We live in the world of pretense. People build their image on social media, trying to look happier and more successful than they really are. It’s all about ego boasting. The game does not end online, however. Modern workplaces also lack honesty. People think too much what they can, and should say, and who is listening or monitoring their email conversation. And you can be sure that in 21st century there’s always someone listening… But can it be any different? And why do the hiring managers ask what does honesty mean to you in a job interview? We will try to find the answers on the following lines.

First of all, there are more dimensions to honesty when it comes to work. The most obvious one is communication. Feedback flows freely in all directions in a successful organization. Employees aren’t afraid to give, or receive criticism–in a constructive way, of course, because that’s the only way how they can improve in their jobs. And you can definitely focus on this dimension of honesty. In a broader sense, however, doing a job honestly simply means really taking care of your duties, not looking for shortcuts or for ways of gaining advantage of your employer. That’s a good one to mention as well.

Last but not least, honesty towards customers is extremely important, especially in sales. This is a grey area though, and tricky to discuss in the interviews, because–and let’s face it–vast majority of marketing and sales success is based on deceptive advertising… Without complicating it any further, let’s proceed to 7 sample answers to this intriguing question. I tried to include on my list a nice variety of answers, and hopefully at least one will resonate with the message you want to convey in the interviews.


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

  1. It means to me being able to give and receive feedback at work. And I always try to give feedback, and encourage others to share their feedback on my work, because I understand that things look differently from perspective. What I try to say here is that we may think that we do everything well at work, looking at things from our limited perspective, whereas in fact we can improve on many areas, and just need someone to point it out for us. In my opinion, it is very important to be honest to our colleagues, not only in this sense but in every other one. Fostering honest relationships with your colleagues is one of the keys of enjoying your time at work.
  2. I’ve been always an honest and hard worker. You know how it goes with manual work, when one belongs to a team. If you do not want to work hard, you can hide somewhere, and let others take care of the majority of work. But that’s not my style really. I enjoy my job, and always try to give my 100%, honestly taking care of all my duties. Sure, some people may call me an idiot because of that, but I do not mind. I know that I’ve earned every dollar in my life with honest work, and nobody can take it away from me.
  3. Honesty? That’s something I’ve been missing in my last job. People played stupid games in the workplace, creating small teams within teams, intriguing against each other. I could not tell anymore who was telling the truth, and the real intentions of my colleagues. And I can tell you that I hated it. I hated such games and the atmosphere they created in the workplace. Without a doubt some other people enjoyed it, because some people thrive in conflicts. That’s not my case, however. I am seeking honest and friendly relationships with my colleagues, and couldn’t find them in my last job. It is actually one of the reasons why I am here with you
  4. What does honesty mean to me? Speaking honestly, I am still trying to find the answer to this question. I am still pretty young, this is my first job application, and I do not have much experience in other field of life either. I can say, without a doubt, that honesty is important to me, and to the world, and that I hope that others will consider me an honest and authentic person. But what exactly it means in the context of the workplace or this job I am yet to understand. Perhaps I can learn it from more experienced colleagues.
  5. Honesty does not exist in sales. At least that’s the case in 95% of all campaigns, in my experience. You can never tell the people the entire truth. If you want to close a deal, you have to focus on the positives, the best features of the product, and how it will make their life better… Maybe there are less expensive alternatives on the market, and maybe this or that could be improved about the product. But you cannot say such things to the customer. At the end of the day, successful salesman can find the right balance between staying honest–to some extent at least, and at the same time saying the right things to motivate the customer to make the purchase. I believe to have this ability.
  6. To me, honesty simply means giving my 100% to every task, activity, interaction with another human being. Not trying to game the system, or to benefit from the hard work of others. Providing value, in whatever I do, and receiving a fair reward in return. Law of action and reaction cannot be broken. If you bring good things to the lives of other people, good things will come back to you. I’ve been following this principle for many years, and it has been working great so far. I plan to do the same in the job with you.
  7. What does honesty mean to me? Before anything else, it means to stick to my moral codex, to the rules of conduct I learned from my parents. Treating others with respect, trying to help people, staying authentic to myself. It also means not to care much about what others think about you, but rather about what is right to do and say in the given situation. I try to be an honest person, and an honest colleague, but I still see some room for improvement…


Not necessarily a reality, but something they try to achieve, and you should play along

Each bigger company has their “mission statement”, the values they try to promote in the workplace and outside of it. Honesty (and transparency) is on the list more often than not. But you do not need years of corporate experience to know that the values companies promote are often far from the reality. It doesn’t mean that they would not love to have such and such workplace. It just doesn’t work that way, for one reason or another. And it is similar story for your answer.

Perhaps you know that it doesn’t pay off being completely honest to your colleagues. Or even to the customers, especially when we talk about jobs in sales. While interviewing for the job, however, you should first and foremost try to show the right attitude. And that’s definitely being honest–at least to some extent, regardless of the job you try to get. So play along, praise honesty, elaborate on it, and get the job.

Lack of honesty can be the reason why you left your last job

In three out of five cases, you will face the following question in the interviews: “Why did you leave your last job?“, or “Why do you consider leaving your present job?” If you do not know what to say, or prefer not to share the real reason (seeking better remuneration for example), you can always talk about lack of honesty in the workplace.

Colleagues played their little games, some were perhaps even blocking your work (purposely not delivering reports on time, for example), and you did not feel good in the workplace. You just didn’t belong there, since for you relationships matter, and you want to build relationship of trust with your colleagues. It wasn’t possible in that job, and hence you left, and are now seeking employment in a better company. Giving them such an answer, you can kill two birds with one stone. You answer their question about honesty, and at the same time explain your reasons for leaving your last job, which will help you avoid that dreaded question…

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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