Regardless of whether you will work in a retail store, a fast food restaurant, or some Fortune 500 corporation, you will work with people. And people make mistakes, do stupid things, and sometimes act inappropriately, regardless of their education, job title, or salary.

Hiring managers hope to hire vigilant employees who will keep their eyes open, noticing when a colleague or a customer does something wrong. Think about taking an item without paying for it, damaging the property of the company, or (speaking about your colleagues) playing with their smart phone for an hour while other employees work hard to satisfy the customers. They wonder if you would do something, and what you would do.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this relatively easy interview question. I tried to include a variety of answers in my selection, for both people with and without previous working experience, different types of working environment (retail store, restaurant, school, big corporation), and also one unconventional answer, just to make sure at least one of them will fit your situation in the interviews. Below the answers you will find some hints on what to focus on, and what mistakes to avoid, when answering this particular interview question. Enjoy!

 

7 sample answers to “What would you do if you witnessed someone doing something wrong?”

  1. I definitely wouldn’t turn a blind eye on it. On the contrary, I understand that action of one employee impacts everyone else in the workplace. We work as a team, and if one person neglects their duties, or does something unethical, it will impact everyone in the team–directly or indirectly. That’s why I will talk to the person in question, asking them for an explanation, and if they cannot provide it I will raise the issue with the manager.
  2. I’d do the same I did in my last job in a restaurant. When I witnessed one customer bothering other customers, or someone damaging the property, I either addressed them personally and told them to stop immediately or leave the place, or I called the police. Sure, it did not happen often, but I also believe you should not hesitate, because a small problem can easily escalate into something bigger. Before you know it, ten people are fighting in the bar, and then it is already too late in my opinion. Hence I always try to stay vigilant, and intervene as soon as I notice something wrong.
  3. Well, it depend on the situation, and what exactly they were doing. If I witnessed a customer taking something without paying, for example, I would notify the security guard immediately. But if I just saw a colleague texting on their phone instead of working, I would not contact the manager–at least not the first time. I would talk to the colleague, explain what’s wrong, and ask them to return to work. If it didn’t help, however, and the situation repeated several times, I would tell the manger about it.
  4. I am a firm believer that bullying shouldn’t be tolerated at school. The same is true with other undesired behavior of students. If I witnessed someone doing something wrong, I would not just let it go, thinking that it wasn’t my business as a teacher to get involved. On the contrary, I would either intervene personally, or, if I felt someone else was more qualified to intervene, I’d call the on the scene immediately. One of my goals is to help foster safe environment at school. That’s why I would never turn a blind eye to bullying or other incidents happening in the hall or in the classroom.
  5. In my opinion, everyone should mind their own business. Why getting involved in a fight of two people, for example, risking an injury? Of course, it depends on the situation. If I saw a coworker harassing a female colleague, I would go and intervene. But if I feel that someone isn’t working hard enough, browsing social networks while they should work on a report or analysis, I am not sure if it is my job to do anything about it. Because, in my opinion, I should focus primarily on my work. It is not my duty to observe what others are doing, or to judge whether they should work more efficiently. Manager or supervisor is responsible for it. On my end, I will be busy enough with my tasks, goals, and deadlines. That’s what I should pay attention to, and not to what my colleagues are doing.
  6. I prefer individual approach to each situation. What I try to convey here is that I would not go and report a colleague as soon as I witness them doing something wrong, or not working hard enough. I would firstly try to assess the situation. Is it the first time I see them doing something wrong? What’s their overall reputation? How serious is the breach of rules? I will answer all these questions before deciding how to proceed. In some cases, a short one on one meeting may be sufficient. You ask them what they are doing, explain why it is wrong, and ensure they won’t repeat it again. In other cases, however, when we talk about something serious or major, or the employee is breaching the rules repeatedly, I will definitely report them to a responsible person.
  7. As soon as I witnessed it, I would call the security guard to the scene. In my opinion, in a business of this kind, there’s no place for heroism. People may carry guns, they may be dangerous. And I am not a cop or someone else with at least some authority in the eyes of such law offenders. Hence I would simply call the guard immediately, or the police, and that’s where my role ends…

 

Your attitude matters more than anything else for the hiring managers

Show them that you care. Care about the well-being of your colleagues and customers, and about the results of the business. Most people are selfish nowadays, and would turn a blind eye to almost anything happening around. But you do not belong to the majority.

On the contrary, you understand that everything relates to everything, and when one person is doing something wrong towards another person, or towards their employer, it will impact you as well–directly or indirectly. When the business loses money as a result, for example, because someone stole something, they may let some employees go, or cut the bonuses, or introduce stricter rules in the workplace. Hence you will take an action–an appropriate one of course, considering your position in the company, and the situation in question…

Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Think out loud, explain your reasoning

As it is the case with most other interview questions, there isn’t just one good answer. Of course, they look for a certain attitude when asking you the question. As long as you explain your reasoning, however, you are good to go. Take a look at the answer no. 5 on my list for example.

The applicant claims that everyone should mind their own business. It may sound selfish at first, but once they elaborate on their answer, explaining that it is a duty of supervisors and managers to keep an eye on other employees, and that they need to focus on their own duties, deadlines, and goals, the answer does not sound too bad anymore. Do not be afraid to think out loud in your interview. If you manage to explain your reasoning, they will have only two options: either agree with you, or start an interesting discussion about the issue. Both of these outcomes are good for your chances of getting the job…

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

Matthew Chulaw
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