Perhaps the one interview question that reveals a candidate’s true nature more than any other is the frequent question: “Do you consider yourself a risk-taker?” There is an adage: No risk; no reward. That is true in many situations. However, risky behavior is perilous and uncertain by definition. So, what is the “right” answer to this job interview question?
As you may have predicted, there is no standard answer for all candidates or all job opportunities. The ability to fearlessly step outside the box and take chances is valuable for entrepreneurs, sales executives, or product designers. However, a regulatory compliance specialist or pilot may be seen as irresponsible if they demonstrate a high-risk mentality. A cautious product designer may give the impression that she has a fear of failure and be too constrained to take the risk to disrupt the marketplace with an exciting new product. Those may be extreme examples. To learn to answer this interview question adroitly, you must first honestly evaluate yourself and your career goals.
The truth is that most of us are risk takers in some scenarios and other scenarios, risk adverse. When you answer the question, define the times when you feel risk-taking is a liability and other times when deliberate risks are necessary and appropriate. In other words, you are not type-casting yourself as a risk-taker or risk-avoider. Instead, you are showing your ability to quickly assess risks and make the best decision. It is also wise to show an example of a risk you have taken, as well as how you mitigated the risk to maximize chances for a positive outcome.
The bottom line is that the interviewer wants to know your attitude toward risk. Be authentic. Interviewers are generally able to spot a chameleon – a candidate who is trying too hard to say the right thing to get the job. Communicate your analytical, planning, and decision-making abilities. With this approach, you will formulate a natural and compelling answer to the once-dreaded “risk-taker question.”
Debra Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC is President of Careers Done Write, a premier career services provider focused on developing highly personalized career roadmaps for senior leaders and executives across all verticals and industries.