Employees who simply accept the status quo in an organization aren’t going to take it to the next level. It takes courage to challenge the way they do things in a company, to step up in a meeting, to implement innovative ideas, to take risks. And while having courage isn’t necessarily a plus for every employee, or even for most of them, because most people should respect the rules and work according to the processes someone else set up. But without innovation there is no progress, and when we talk about jobs like Industrial Designer, Mechanical Engineer, Process Engineer, Project Manager, and similar, courage is not only a plus. It is a must. That’s why they may inquire about it in you interview.

And then we have other types of jobs when courage is necessary. Working in heights, or in the police department, on an oil rig in the middle of the see (deadly accidents are common in such a working  environment), and similar instances. One way or another, you can get a question about courage in many job interviews, and also in some school admission interviews.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to include answers fitting for various professions and interview scenarios. Hopefully you will find on the list at least one which resonates with you, and with your personal feelings about courage, and the place it has in your life. Do not forget to check also my notes below the list of answers for additional hints.


7 sample answers to “What does courage mean to you?” interview question

  1. To me, more than anything else courage means an ability to step outside of my comfort zone. To try things I’ve never tried before, do things I am afraid of. I believe it is an important quality for each designer, and for each person in fact, because the real growth happens outside of our comfort zone. I want to admit though that I do not always find it easy to step out of it, and I still have to work on my courage.
  2. Courage simply means an ability to overcome our fears. Man is a creature of habits, and we are naturally afraid of the unknown–maybe it is even our instinct to be afraid of it–and not a bad one indeed. In some cases it can save our life. But the one who always follows the same patterns and never tries anything new can barely grow, as a human being, or as a manager. That’s why I always try to confront my ow fears, and venture into the unknown. I believe it helped me to achieve excellent results in my past two jobs, and I definitely want to keep pushing my limits in my next job as well.
  3. Speaking honestly, courage is something I have missed up to this point of my life. I have always played things safe, never taking risk. But what did I get as a reward? A mediocre existence, saying it as it is. Having said that, I believe man is never too old to change. And I want to finally try something new–it is one of the reasons why I am interviewing for the job in your company. And believe me it wasn’t easy for me to even submit my job application, because I always have these doubts that I am not good enough. But it is time to draw a thick line behind my past, start anew in your place, and bring more courage to my everyday life.
  4. Speaking from a position of a manager, courage really means an ability to challenge the status quo. It means being able to stand up in the meeting and propose new ideas, not being afraid of getting those looks from everyone else in the room. Courage is an ability to tell your superior that they are doing something wrong, or at least that they should consider another course of action. I can assure you that I have the courage, and won’t just blindly follow the processes you have in place here.
  5. Courage means to me getting out there each night, in an uniform, knowing that you may risk your life for someone else’s life. Because it is a real possibility, and you know better than anyone how many officers have died at this police department in the last five years, while in the service. But I believe that once we are well prepared, work as a team, and do not underestimate anything on duty, we can minimize the chances of something bad happening to us, or to one of our colleagues. Still, you need courage to work as a police officer in this city, and I can assure you I have it.
  6. In my personal case, it probably means going against all odds. You know, I’ve grown up in a poor family. Barely anyone in my family graduated from high school, and we’ve been struggling with money all the time. Would a child from such a family dare to dream of studying at one of the best universities in the county? Not likely. At least statistically speaking it is not something common. And yet I am here with you today, in this interview, trying to get a place in your study program. As you can imagine, I had to overcome many obstacles to get to this point. I had to sacrifice a lot, and my family members also had to make some sacrifices. Yet I am here, because I was brave and never doubted my abilities. That’s what courage means to me.
  7. Courage is something I lacked in the most important moments of my life. Just envision it. I had a chance to date the girl of my dreams. I knew she would accept my invitation, but I was so afraid of rejection, that I simply didn’t ask. Then I had a chance to jump on the train of mobile games development. It was back in 2008, when very few people were involved, and many game designers made millions, with very simple games and apps. Yet I decided not to risk my $9 per hour job, or a possibility that I’d have to sleep in my car for a while. And there were several more such moments. Moments when I did not make the right decision, only because I lacked courage. Do they haunt me in my dreams? Sure they do. I often think what could have been, or even perhaps should have been. At the end of the day, however, we cannot turn back the clock. We have to live in the present, and try not to repeat the mistakes we made in the past…


Connecting courage with your job (past, present, or future) is a great answer

As a rule of a thumb you should try to stay job-relevant in your interview answers. And this one is no exception, though it offers room for creativity and even for some philosophy, something not many other questions offer. Anyway, explaining how your courage helped you to improve this or that in your work, is always a great answer.

Be it some new process you designed, and dared to present in front of the board, knowing you’d face opposition, or a situation when you confronted your superior with ideas they initially disagreed with, managed to push them through, and they eventually yielded amazing results.

And if this is your first job application, you can explain how your courage will help you to be more than just a mediocre employee who does not bring anything new to the team.

Examples from personal life can do wonders in your interview

You should never forget that people sitting in the interviewing panel are men and women from flesh and bones, just like you or me. They may also struggle with courage, and they might miss the chance of their lifetime because of their lack of courage.

Talking about how your lack of courage marred your chances of an amazing relationship, or of becoming a millionaire, or of achieving greatness–in whatever sense–can definitely sent shivers down their spine. It can be THE answer they will remember, once they are done with interviewing all applicants. They will remember it, because it will resonate with things they experienced in their own personal lives. Needless to say, you want to be the candidate they remember once the interviews are over.


Great things happen outside of our comfort zone

Regardless of whether you face this question in an interview or not, I want to encourage you to try new things, to step out of your comfort zone, and to dare to dream. Do not care about what the others think of you, and of what you are capable of doing in your life.

Have courage, try things, take risks. In my opinion, it is much better failing, knowing that you gave something your best shot, than thinking for years what could have been if you had overcome your fears, and had courage in this or that moment of your life…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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