When job seekers are asked, “What are your values?” during an interview, how should they approach this question?
Should they just mention their personal values, or should they line up their answer with the company’s values and work culture?
To better prepare for an interview and impress any potential employer, we asked experts how to answer this question with confidence.
Here are their insights:
Elene Cafasso, MCC
Leadership Development Expert | Executive Coach | President, Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching
Share the values that are true for you and make a difference in the job you’re applying for
In coaching, we define your values as what you need to have in your life to be your best. They’re not your morals, your religion, or your ethics. They’re the intangibles that light you up and energize you.
When you’re having a fabulous day, it’s rich with values. When you’re furious, that means a core value of yours has been trampled on.
Do you need to share all this with an interviewer? Absolutely not. However, what is important is that you are self-aware enough to know your values and how they differentiate you in the workplace.
For example, say you value keeping commitments. You can share that with the interviewer and provide examples where you went over and above to make sure you kept a commitment to meet a deadline or a customer deliverable despite incredible odds.
If you value authenticity, perhaps share a story about a time when you had to deliver a hard message about a layoff to your team. Perhaps you told them as soon as possible and in the most humane way possible.
In my own career, I honored my value of fairness by refusing to tell someone that she’d be laid off until the company could provide details on the severance package.
My boss wanted me to do it before I left on vacation, but I refused. He had to do it while I was away, but the individual didn’t have the rug pulled out from under her until we could give her a safety net!
The bottom line is to share the values that are true for you and make a difference for the job you’re applying for. No need to share every single one.
Spotlight those where you have a great example to illustrate your value in action and how you will use it to create results for the new employer.
Entrepreneur | Licensed Psychotherapist
Answer with clarity and confidence
Our values guide our path on our journey in life. It helps us stay grounded and focused on our goals and what matters to us.
Our values dictate:
- how we show up,
- how we behave, and
- how we connect and interact with others day in and day out.
In a recent podcast interview, the host asked me to share my entrepreneurial identity. I paused a moment and replied with:
“I find my identity through my values.”
I followed up with my top three:
- Connection – to be mindfully present with others and engage fully in whatever I am doing,
- Challenge – it is important that I keep challenging myself to learn, grow and improve, and
- Authenticity – to be genuine and always true to myself.
Instead of telling the host what I do, I answered with my values to show them “who I am.”
In a job interview, when asked, “What are your values?” it is best to answer with clarity and confidence because this can determine whether your work ethics, behavior, and personality align with the company’s work culture.
Be prepared to provide at least three of your top values
Be prepared to provide at least three of your top values to present what is important to you.
A person who values “trust” and “honesty” knows the importance of loyalty and trustworthiness, which are central to having integrity. If you value “creativity“, you are stimulated by being innovative and prefer to think outside the box.
“Equality” and “justice” display a person’s high regard for the mutual recognition of each other’s basic dignity and to treat others equally.
These simple words can provide so much insight as it gives the interviewer a glimpse of who you are as an employee, colleague, and human being.
Choose a job that meets your values
Just as the interviewer is looking for someone who can fulfill the job description and match their work culture, it is just as important that you, as the interviewee, choose a job that meets your values.
When your work does not align with your values, this can lead to boredom, dissatisfaction, low productivity, burn-out, and even depression.
For example, the job doesn’t offer opportunities for “growth” when you value “challenge.”
On the other hand, when you work at a place where your values are met, you will feel motivated, inspired, and productive. This can lead to your overall success and happiness.
Author | Career Advancement Coach for Women
Frame the values to make the interviewer feel they are endearing qualities
What is the right way to answer the question, “What are your values in an interview?” Tell them flat out your values? Or change your values to fit the company culture?
The balance lies in the middle. You want to be 100% truthful while avoiding oversharing and presenting your values in a way that could be off-putting to the interviewer.
Here are three tips to balance authenticity and vulnerability:
- Name the values authentically without getting into the vulnerable details of how you live out the values.
- Frame the values to make the interviewer feel they are endearing qualities—not values that would adversely affect your work.
- Tying the overlap of the value back to the workplace when possible.
- Refrain from sharing all of your values.
- Pick your top 3-5 values.
- Sharing more will dilute the meaning of a value, and the interviewer will not know what you haven’t chosen to share.
Here are three ways to present the value of “family first.”
“A value of mine is family first. I’m divorced and have full custody of my kids, so no matter what, my family always is number one. There are times when I make sacrifices to meet their needs, but it’s always worth it.”
“A value of mine is family first. Each day, when I wake up before looking at my phone, I think about how I can intentionally add value to my family. This value is really about being intentional with my time.
I have great relationships at home, and I’ve noticed how it’s caused me to be more intentional with my work relationships.”
“A value of mine is to live intentionally. Each week I think about how I can intentionally add value to the people I care about, including my coworkers.”
All three of the examples are an authentic representation of your values. They each have varying degrees of vulnerability and present a different frame.
When choosing your level of vulnerability and frame, think about the company and its values.
If the company has a “family matters” value, then example 2 would be a great fit. If the company doesn’t have values around family, then a frame like example 3 would be most fitting.
The key is to remain authentic and not change who you are and what you value to please an interviewer. When you get hired for a role, you want it to be one where you and your values are respected.
Cornelia Shipley Bearyman
Equity and Strategy Advisor | Founder and CEO, 3C Consulting
Identify your values; convey those values effectively
Job interviews are your opportunity to showcase your skills, talents, and expertise, and demonstrate how you will be an asset to your work team and the organization more broadly.
Your background, education, and relevant experience are not the only things that matter to an employer.
Prospective employers want to understand your unique value proposition: the things that differentiate you from every other applicant.
Remember, the interview process is a two-way street. As a candidate, you want to make sure your objectives will be met.
- Will you have meaningful work, the flexibility you need to do your best work, and the benefits you need for your current stage of life?
- Does the company have a sustainability initiative, practice fair and equitable employment, give back to the community, and align with your core values?
Like any other relationship, candidates are looking for a relationship with an employer that is mutually beneficial and is aligned with their lifestyle, social views, and moral ideology.
A recent study found that 77% of job seekers consider company culture prior to applying. Additionally, millennials surveyed were more likely to prioritize workplace culture over salary, and almost 90% of respondents stated that it was important for employers to “have a clear mission and purpose.”
These responses support the trends we are seeing in the “Great Resignation” where people are looking to:
- Do important work,
- Make a difference,
- Do something that matters, and
- Know that they matter.
Interviewers often ask, “What are your values” to see how your worldview aligns with the organization. Candidates should take the time to reflect on what matters most to them prior to the interview and determine where their values align with their prospective employer.
Alignment is important to both employers and prospective employees.
According to a recent PWC study, 72% of respondents indicated they need to understand the work culture before accepting the role.
- Read the company’s mission statement.
- Look at their social media.
- Read articles and other news coverage to understand how they demonstrate their commitment to their values.
- Be prepared to share how you work in alignment with the values you have in common with the employer.
At its best, the interview process should reveal to both parties if moving forward is in everyone’s best interest.
- Maximize the opportunity by doing your research on the organization and understanding what matters most to you in a future employer.
- Get all your questions answered about both the job itself and the culture of the organization.
- Ask for a shadow day to get a better “sense” of the employees’ day-to-day experience.
- Take the opportunity to observe how:
- Work is assigned and gets done,
- Teams hold themselves accountable,
- They reward and recognize achieving their goals.
In your professional life, you will spend more than half your days working. Ensure that time is meaningful and fulfilling by identifying your values, conveying those values effectively, and joining an organization whose values are aligned with yours.
Lauren LeMunyan, PCC
Executive Coach and Founder, Spitfire Coach
They become much more powerful with more context or an example
First, take a step back and listen to what the interviewer is really asking you.
- What do they want to know about you?
- How do they think you will align or clash with the existing team or organization’s culture and dynamic?
Then take a deep breath and think about what is most important to you at your core. This isn’t about fitting into a company’s values but about being really honest about what drives and inspires you.
When you think about your values, what are 3-5 things that need to be present for you to move forward or get motivated to act? Not sure?
I’ll provide an example below:
“I have a strong pull around collaboration, play, agency, and impact.”
Now I could respond with those words but think how much more powerful they become with more context or an example.
Here’s an expansion using the same example:
“Collaboration means I’m working with mission-focused team members who create new ideas and improve processes. I’ve really enjoyed teams where we have carved out time to bounce ideas off one another.
When it comes to play, we enjoy being in the moment and using our creativity and imagination, whether it’s using sticky notes and markers or wearing silly hats. I’ve found that our best ideas come from these moments of joy.
Agency is about having autonomy and permission to make decisions when appropriate and knowing when and where to do it. I’ve found that agency allows everyone to grow and develop with their leadership and innovation.
With impact, we are making positive change for people who need it most, whether it’s other team members, clients, or customers. We aren’t just assuming it’s happening; we’re tracking it and seeing it. This helps to reinforce that we’re on the same page.”
Now that may have seemed wordy, and you may not want to spend that length of time. You could mention that you’d like to expand on those values if time allows. This also shows consideration for the other person’s schedule – an added bonus!
Employers want to hear who you are and what drives you forward
Remember, employers don’t just want words or to hear their website copy parroted back at them. They want to hear who you are and what drives you forward.
And here’s the best thing, you will know very quickly if it’s a good fit or not.
Jessica Anvar, Esq.
Managing Partner, Lemon Law Experts
Do not misrepresent yourself or offer things that you cannot deliver
Individuals conducting interviews may regularly ask value-based questions to see if you would make a great fit for the company. Before applying to a company, do plenty of research.
Try to learn as much as you can about the employer to see if they are looking for someone who shares the same ideals and values that you do. You can then emphasize these values if you are asked any relevant questions about them during the interview.
This is an important part of preparing for job interviews that many job seekers tend to overlook.
Be sure to be honest when you highlight your best personal qualities in the interview
There are some qualities and values that employers are always searching for, such as motivation, positive attitude, dependability, and the ability to work well with others.
When you highlight your best personal qualities in the interview, be sure to be honest.
Offer examples of how you embody these values in the workplace. If you are asked about any of your personal weaknesses, do not be afraid to answer honestly and explain ways in which you are continuing to improve.
Do not misrepresent yourself or offer things that you cannot deliver.
Honesty is essential for both you and any potential employers you interview with. If you remember that, you will make a great impression.
Legal Specialist, Adamson Ahdoot LLP
Employers want to hear candidates talk about the greater good
One person’s own professional trajectory isn’t as interesting these days as someone who is doing something with other people in mind.
Even the richest and most famous businessmen and women do things for the greater good, whether it’s funding the research for vaccines or buying a social media platform in an effort to preserve free speech.
It may result in a mix of cheers and jeers from the public, but it’s clear that people are used to seeing other people thinking beyond their own selfish interests.
Our firm wants to hear candidates talking about how they’re active in the community and how representing the underprivileged is part of their own personal mission.
We want candidates to answer the “values” question with other people in mind.
“I want to help people who don’t have access to the resources they need to get the compensation they’re entitled to.”
Community Manager, My Perfect Resume
Let them know “you’re on the same team”
When you apply for a job, the role of your skill set and knowledge is hard to overstate. No doubts here. Yet, being a cultural fit also matters.
With more and more companies taking a human-centered approach, employers are looking for people with whom they are on the same team, let’s say. And that makes the answer to the “What are your values?” question even more important than you may expect.
Elaborate on the values rather than just enumerate
Research the company to find its mission statement and values. Decide which of them you most identify with and why while preparing a well-thought answer to this interview question.
You don’t have to limit them to their list. Still, be sure to pick something to elaborate on.
Avoid plain enumeration of the values. Instead, provide real-life examples illustrating the way each value functions in your (professional) life.
Want to mention building long-term relationships, honesty, growth, effective communication, and empathy as your core values? Good idea. Even better if supported by facts.
Below you can find some suggestions to inspire you:
“I value long-term relationships, which shows both in my private and professional life. I have had the same friends since high school and am still in touch with colleagues from my first job.”
“Honesty. I have proven to be the one who can always provide honest feedback, and thanks to it, people often get to ask me for my opinion. They just know that I will tell them the truth.”
“I genuinely believe that we should put ourselves in the other person’s shoes more often. Empathy is a key to understanding each other better and communicating effectively. It also makes a workplace brighter as we feel more secure and less stressed knowing we are seen and understood.”
End your answer with something powerful
“I identify with the values your company promotes, which makes the two of us not only a professional but also a cultural match. If you are seeking someone who treats work with passion, people with respect, and has the opportunity to grow with enthusiasm, I am the one you need.”
As a matter of fact, it reveals a few things which may work in your favor.
They know that you have gone the extra mile to look beyond a company’s homepage and get to know their culture better. What’s more, it’s catchy, memorable, and intriguing. Also, confidence shows.
I would love to give this candidate a chance. Would you?
Internationally Certified Career Coach, Intoo USA
Think about the values that would positively contribute to the position
The question about your values can mean different things depending on who is asking.
Some may ask to gauge how your values align with their own or with the organization’s. Others may ask to determine what is important to you.
No matter the reason for the question, your answer should be framed around how your values would help you excel at the position and within the company.
Values such as these are all values that any employer would be happy to have in an employee, and each can benefit a role in a distinct way.
- A commitment to excellence
While values that reflect your personal beliefs concerning religion or politics may be important to you, they are best left out of your response in an interview setting.
- Research the company’s mission and values
Often, the company’s values are stated on its website. Find out what’s essential to the organization before you apply to work with them so that you can discuss in your cover letter and your interview how our own values align with theirs.
This will not only show them a reason why you’ve chosen to apply to work for them but will also demonstrate your preparedness for the interview.
Alan A. Golik
Executive Legal Recruiter, Shelton & Steele, LLC
Sell yourself: It is the main goal in any interview
While the question “What are your values?” doesn’t explicitly state it, when an interviewer asks this, they are inferring to your work values.
If you begin to discuss how you love your family, enjoy working out a lot, and like to recycle, you’re actually missing out on a chance to sell yourself, which is your main goal in any interview.
The best strategy is to have a prepared answer that’s a catch-all for any variation of “Why should I hire you?” (which is what the question is really asking).
You have to answer their intended message in congruence with what would make you stand out from your competitors.
Be confident, yet reasonable.
Identify the personal qualities you have that you feel would be most desirable to an employer.
- You could discuss your robust work ethic,
- how you’re constantly self-improving and learning,
- planning out clearly defined goals,
- measuring your personal performance based on results,
- your leadership capacity when in a group effort.
The list goes on.
The point is this: Keep it within the context of the job you’re applying for and use the hidden opportunity to make the employer aware of your greatest skill sets. Do this effectively, and you will win the interview.
Former Lawyer | Entrepreneur | Author, “The Purpose Handbook: A beginner’s guide to figuring out what you’re here to do“
Research the company’s values first; focus on brand identity or employee testimonials
Alongside preparing for discussion around personal values, candidates should look up the employer’s corporate values to see which ones align.
Many companies will share their values on the company website—candidates should take a look before an interview and check if any of them fit with their personal values.
An interview answer can then focus on the alignment between the candidate’s values and the company’s values/mission.
If candidates can’t find a statement of the employer’s corporate values, research could focus on brand identity, recent public work, and/or employee testimonials. Speaking to current employees should also give candidates a good understanding of the company’s values.
Candidates can use this information as a starting point to talk about how the company’s values inspire them and how the company’s values and priorities are reflected in their own.
Head of People, Spacelift
The response should be followed with an example of how you practice these values in your work
If a recruiter asks a question based on your values, it is important to take this question seriously.
The question lets the interviewer know if your values are aligned with the company’s and if you’re a good match for the behavior and traits the company prioritizes.
Before the interview, it can be helpful to find out what are the company’s values to ensure your answer is relatable to a point. Some common values in such situations are integrity, collaboration, accountability, discipline, etc.
The response should be followed with an example or an explanation of how you practice these values in your work. For instance, if your answer is integrity, you must follow it up by stating that you act with honesty and professionalism, following the company’s policies with respect.
Moreover, verbs such as listened, helped, recognized, or considered describe the behaviors required to support the organization’s values.
Find out what your values are personally, and try to find the similarities with the company you’re interviewing for to be prepared and deliver a response worthy of a callback.
Director HR, HeatXperts
You should be able to answer the question in depth
When interviewing for a company, the most basic question every recruiter will be asking is, “What are your values?”
To leave a great impression on the interviewer, you should be able to answer the question in depth.
Research the company and its work culture in detail before the interview
I believe that the candidate should research the company and its work culture in detail before appearing for the interview. This would allow you to talk about values that resonate well with the company’s goals, values, and workplace environment.
Some of the most impactful answers talk about values such as:
- teamwork, and
Related: 30+ Real Life Examples of Teamwork
These values show that you are a dedicated team player who can be understanding of other people’s needs and situations. Moreover, you should also talk about your personal values, such as accountability and integrity.
Include a relevant professional experience where your values helped you grow and succeed
Lastly, I would suggest including one or two relevant professional experiences where your values helped you grow and succeed.
HR Expert | Career and Workplace Editor, Mantelligence
Take time to answer these questions; don’t just focus on your skills and work experiences
This question is meant to test an applicant’s ethical and moral values in the workplace. It also lets companies determine whether you embody the values they uphold and see through you as a potential employee and a person.
Here are useful tips for answering values-related questions effectively and convincingly:
- Go over the company’s values and mission vision, and include them in your responses.
- Take time to answer these questions; don’t just focus on your skills and work experiences.
- Companies also look for someone who fits into their work culture and will embody their workplace values.
- Give specific examples to your answers that apply the values they are looking for.
- Be humble, composed, honest, and straightforward when answering the questions.
Managing Director and CEO, WebSpero Solutions
The values that you practice show your overall personality and character
Your values act as a guiding force while you work, live, and balance the two. The values that you practice show your overall personality and character.
“I believe that taking everyone along when you work, understanding their problems and issues, and trying to find solutions to them are the values that I have myself.
Supporting and efficient collaboration with my teammates to achieve the organization’s objective are the things that inspire me to do better in my job and boost my confidence.
Recognizing others’ work and appreciating them is a value that I have developed with time because to build great teams, you need to be open about acknowledging others.”
“I take criticism positively and try to improve myself from it, rather than hold a grudge or ill-feeling toward the person who said negative things about me. I encourage other people when they feel low and depressed and try to make them joyful.
When given a task, I take full responsibility for completing it on time with utmost efficiency. Valuing my colleagues’ time is one of my priorities. If they need any guidance, work, or assistance, I provide it to them on time.”
Certified Life Transformation Coach | Writer, OnlineDivorce
Your answer will only be valuable if it aligns with the company’s values
It is quite a common question, which is why it would help to have an answer for it beforehand.
There is no fixed answer, and it should definitely not be one copied from the internet.
- Your values are determined by what you prioritize in life.
- Your values come from the decisions you make in the most difficult dilemmas.
All the reasons for your happiness and sadness stem from your values. You might need to sit down and list down what you consider to be your values.
It is essential to know the values of the company you are interviewing at. Your answer will only be valuable if your values align with the company’s and the job title.
For example, your value might be integrity or honesty. Such a quality is considered important for those who would be managing teams. You will need to narrate an incident in which this value helped you achieve something as well.
Greg P. Modd, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Principal Consultant, Penultimate People Consulting
Use the values you’ve experienced at work
First, it’s important to know your values going into the interview. Write down one of your personal values, then define it and create a list of behaviors that coincide with your value. Repeat that process with at least two or three of your personal values.
For example, “Integrity first” is an Air Force core value. We defined this as doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
Some behaviors associated with integrity are being honest and telling the truth, even when it’s a difficult conversation. Doing what you said you’d do and being dependable to teammates. Those are some behaviors associated with integrity that you can write down.
I served six years in the USAF, and it’s a value I’ve experienced firsthand. Going through the process of writing down your values, defining them, and creating a list of behaviors aligned with your value will have you prepared to field behavioral interview questions.
You’ll be able to answer “Tell me about a time you were put in a position that challenged your personal values” or any derivative of it with ease because you’re prepared.
If you want to impress interviewers with your values, use the values you’ve experienced at work, making it easier to connect your values, experience, and interview questions.
CEO and Founder, Public Rec
You should answer honestly and strategically
The best interview answers come from an authentic place. When asked about your values in a job interview, you should answer honestly and strategically.
Sometimes, emphasizing the qualities you share with a company’s core values or mission is a mindful way to show hiring managers that you’re paying attention to their business.
You may realistically hold many values close in your personal life, but only the most relevant will influence your success in an interview.
Use experiences to highlight and showcase your commitment to the values you assert to have
When possible, use experiences to highlight and showcase your commitment to the values you assert to have.
If you volunteered for soup kitchens because you are deeply concerned about homelessness in your city, you should mention your time spent and why it matters so much to you in your interview.
For more abstract personal values like “honesty,” for instance, try to curate personal experiences for your interviewer that focus on why you value those qualities so much in a work environment.
Spin it to reflect your professional identity
Being asked about your values leaves ample room for subjectivity, so make the most out of that opportunity by spinning it to reflect your professional identity.
Employers want to:
- Understand who you are,
- How you fit into their business, and
- If they can hold you accountable to your word after they hire you.
Stay honest and feed them the aspects of you that match best to their business needs.
Phrase it in a way that’s not just verbatim copied from their website
- Just be honest if your values align with theirs
Talk about things that matter to you. And some companies genuinely want this, but most are looking to see if your values align with theirs.
- Don’t lie in an interview
You should never lie in an interview. But do your homework. Most companies post their values or put them into a mission statement on their website.
- See if you align with any of their values
Read through those values and see which, if any, you align with. If you align with none of them, maybe it’s not the right company for you. If you align with just one, focus on that.
If you align with all of them, state those, but phrase it in a way that’s not just verbatim copied from their website.
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