One of the most important questions for a job interview is what matters to you. We ask our candidates about their value set, value base, or values. Surprisingly, many find this difficult to answer. This is not because the candidates show up for the interview unprepared. On the contrary, they are extremely well prepared when it comes to professional qualifications, development potential, and strengths.
Material things have a measurable value that can be calculated in kroner and øre. But our attitudes and feelings also have a value that matters to us. It can be seen as a guideline or some criteria that guide us when we make a choice. Perhaps you have experienced an episode where something has happened or been said which is okay for the others in the company. On the contrary, you have experienced that you were outraged, upset, or angry. It affects you and thus also your values. When you know your values, and you know which values mean the most to you, you can better navigate away from the people and episodes that do not meet your value set, and which will therefore affect you negatively. The aim is to find out what is important to you and whether it matches the values expressed by your future employer. Can you achieve the goals, the vision, and thus the results set for the position?
The phrase “You must treat others as you would like to be treated” is a good guideline when you have to work with your values. Because how will you treat others? What can be expected from you? If you have children, you can also look at how you raise them. Is it most important to you that your children treat others with respect, decency, credibility, or something else entirely?
What sport are you attracted to? A tough individual sport that is all about pushing yourself to the limit. Is it the opposite of the sense of community in team sports, which is the most important thing?
What kind of people do you like to be around? Is it more important that they work hard, that they can be trusted, or that they treat everyone fairly?
Below we have described some of the values that may be important to you. You might think that most people look out for you. Few people would describe themselves as untrustworthy or disrespectful. But what is most important? Do you value decency the most, it does not exclude the other values, but is decency what matters most to you and which embraces your actions and the way you go about the world both privately and in the workplace?
The descriptions are not a list of facts, because they are personal values. Different people attach different meanings to the same word, so you should always be ready with examples of what the value means to you.
Examples of values and what they can mean:
This can mean that you treat others respectfully and properly, regardless of who they are and what job they have. It can also mean that you take the time to load paper into the printer so that it is ready for your colleague, or that you show attention to those who need a hand.
It can mean that you believe that your behavior is correct, decent, and appropriate. Neatness can also refer to focus on detail, where you care about not making mistakes.
Few people would say they are dishonest, but if honesty is a value you have in life, then it is a proven choice that every encounter with another human being is honest. You may have tried to have a conversation with a colleague where you could feel that you are not being told the whole truth. This has probably made you doubt the other party, your relationship, and perhaps yourself and your role. It is an important point to remember that honesty does not mean telling everything. It simply means that one does not tell untruths. Things will arise that cannot or should not be shared with colleagues at a given time, which is understandable.
A person’s values are also about being honest with oneself and one’s preferences and exclusions.
This may mean that you believe that “a word is a word”, and when an agreement is made, it can be expected that it will be respected.
It can mean that you care about showing respect for what other people have created. It is important to respect each person and their differences. It may be that you have sat in on a meeting or a negotiation where respect has been decisive for the outcome.
For you, having self-respect can mean that you recognize yourself and your worth. If you have self-respect as an important value, you stand at your limits in both words and actions.
This can mean that you always make sure that your tasks are done carefully because you are hardworking and reliable. It may be that you do the tasks that you are assigned to do out of duty because you want to do your job satisfactorily.
Justice can be about wanting you and others to be treated fairly. That is, the way you think or act is in accordance with your ethics and morals. You probably believe that everyone is treated fairly and that everyone also has the same rights.
In these times, there is increasing awareness that we all sustainably treat the environment. These values can be related to other values in your value set. It is therefore important to examine the attitudes and standards of the company you are interviewing with. Does it fit your values?
For some, it may be about living your life without the defined framework of others and having the freedom to travel. However, very few people have that opportunity in everyday life. Freedom can also mean that you have a feeling of living out your full potential, where you are not locked in by other people’s norms and rules. It can be about having the freedom to trust yourself and make your own decisions based on your convictions and your attitudes.
This may mean that it is important to you that you can trust your colleagues and the company. It can also mean that predictable frameworks at the workplace and work tasks are important to you.
It could be that you would like to be able to handle the tasks yourself, and if the procedure is not known, then it will be investigated. You may not give up, but continue until the task is solved. Or it could be coping in life as a whole.
When are you flexible? It is very different from person to person, and one person may think that it is flexible to take an extra hour of work planned the day before. Another person may change both work tasks and working hours more often. Both employer and applicant need to align expectations of what flexibility means in relation to the specific job.
It may mean that you cherish the part of your life that does not relate to your work. On the one hand, it may mean that you don’t want your colleagues to know very much about that part of your life. It can also mean that you value time with your family highly. What does this mean in relation to a job? Do you want to be on a reduced time? Or does it mean you appreciate taking the kids to soccer at the weekend?
It is important to remember that these are examples and that there is no right or wrong. It’s not about answering a question correctly, but rather answering as honestly as possible. It is your future that is at stake.
Show it-don’t tell it is an expression you’ve probably heard many times, and it applies to a large extent to a job interview. There can be many angles on the same story, and you must tell it based on you and your values. Try to tell this story completely: “In my current job, I have helped implement a new IT system, which I am proud of because…”
That may be easy for some to answer. At the same time, others may find it difficult to say that they are proud of a result, which is completely normal. It’s a good exercise to do as it can give you and the hiring manager a greater understanding of who you are and what motivates you. If you have not yet thought through the example, wait to read on until you have done the exercise.
It is all about you! But to understand yourself, it can be good to think about what others might have said about the same story. The story might have sounded like this:
Once you have proven your values, you will probably see that the values have had an impact on the biggest and best results in your life. If your values are to be persistent and hardworking, the biggest and best results will be where these very values have played a role.
You can examine the company’s values when you are aware of your values. You can do this either at the job interview or when you take references from your boss, which we have written more about here (low link).
Even if you and the company do not have matching values, it does not have to mean that you cannot have a good collaboration. However, there may be cases where a match between employee and employer does not make sense. This may be the case in a company characterized by fierce competition and a lot of extra work, which demands a high degree of flexibility. In this situation, you can consider whether the company’s values and work culture harmonize with your high family values. YOU must notice what is important to you in your new job. You don’t just have to do some tasks, you also have to feel good while doing them. You must remember that only you know how the values affect your life. Therefore, you must have insight into your values. Then you can use them as a guide to living the life you want – both in your work and private life.
Be aware that the company’s set of values may be formulated on an overall level, so it cannot always be lived up to in daily life. It is therefore important to ask questions about the company’s values. In that context, it is important to have examples of these in the manager’s own words and examples.