It is easy to live a relatively comfortable life nowadays. You follow the well-trodden path, get some education, ideally a Master’s degree, and start working for some multinational giant. You get married, have kids, pay mortgage each month and taxes each year, so your kids can eventually follow the same path, and you can enjoy a happy retirement with your grandchildren. But is this really all life has to offer? And shouldn’t we strive for more? That’s a question each of us has to answer, and not an easy one indeed…

One thing is certain though: to escape mediocrity, in any means, we have to take risks. And it applies to both entrepreneurial and corporate career. If you want to stand out, perhaps live a better life, or become one of the best in your field, you have to leave your comfort zone. And such a move always comes with a risk–risk of failing, risk of being ridiculed, or at best misunderstood by your peers who cannot comprehend your intentions, and prefer to sail on the waves of conformity.

Hiring managers are always in a hunt for exceptional people. Those who can think out of the box, bring new ideas onboard, and make a difference in the company. They cannot employ only such people, since it would not work. Anarchy would rule the place. But they always seek this one in ten or one in hundred employee, a person who will set the direction, someone the crowds will follow, someone who will inspire the others. And that’s one of the reasons why they inquire about risk taking in the interviews–about BIG risks.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this intriguing question. I tried to include on my list answers for a variety of situations and personalities, so hopefully at least one of them may resonate with you, and with the message you try to convey in the interviews–which can be also aversion to taking risks. Do not forget to read also my notes at the end of the post for additional hints on how to impress the hiring managers with your answer.

7 sample answers to “Tell me about the biggest risk you have taken” interview question

  1. I took a big risk in my last job of a marketing manager. Decided to come up with an innovative advertising campaign, something customers weren’t used to. But we had no historical data to backup the plans, and to project the success of the campaign. It took me a long time to convince the manager to give me a green light. But I eventually succeeded, and we went on with the campaign. We definitely stirred the waters of marketing industry, and people took notice–both the public and the professionals from the advertising business. At the end of the day though, the ads did not convert as we hoped they’d, and the campaign turned out with a negative ROI. And I lost my job, which is one of the reasons why I am here today. Would I take the same risk again? I probably would, because I do not aim for mediocrity, and in my view the potential benefit outweighed the risk. My employer seemingly had a different opinion.
  2. I am taking the biggest risk right now, changing my career. Look, I’ve earned great in IT. Close to one hundred thousands dollars annually. I’ve earned my reputation in the field, and got some new offers each year. But life isn’t only about making money. I experienced a burnout, and could not stand staring at the computer screen any longer. So I decided to throw fifteen years of professional experience out of the window, and look for a job in some NGO instead. Because I want to work with people, and I want to see meaningful purpose in my work. Certainly it is a big risk. Maybe I even won’t get the job, or won’t manage my expenses with the salary I will earn. But it is a risk I had to take, unless I wanted to feel miserable for the rest of my life.
  3. I haven’t taken any big risks in my life. And I want to tell you I am no risk taker. Carefully considering every decision, I always try to do the best thing for myself, my family, my employer. The jobs I’ve had up to this point did not really force me into situations that would entail some big risks. And I am grateful for it, because as I’ve already said, I am rather risk averse. And I’ve read your job ad carefully, and believe it is a great match for my skills and personality, and a great step in my professional career. Do not see any big risks here either to be honest.

 

  1. I’m just 21 years old. Didn’t really have time for some big risks in life, pursuing my education, trying to prepare for professional career. Sure, risk is a part of life, but I also believe that we should not take things too seriously. I pursued some relationship in the past that perhaps wasn’t an easy one for me, and I faced a disapproval from my family. But I really loved the person, and decided to go against the will of my parents. They were eventually right, the relationship didn’t work out, and my partner eventually ended up in prison… But I am still glad that I went after it, because I have my conscience clear, and the questions “what if?” does not haunt me in my dreams. I gave it a shot, took risks, it didn’t work. That’s it. Let’s see what risks await me in my corporate career.
  2. Starting my own business was the biggest risk I’ve taken. Of course, I made the decision before the pandemics. Had a clear business plan, made my calculations, everything looked great on paper. So I took a loan and went all in. And things looked promising at the start, though I was working for 80 hours each week… But you know what happened then. Pandemics arrived, it was a terrible blow to hospitality industry, I lost my income overnight, but the bills kept piling up, there was the loan and everything. So I eventually had to close the operation, sell what I could sell, bend my head, and accept that I would join the ranks of employees again. But you know what? Some people may ridicule me and laugh at me, saying I wasted money and years of my life. But those are the people who never tried anything, and in fact they envy me, and would give anything to have my courage…
  3. Maybe the biggest risk I am taking right now. I’ve got an offer from XYZ company just few days ago, but I decided to reject it, because you are my first choice. Sure enough, I have confidence in my abilities, and I knew I had a decent chance to succeed. And I believe my risk will eventually pay off, because I like your offer and your working environment more than I like what they offered me in the last place. Before anything can happen, however, I have to succeed in this interview. Anyway, in my opinion we should not accept the first offer, in any sphere of life. If we want to thrive and live the life we want to live, it is sometimes necessary to take risks and refuse offers we are given.
  4. I cannot remember a single one. Without a doubt we take some risks every day at work, simply because we do not have things fully under our control. Many factors come into play, and we can impact just some of them. But I always try to consider all variables, carefully gathering information, making informed decisions. Each decision entails a bit of risk–because of the variables which we cannot control. But I try to avoid taking big risks, and I believe I’ve succeeded to do it up to this point in my career, and hope to keep the same trend in your company.

 

Jobs for risk takers and jobs for risk-averse people

As a rule of a thumb, when they inquire about taking risks in an interview, it means the job will entail some risks. But it does not necessarily mean that they are looking for someone who loves to gamble, someone who isn’t afraid to bet everything on one card. Think about the job you will have with them. What kind of decisions you will make on a daily basis? What risks will they entail?

Think about it for a while, and try to find out what kind of employee they are looking for, and what attitude to risk you should show in your interview. If you aren’t sure, however, you can opt for a “safe” answer. Mentioning some risk you took in the past you show them that you can take risks, if necessary. But you elaborate on it, saying that you always try to make informed decisions, and avoid unnecessary risks for the business or for the employees…

Ready to answer this question? I hope so! Do not forget to check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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