Tell us about a time that you went against company policy and how it turned out.
As part of a survey of job seekers, I asked them to give me actual questions they’ve been asked in job interviews, and this question about going against company policy was one of the responses. This is not a typical interview question. To me, it’s almost like asking, “Tell me about the last time you broke the law.” Because to me, company policy is the law that you agree to abide by when you agree to work for them. Unless they’re doing something that breaks laws of the city, state, or country, or they’re doing something unethical, you are bound to follow their policy.
Even though I have disagreed with my boss in the past, I have never gone against any company policy or corporate directive. Usually, opposing corporate directives means you don’t care much about your job because if you don’t follow them, you’ll probably be fired.
This is a negative question, sometimes asked to see how you’ll react to a negative question. It will certainly be a curve ball thrown at you in the conversation. The general rule for negative questions is: Don’t volunteer any more information than necessary. Answer the question concisely and with a positive outcome.
Do not be fooled into thinking a question like this is a positive. They’re not asking you to describe your independent, maverick spirit. Chances are, their company is not one that would appreciate that; almost no company would. It would be a unique situation where that kind of opposition would cast you in a positive light. Perhaps some kind of whistleblowing situation. So, unless you can tell about how you saved the company from ruin by going against your evil boss who was bent on destroying the whole thing, you should pass on answering this question.
A good tactic with an especially negative question like this one is to turn it back to them. Say something like, “I’ve never gone against company policy. Is that an action that’s valued here?”
You’ll get a picture of corporate culture that will make you think either that it’s a great fit or something to be avoided.
One other consideration is that the interviewer is using this question just to judge your reaction, another test of how you handle yourself in a stressful situation. By answering honestly, that you have never gone against company policy, you are showing that you are able to handle “surprises.”
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