Life is a journey of risk. Unless we want to spend it in mediocrity, we have to leave our comfort zone, make decision, take risks. This is true for both our personal life and work. Having any managerial position in a corporate or public sphere, you will have to manage risk, beside managing people and resources. Hiring managers know that, and you may face at least one question about risk management in almost every job interview.

Obviously we know also job titles such as “Risk Manager“, or “Risk Analyst“. Interviewing for such jobs, you will face even more questions about managing and dealing with risk. In this article we will look at 7 such questions, and I will try to give you some advice on how to handle each one, to the satisfaction of your interviewers. Let’s start!

 

What does risk mean to you?

The first one seems simple, but sometimes the simpler the question sounds, the harder it is to actually answer it. Especially when job applicants have to think, when the question has a philosophical aspect to it…

The most important thing is to demonstrate that you aren’t afraid of risks. Say them that to you, risk is a factor ever-present in a work of a manager, and the goal isn’t to eliminate it, or completely avoid it–since it isn’t possible. Your goal is to manage it wisely, and minimize it whenever possible.

You can also say that you try to see risk as an opportunity. Following the same ways everyone else follows, you can hardly stand out and achieve something extraordinary. That’s why you actually try to see the risk positively, but obviously right management here is the key. Knowing the risks, analyzing them, making decisions. While you have generally positive attitude to risk, you are no gambler, and won’t bet the profits of the company (or success of your department) on a single uncertain card…

 

Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life.

The most important thing is to pick a situation when taking risk made sense–that means when it could pay off. Let me explain: Jumping on a train while it is already moving, or going to water when shark is swimming nearby, are certainly risky decisions that can send some adrenaline to your blood. But can you actually gain something in such situations, except of the adrenaline rush and vain recognition of your peers? You cannot…

Risks worth taking are risks that can change your life for the better. Going the way that’s not the easiest one (and you may fail following it), but the sweetest prize awaits at the end of it–be it in your personal or professional life. Making a decision that can cost you a lot of money, but can gain you ten times more if it proves correct, and if you see it through. These are the types of risks you should talk about in the interviews. Remember that your attitude matters the most, and not the situation you narrate. It is fine picking something from your personal life, and in some cases it even makes more sense, for example when you lack working experience.

 

Tell us about a time when you successfully managed some risk in your job.

Behavioral questions about risk management are quite common. They inquire about a situation from the past, and based on your attitude and way you handled it, they try to understand how you’d deal with similar situation in your new job. It is also a test of your real working experience, because everyone can write on their resume that they have experience with risk management, but only people who really have such an experience are able to come up with a fitting situation from the past.

You can talk about typical risks, such as managing some safety or workload hazards, but also about more specific situations, such as when you took a risky personal decision, related to one or more staff members, or some resources, trying to achieve optimal results. It depends on what you did before. Of course, if your only job was with McDonald’s, the biggest risk you’ve probably managed was not getting your hands burned while flipping burgers. In such a case, you can admit that you haven’t managed any big risks so far, but feel ready to do so in your new job.

Tell us about a time when you failed to manage some risks.

Talking about successes is easy–and it feels good, even if we make them up. “Fake it until you make it” as they say. But talking about failures is another kind of challenge, especially when it comes to risk management, and perhaps someone came to harm due to your failure, or some property was damaged. Of course, you can say that it has never happened to you–and that’s fine, but it isn’t necessarily the best possible answer.

We learn the most when we fail, when we get soaked, lose big, have to start from scratch. Every successful person knows this, though it isn’t easy for them talking about their failures. If you decide to do so, however, make sure to admit making a mistake. Do not blame others, accept responsibility. Explain the lessons you learned, and how it helped you get better in what you do, in managing the risks. Maybe you lost your job due to your mistake, but also that is a part of the process, of your journey towards eventual success.

 

In your opinion, what are the biggest risks we face in this company?

Another group of questions related to risk management are questions that test your knowledge of their field. If you apply for a job of a risk manager or similar position (one that is closely associated with risk, and at the same time has some power to make decisions), it is pivotal for them to see how well you understand the potential risks that their business faces, and the risks you will be responsible for addressing, or managing.

A good research is the key here. Each industry is different, and it also depends on the size of the company. I suggest you to mention at least two or three types of risks they face, and perhaps even suggest your way of managing them (at least in brief). We can talk about security risks, reputation risks, strategic risks, compliance risks, etc, but you can also dig deeper, and pick specific risks you feel their company is facing.

 

Imagine a following situation: [description of some risky situation]. How will you manage it?

It is one thing to fantasize about situations, and something completely different to come up with a viable solution, once they present you a specific situation from the workplace. It can be some safety hazard, it can be dealing with certain transition in the workplace, it can be lack of resources or raw materials for production (as many of us in Europe have experienced lately), it can be the pandemic, it can be anything. They outline the situation and your task is to say how you’d address it.

The key is to explain your reasoning, because different people can approach tricky situations in different ways, and there typically isn’t anything like a wrong answer here. As long as you do not remain silent, and explain your reasoning, and words you say make at least some sense, the hiring managers will be satisfied with your answer. That’s perhaps the most I can advise you at this point…

 

Have you ever gambled in your life?

A warm August night, Las Vegas, water fountains and prostitutes. Who hasn’t fantasized about such an evening at least once in their life? And while reality is often far from our fantasy, especially when we lose a lot of money during the night, or drink too much and don’t even remember things the next morning when finding an unattractive face in the same bed, it is still an experience we can learn something from. Perhaps that we do not want to repeat it ever again, or that it doesn’t make sense to gamble (and drink alcohol). There are better things to life than artificial Las Vegas with its lights and sounds and fakery.

And that’s exactly what you should say in the interviews. Yeah, you gambled. And who hasn’t? Bet everything on one card, lose a bank, and understood the risk wasn’t worth taking. It was an important lesson in risk management, teaching you that certain risks you should simply avoid at all costs. But it also shows something else about you–courage. You aren’t someone who waits for the fortune to fall into their lap while watching TV on the sofa. On the contrary, you venture to meet your fortune, you pursuit your happiness, though you perhaps haven’t always followed the best ways to do so, or followed ways that could have never taken you there…

Ready to answer interview questions about risk management? I hope so! Do not forget to check also other tricky questions you may face while interviewing for a job:

Matthew Chulaw
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