The question was a tough one that is fairly commonly asked in interviews, in one form or another. It goes something like this, although the exact wording may vary: “If two senior executives each wanted you to do something at the same time and you could only do one, how would you decide which to do?”
This is a simple question that is deceptively difficult to answer. How do you decide to do one without antagonizing the other executive? How can you make them both happy when you can only satisfy one’s request? How do you avoid an answer that becomes a “CLM” (Career Limiting Move)?
I was actually asked this question myself once when I was interviewing for a job and I’ll admit I bungled it pretty badly. It was one question I had not considered in advance and was thus unprepared. There simply is no easy answer for the dilemma raised by this question.
Or so I thought.
A couple of years later, I was on an interview panel interviewing an applicant for a middle-management position. Sure enough, this question was one of the list of questions we were given to ask.
The applicant was a amicable, seasoned manager who fielded the other questions very well, so I was anxious to see how he handled this one.
His answer was simple and elegant: “I’d do what’s best for our customers.”
That’s it – one of the best interview answers I’ve ever heard. A one sentence answer to an extremely difficult question, and it said it all. What executive could argue with doing what was best for the customer? What better reason could there be for doing anything in business?
This is an answer that, in one form or another, could be an excellent response to any number of questions. You almost can’t go wrong by coming across as an advocate for the customers of whatever organization you are interviewing.
Try to work in your customer service attitude to your answers and watch the interviewers start nodding their heads!