It is never easy to be in a minority, let alone in the extreme minority. Being the other, the only one with a different opinion, the one the rest of the team considers crazy. Yet true leaders have this ability, and can sustain the pressure, because following the crowd you’re never really going to achieve exceptional results, in any endeavor of life. Maybe that is the reason why hiring managers love to use this question in the interviews for managerial and executive positions. They are looking for people who are not afraid of “being the other one”. But what do they want to hear from you?
Regardless of the situation you narrate, they want to hear that you stood your ground, and did not remain quiet, or changed your view just because others were against you, or because nobody else in the office (or in your class, or in your group of friends) shared your views. Now it doesn’t mean that you are stubborn, or that you never change opinions. That’s not the kind of impression you want to make! After all, everyone can be wrong, and you are no exception to the rule. The key is to simply show that you are not afraid of being the other, of showing a different opinion than the one majority has.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this tricky interview question. I tried to come up with a mix of answers, for different situations, including answers for people with no previous working experience. Answers from work setting, school setting, and even from personal life setting. I hope at least one of them will resonate with you, and serve as an inspiration for your own, great interview answer. Enjoy!
7 sample answers to “Tell us about a time when you were the other” interview question
- I recall such a situation from my last job in marketing and sales department. We were designing a new campaign for a client, and everyone vouched for excessive campaign on social media, especially on Instagram and Tiktok. And though we had a lot of success with such campaigns for other clients, I did not agree, because I felt the campaign simply wasn’t a good match. Others looked at me with those eyes–you know, eyes that say “are you crazy”? But I stood my ground, and presented my arguments. I did not mind that others disagreed with me. Eventually we went for the campaign on social media, because the rest of the team vouched for it. And it was a failure, as I expected. Anyway, now I do not work for the company anymore, and look for a new opportunity with you. I can assure you that I do not mind being the other, and am ready to bring creative ideas to the table.
- To be honest, I always felt a bit like that. Because I was very mature for my age. At school I preferred going to the library to going to the bar, and I also always studied a lot, and didn’t enjoy the kind of things others enjoyed doing in their free time. Having said that, I did not really mind that they didn’t like me, or didn’t spend much time with me. Because I really like the following quote: “What others think of you is not your business”. I have my own way, live my own life, follow my own goals. And I am sure I can find an organization where I will fit, one that can benefit from my skills. Maybe I won’t be the most popular person in team-building events, or may even not participate in them, but I do not think it really matters much to be honest.
- I have never experienced such a situation in my professional life, from a simple reason: Until this point, I have always worked on my own. That means I was my own boss, and my own biggest critic when necessary. I want to assure you, however, that I do not mind disagreeing with someone, and do not support an idea just because everyone else supports it. I have my own opinion, and do not mind sharing it with others, even when I know that they likely won’t agree with me. On the other hand, I am not a conflict person either. Can appreciate ideas of others, and can support them, regardless of whether I like the person or not.
- I kind of feel that it is an ordeal of a manager to be the other. At least in the construction field, where I have worked up to this point, it was almost always the case. Doesn’t matter how hard you try to create a good bond with the laborers, they always feel the difference. They think you earn big money sitting in the office doing nothing, while they work they asses off, in heat or in rain. Well, I guess the key is to not take things personally. Staying focused on the goals, trying to treat people nicely, but at the end of the day you have to accept that some people won’t like you, or will consider you “the other”, just because of your position in the workplace.
- I must admit it has never happened to me yet. Because I was too submissive, be it at work or in my personal life. Always wanted the other people to like me, and hence I joined the majority, and agreed with almost anything, just to avoid conflicts or complicated discussions. However, I believe it is time to change this attitude, because I can see that it hasn’t brought me neither success nor happiness, nor real friends in life. From now on I prefer to decide and say things according to my values, and the job with you is an opportunity to start.
- I kind of was the other always, because of my physical appearance. Diminutive in size and always very thin, schoolmates made jokes of me. I have experienced my fair share of bullying, and never really fit the collective, because they never let me. What I will say now may surprise you, but kids, and especially teenagers, can be very cruel. Having said all of that, I want to assure that it hasn’t embittered me. I have my goals in life, and the way I try to follow. It doesn’t matter to me that many people see me as “the other”. And I also believe that now, when I finally start working somewhere, things will be different. At the end of the day, adults should be more mature, and I hope colleagues will focus more on my personality and attitude at work, instead of on my physical appearance.
- It happened to my quite often in my last executive role. Because the company was not doing well, and I was the one who had to make difficult decisions. Decisions like sending someone home, after they devoted six years of life to the company. Or a decision to cut bonuses to zero, or to replace a part of workforce with distant workers from a third world country. Believe me these aren’t easy decisions to make and stand by, because 90% of people in the company will be against you. But I never minded being the other, and kind of feel it is my destiny in the executive role. Most people in the company won’t like me, and won’t agree with me. But I report to the shareholders, and as long as we meet the goals, I am happy about my decisions and actions.
So that’s it! I hope the answers gave you some inspiration, and perhaps even some food for thought :). If you’re still not sure how to deal with this tricky interview question, I recommend you to check out sample answers to other, similar questions:
- Describe a time when you had to work with someone very different from you.
- Describe a situation when you were not in the majority.
- What makes you unique?