How to settle the “What are your values?” part of an interview

A lot of us went through interviews where we were asked “so, what are your values?”. If you are doing your homework before the interview, the question does not come as a surprise. Even so, to have an answer with an impact you need two ingredients: sincerity and preparation.

Why sincerity when you can scribble a few words on a piece of paper in the lobby, minutes before the interview? The question is predictable anyway: please tell me what are your three/ five main values. If reciting a few words you don’t believe in – or you’re not sure you do – may land you the job, in the long run you are bound to step sideways and reveal the real you. Every HR person know this. So should you!

One technique interviewers are using is to ask your values and then ask once again to prioritize them. So in case you hastily pronounced the five words, there are more chances to fail when you have to think of the same words, but on a scale.

Why preparation? Because even if you are preparing for an interview, let’s say a couple of days before, thinking sincerely about your values is biased by the way you feel in those 20 something hours you have left. So what is the solution to settle this on a long term?

Start by giving yourself the mindset to come up with a solution. You want to achieve this because you understand the benefits.

Now, the secret! Give yourself one month to come up with as many values you believe in. No matter the wording, write them on a piece of paper that sits close to where you are spending relaxed time. If the paper is at home and an idea comes at work, email yourself the thought and then get back to it later. Do not let ideas be wasted! And, as a piece of advice, avoid saying “oh, I won’t write this down, it’s easy to remember”. In the majority of the cases you will forget about the idea and the fact it ever occurred.

Great! Short recap: you want to come up with a list of the things you value and you are making an extended list over the period of one month.

Why one month? Because it gives you enough time to go through several moods and feelings, so you get a variety of instances on the list. Your values might change when you are happy or depressed, relaxed or under stress etc.

Again, why one month? The message I am looking to convey here is that you should allow yourself enough time to experience different states of being. One month worked for me, while for others three might do. Don’t rush things, quality comes over quantity. But remember there is also the trap of getting bored by the process if you give yourself too much time.

At the end of the month, with the big list in front of you, take a deep breath and start grouping and evaluating what you have. What are the words that share the same meaning, which meaning do you prefer, which meaning is more powerful or can encompass other words on the list? Asking these questions before you group your values can help make the process faster.

Finally, settle a number of values you want to have in the end. If it’s five, stick with that number. Of course other things that did not make the top five are important. They are just slightly away from the ones you want to focus on.

In the end, look at them. Breathe them in and repeat them a few times. They define your personality and won’t be easy to forget. Finally, do this once every couple of years, we all change, the majority for the better.

Long story short: come up with the values that define you by giving yourself one month to list and evaluate all the things you value.

Tips: hand write the list and place it at eye level on a door or wall. Use colors and cards to evaluate and group the words at the end.


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