Whether we admit it or not, each of us is competitive. Some try to stand out from their peers, and some other try to put a dent to the Universe. Or at least they try to leave a strong mark in their country, or in a local community. Healthy competitiveness is the driving force of all progress in the world, and there’s no reason be be ashamed of your competitiveness.

But what do the hiring managers want to hear from you in an interview? What level of competitiveness are they looking for in an ideal job applicant? Or, do they even prefer cooperation to competition?

We will try to find it out on the following lines. Let’s start with 7 sample answers to this tricky interview question, and the popular alternative wording “Are you a competitive person?”  Once you read the answers, please continue with the notes below them, as they will help you to choose the right answer for your particular job interview.


7 sample answers to “How competitive are you?”, and “Are you a competitive person?” interview question

  1. I consider myself very competitive. It’s one of the reason why I chose sales as my job field. The competition is enormous, and one needs to constantly work on their sales skills and strategies to win over the favor of the customers. But I love this process, and want to beat the other sales guys with my results, and also with the level of customer service. Having said that, I do not hate my competitors, and I do not think badly about them. We help each other to get better, and I am grateful for each good salesman competing with me. I consider it more like a game, and of course I try to win the game.
  2. Speaking honestly, I prefer cooperation to competition. There’s no room for ego boasting in social work. No need to try to be better than someone. I do not strive for such a recognition, and if I do, the entire team should get credit for the good work. That’s the way I’ve been brought up and perhaps also the reason why I was attracted to a job in a public sector. Corporate environment full of hungry sharks who try to eat you alive is not really my cup of coffee.
  3. I’ve been superbly competitive as a child, always crying when I lost, in anything. As I grew older, however, I understood that loses also belong to life, and that we learn the most important lessons when failing. Now I try to maintain a healthy level of competitiveness. I know it is important, because if we do not care we stagnate. At the same time, however, I won’t use any unethical means to get an advantage over someone. And when someone is better than me, I am ready to admit it. Such people are my inspiration in everyday life.
  4. I am competitive, but not in a traditional meaning of the word. I do not try to better the others with my results. But I try to always better myself. If I achieve certain results this year, I will try to do better next year. And this doesn’t relate only to my work. It’s my attitude to life, sports, art, and anything else I devote myself to. At the end of the day each of has some limitations. You cannot fool the genetics, and the upbringing. I know I won’t be the next Michael Phelphs, or Roger Federer. But I can try to become the best version of myself, and I enjoy the process.
  5. I am very competitive, but I always play by the rules. Definitely I won’t take advantage of my colleagues, or play some mischievous games in the workplace, just to remain in the spotlight. That would make me feel miserable about myself. I want to be the best, and I may sometimes be sad when someone beats me with their results. In such occasion it is time to  bow down, congratulate them, return to the drawing board, and try to win next time.
  6. I’d say that the level of my competitiveness depends on the activity I do. For example when I do sports–which is something I enjoy greatly, and it helps me to stay in shape, I am definitely competitive, and try my best to win. In work, however, I learned that being overly competitive results in more harm than good. It’s important to cooperate in a team, to give opportunity to others to stand out, to feel great about the job they do. Even when you lead a team, you should not try to steal the spotlight for yourself. At least that’s my philosophy and I try to stick to it in work. I may fail sometimes and let my ego flourish, but I typically realize my mistake quickly, and apologize to the people in the team.
  7. As an athlete you have to be competitive. World does not remember the second best, or the winner of a bronze medal at the Olympics. You should always strive to be the very best, and unless you have this competitiveness within you, you’ll quit before achieving greatness. The strain of the training will be just too much for you to bear. Now, starting my coaching career, I want to remain extremely competitive. It will help me to motivate my athletes, to be a good role model for them.


You won’t succeed in some jobs unless you are competitive

You can’t be just a simple guy when you swim in the sea of sharks. They will eat you alive, and you will end up broken and disappointed.

And while it is great to have high ideals, we cannot revolutionize some job fields. Think about sales as a great example. Of course many people will do unethical stuff. Paying bribes, doing things behind the scenes, recruiting a secretary of a powerful executive to help them convince the executive to choose their offer, and so on. What’s more, numbers matter in sales, not attitude.

Coaching and sports is the same story. A sports club won’t get any sponsors for being the nicest bunch of guys in the league. Sponsors need to see victories.

If you apply for a job in a field that literally demands competitiveness, tell the interviewers that you are very competitive.

Cooperation often beats competition

The story is completely different in other job fields. Think healthcare, social work, or even any corporate position in a small team, in finance, HR, or marketing department.

When a few competitive people meet in such a team, it typically ends up in a disaster. Instead of helping each other and trying to achieve a mutual goal, people will try to stand out and beat their own team members with results. Such team won’t achieve anything, and the atmosphere in the workplace will be terrible.

If you apply for such a job, ensure the interviewers that you always prioritize cooperation to competition. You do not aim to be better than your colleagues at work. Not at all. You are focused on the the goal of the team (or of the entire company), and not on your personal ambitions.


You can always try to better yourself

There is one form of competitiveness which each employer will appreciate. As long as you try to better yourself, as long as you are your only “enemy”, and even this is meant in good means, you are a good candidate for virtually any job.

You won’t harm anyone with such competitiveness, you are aware of your limitations, but you won’t cease to work on your skills. Maybe some colleagues will achieve better results, or get a promotion. But you are fine with that, since you do not measure your success against their success.

This attitude to work and life won’t only help you in your job interview. If you follow it in your daily life, it will make each of your days better. And it will also help with the harmony in the world…

Ready to answer this one? Great, but it isn’t the only tricky question you will face in your interview. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will help you streamline your interview preparation, and eventually outclass your competitors and get the job. It can be the part of the puzzle you are missing on your way to a great employment contract. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you good luck in your interviews!


Alternatively you can check 7 sample answers to the following two questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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