they don’t have to.
That’s alright, but you shouldn’t mention that in your response. Saying something too negative could reflect poorly on your candidacy. No company wants to hire someone with a negative philosophy about work. They want people who will love their job, enjoy being at the company, and actively contribute to the bottom line.
Being too negative has the opposite effect you want, so keep things light.
Never bad-mouth former employers or colleagues. Instead, focus on the strong relationships you’ve built in your past and the experiences that keep you going in this field. Emphasize your intrinsic motivations and what you love about your career. Leave the negativity at home!
Your response should be unique to your values and experiences. But we have a few examples to inspire you.
The first comes from a candidate seeking a sales position. They use their knowledge of the company to connect their values to the business and how it serves customers. This response works well because it shows the hiring managers what’s important to the candidate and how they’ll use their motivations to push them to excel.
“My philosophy towards work is twofold. First, I always strive to do something that I love. I believe that work is and should be an integral part of one’s life, so I always pursue jobs I feel good about doing.
Secondly, I seek jobs that allow me to pursue my most important position: that of a parent. This position is a perfect match for me in many ways.
I genuinely enjoy sales, and the unique nature of the job allows me to work without sacrificing time with my family. I can pursue success while still having room to be a parent.
I particularly love your organization and its family-focused values. I’m a long-time patron of your company and would love to work for a business I can recommend to others. Your products support parents and families, and I’m eager to be a part of that.”
Our next example is for a candidate pursuing a leadership role as a manager. They use their background to portray a philosophy of professional relationships and teamwork. It’s a good response because their values directly correlate with the job’s responsibilities, showing they have what it takes to succeed.
“My philosophy is to encourage every employee to value their contributions and find pride in working as a team to develop effective solutions to everyday problems. I strongly believe in company loyalty and the power of developing tight professional relationships. You can’t succeed with weak links in the chain, so my goal is to help others find passion in what they do.
No position is less valuable than another, and we all work together to keep the ship running. I love collaborating with people I know well and always work hard to encourage everyone to put their heads together to achieve a common goal. It’s what I love to do most, and I know that your company takes great pride in its workforce. I’d love to be part of that empowerment and help others reach their full potential.”
Our final example can work for any position. It focuses on simple but effective values. It’s a great answer because it reassures hiring managers that candidates will work hard to succeed, no matter their challenges.
“My personal values are to put effort into everything I do. I don’t believe in doing the bare minimum or just getting by. Since I was in grade school, my philosophy has always been, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it well!”
I believe in putting in consistent hard work and dedication in everything I do. What’s the point in doing something if I’m not 100 percent in? I always strive to achieve my goals and make meaningful contributions to the companies I work for. I plan to do the same here if given the opportunity.”
Now that you know how to discuss your work philosophy when asked during an interview, it should be pretty clear that this isn’t something to worry about.
Simply follow the steps above, and you’ll have an answer you can be happy with.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.