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The Question Doctor...
The Cure for the Common Question

“What is your philosophy of ____________?”

(fill in the blank with a position appropriate word: education, nursing, customer service, supervision, etc.).

When this question is asked, the interviewer hopes the candidate’s answer will provide insight into his or her beliefs and values related to the position for which you are hiring. The interviewer is prepared to assume that these beliefs and values will guide the candidate’s actions if a job offer is accepted. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

This is such a common interview question that most books and seminars that prepare job seekers for interviews coach them on how to answer. In university and college training programs, professors tell students that having a well-defined philosophy is key to landing a job. Some make writing a philosophy statement a course assignment.

Candidates come prepared to answer this question. What is often is missing from most answers is evidence that the philosophy has influenced what the candidate did in previous jobs. Without evidence, the interviewer must base hiring decisions on assumptions about how these values and beliefs will transfer into the work place. A caution flag should go up at this point.

Assumptions are a dangerous basis from which to make hiring decisions.

If you are going to ask about the candidate’s philosophy, follow up with a supplementary question:

“Describe how these beliefs and values related to ______________ have influenced what you have done on the job.”

You want to hear evidence that the candidate has considered these beliefs and values before making a decision or taking action. If the candidate cannot describe a time when his or her philosophy has influenced what happened on the job, these are no more than fine sounding words.

As you listen to the answer, be sure that you are told when and how often the candidate made decisions or took action from a philosophical base, and that the circumstances are similar to those your current staff face.

During his Interview Right to Hire Right seminar, Nelson Scott works with participants to develop and ask questions that will yield the high quality information needed to make the right hiring decisions.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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