Respect and recognition. Everybody craves it, and most deserve it. Yet we get it much less frequently than we hope for. Living in the fast-paced, technology-dominated era of today, the relationships have lost their depth, and what remains is often just a superficial connection. Having said that, each of us can try to change this negative trend. The way you treat colleagues or customers at work, or even strangers on the streets. The manner in which you communicate with your partner and children. And last but not least, the way in which you respect yourself, with both good and bad things you’ve done in life… But how to deal with this question in a job interview? What they want to hear from you, and what you should focus on?
In an ideal case, you should narrate a situation that clearly demonstrates that you enjoy treating people with respect. It should feel like your second nature, something you do automatically without even thinking about it, simply because it is the right thing to do, and it makes the world a better place. The situation can be real but also fictive. In this case, since it doesn’t go about a solution of some technical problem, hiring managers have no way of telling whether the situation you narrate in the interviews really happened, or you just made it up. As long as it sounds authentic (more on it later on), they will trust you.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to come up with answers for a variety of situations, and I hope at least one of them will resonate with you, and with the message you hope to convey in the interviews. Two answers are rather unconventional, but may serve you well in certain interview scenarios… Anyway, enjoy the answers and do not forget to check also the notes below the list, for additional hints on how to make the right impression on your interviewers.
7 sample answers to “Give an example of a time, when you went out of your way to ensure someone else was treated with respect” interview question
- I recall a good example from my last job in retail. One of my colleagues had a bad day in the office. And just as it often happens on such days, you get a rather difficult customers to deal with. So there was one older woman who had rather simple questions about a fridge she considered buying. The questions were super basic, something one should know or just understand from looking at the product and reading the basic specifications. And my colleague didn’t have the mood to answer, and just told her that she should read the specifications to find all information she needed. I was around by chance, and immediately understood that the customer was touched. Maybe a younger person, someone tech-savvy, can find it on their own. But she could not, or would struggle to, and relied on personal assistance. So I went out of my way, and told my colleague that I would take care of the customer. Patiently I answered one question after another, some repeatedly, even though some of the questions were very basic. But I made sure the woman was treated with respect, the way she desired. Eventually she left the shop a happy customer, with her new fridge, and all questions answered.
- I will never forget my latest experience from the streets of Seville, where we went for a short holiday. You can see many people on the streets, lying with all their possessions next to them, having just lost the house. They were either unable to pay rent or mortgage. One way or another, 99% of people ignored them. Or they averted their faces. Not me though. I talked to several of them in person, asking what their situation was, how it happened that they ended on the street. I gave food to some, but didn’t give money to anyone. However, I think the most important thing for them was to see that someone still treats them with respect, as human beings, actually talking to them, showing interest in their problems. We live in a sad world full of ignorance. I try to change it everyday. As they right say, “be the positive change you want to see in the world”.
- I do that everyday as a teacher. Some children are very shy, and I have no doubt their classmates do not make it easy for them in the classroom, during the breaks. They often mock them, make fun, treat them badly. I realize that I cannot change the status quo at schools in this area. But I can actually treat them with respect, acting kindly towards them, giving them a chance to overcome their demons and fears they carry within. Trying to make them involved, to speak out, recognizing them for every small achievement, and so on. In my view, in the world we live in now, it is one of the most important parts of my teaching mission.
- I recall such an experience from my last corporate job. One of my colleagues in a FP&A department made a bad mistake, and the manager wanted to let them know in front of everyone. They shouted on them, denounced them, said they were incompetent, that they did not deserve to work in the company, and so on. Everyone else was just standing and listening, some people looking at the scene, some with their eyes downcast. But I considered the treatment they got from the manager unfair, and decided to intervene. In one moment I simply interrupted the manager, and spoke out. I told them that while my colleague made a big mistake, they didn’t make it on purpose. And they did a good service during the nine months they worked in a company. I said that they deserved to be treated with respect, and that the manager should share the negative feedback in a one on one meeting, and not in front of everyone. Needless to say, the manager was in a rage. They didn’t like my intervention, and I also heard some bad words. But I am still happy that I intervened, because I did the right thing, and I would do the same thing again in a similar situation.
- Well, actually in my last job I went out of my way for myself, for my own respect. Working in an Italian restaurant, everything went fine for the first few weeks. But then the chef, who was also the owner of the place, started to treat me with disrespect. He was touching me on the shift, making obscene gestures, and all the things you can imagine. He knew I needed the job, and he tried to take advantage. For some time I didn’t know what to do, and hope one of my colleagues will take a stand and help me. But nobody did, and so I had to fight for my rights, and respect. In one moment, when the chef was approaching me again, I simply shouted “STOP”, in a way that everyone in the kitchen would hear it. I told them loudly that if they touch me one more time I will call the police and report them, and that I will do the same if I see them trying something with any of my colleagues. They left, but next day they terminated my contract. Anyway, I kept my dignity, and fought for my respect. But now I need a new job and that’s why I am in this interview with you…
- Respect–what does it really mean? Looking around, how people dress, talk, the content they consume from the mainstream media, I often feel that they do not respect themselves anymore–their body, soul, their mind. How can they then expect that someone else will treat them with respect? Think about it for the moment. I believe that while it is our duty to went out of our way and help others, first and foremost people must treat themselves with respect and dignity. If they have lost these things, we cannot give them back, however hard we may try. As least that’s how I see it. For that reason, I try to empower people around me, and encourage them to love themselves, and recognize their own achievement. Because I believe this always goes before getting respect from someone else.
- The best experience I can recall is actually from my family. My kids went to school in a fancy neighborhood, and since we weren’t rich, and the kids didn’t have designer clothes and newest smartphones, both classmates and teachers looked down on them. They treated them as outcasts. I found it ridiculous and sad at the same time. Visited the school a few times, talked to the teachers, tried my best. But the kids still didn’t get the respect they deserved, even though they belonged to better students in the class. Eventually I decided to relocate them to another school, even though I had to drive them there fifteen minutes every morning. It wasn’t ideal considering my job and other things, but I went out my way to ensure my kids will be treated with respect they deserved.
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Details and numbers help with authenticity of your story
As I said at the beginning, with this type of questions it isn’t easy for the hiring managers to tell a real story from your imagination. They have to rely on intuition, and some mistakes people commonly make when telling fake stories. To make things more believable, make sure to add some details and numbers to your story. For example the exact date when it happened, or at least a month. You can also add name of the place or person you helped, say what the weather was on that day, and so on. The more details you add, the more authentic the story will sound to the interviewers.
Your attitude matter the most
As you can see on my list of sample answers, you can talk about all sorts of situations when you went out of your way to make sure someone else got the right treatment. Be it from work, family, school, or just a random situation you experienced on the street. Every example is good, as long as it demonstrates the attitude they are looking for. And the attitude is that you walk with your eyes open, and do not hesitate to take action when someone is treated without respect–even if it means some risk for you, such as losing your job or getting involved in an argument….
I hope you now know how to deal with this question, and make sure to check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- What are you thankful for in life?
- Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond for someone.
- What makes you unique?