I had an interview where I was asked the question

Our company has 3 core values including teamwork, integrity and diversity. How do you show these values? Can you give some examples?

A while ago I heard that when a company is created, often times the founder has a vision, but the vision fails to get translated into tangible documents and this is why many companies spout these vague notions of "core values". Like valuing team work can mean just about anything.

How should such questions be answered in an interview? To be clear, I think all of these are fine values to have, but without context they are not really meaningful.

Part of me sees such a question as a red flag. Personally I'd rather not work in an environment with lots of "diversity" politics for example. In a previous workplace we often got emails and speeches about how "as a company we are sad to see the lack of pride flags in this city and want to remind everyone we value...". Without coming across as prejudice how can I inquire into the amount of this type of thing when interviewing with a potential workplace? I tried to frame the question as "how political is this workplace?" but it didn't really work.

I got this interview from a third party recruiter. I asked her about this question and what a good response might have been. She said it's a personal question and couldn't give me advice.

  • How big of a company we talking here? And what country?
    – Aida Paul
    Oct 29 at 19:37
  • There's no way to come across with that kind of question without seeming prejudiced because the fact you have a problem with it is proof of prejudice. Nov 8 at 7:48
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    Why is the question a problem? The question is literally designed to determine how you match with what their values are. It sounds like you're trying to answer the question in a way that helps you land a job with a company for whom you probably don't want to work. Nov 17 at 15:59

8 Answers 8


One strategy to answer a question that can be politically charged is to focus on the parts of the question that are not politically charged or minimally charged when answering thus side stepping the hazard.

For example in the case of diversity, it comes in many forms and is a rather large catch all category, as such it is possible to focus your answer on parts of diversity that you do not find politically charged. So if for example you think that a good work place should have a wide range of ages of people working there, or that when hiring the age of the person should not matter, then when answering the question cite an example about age based diversity.

If this is not possible to avoid the politically charged nature of a question then answer the question by providing clear thought out examples that reflect your beliefs without compromising on your beliefs and without putting down anyone else's views/beliefs in the process.

Interviews Are a Two-Way Street

The first thing to remember is that interviewing is a two-way street. So after you give your answer ask them the same question. Find out their view on the topic and see if their views on what teamwork, integrity and diversity align with yours.

  • How is diversity the employee's concern? Unless the person comes from an under-represented group what can the average 9-5er do about it?
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 13 at 7:05
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    @NeilMeyer advocate for other people. "Hey, I see we're having a team building excercise at a strip club, have you considered this might make some teammembers a bit uncomfortable?" is a simple and dumb example of being willing to put yourself in the shoes of others and consider their viewpoint, check in with them, and be willing to speak up for them if required. Anyone can do it.
    – Erik
    Nov 16 at 18:07

Our company has 3 core values including teamwork, integrity and diversity. How do you show these values? Can you give some examples?

Treat this just like any other behavioural interview question - "Tell me about a time you worked in a team...", "Tell me about a time where you acted with integrity when it would have been easier not to...", "Tell me about a time you worked with a diverse group..." are all fairly standard questions of this type - and go on to give an example. One recommended method to structure answers to these questions is to use the STAR acronym - give a description of the Situation and the Task you had to perform (be brief - enough to give context, but don't waste time on unnecessary detail) then describe the Actions you took - the main body of your answer - and the Results you achieved. If you can include a sentence at the end about during you learned from the experience, so much the better.

Generally, a good answer is one where your Actions align with the company's expectations - which, in this case, they have given you in the question - and ideally the Result is a positive outcome (if not, you definitely need to talk about what you learned).

Your recruiter would know that this is what the company is looking for, but if you fundamentally disagree with the values the company wants their employees to follow, a "good" answer in the interview would be a dishonest one for you, which they might not be willing to advocate, hence their dodging giving an answer by saying it's a "personal" question. You get to choose whether you go along with the stated values and present yourself as a team player who values their colleagues diverse experiences and viewpoints or make a stand for your own worldview and spout on about cultural Marxism. If you do the former, be prepared to behave that way, and to be judged on those values, if you are hired; if you opt for the latter, don't expect an offer from a company that you would both consider a poor cultural fit.

  • 2
    How do you apply the STAR method to things like diversity? What would the situation be? You wouldn't start with "there was a black person at work..." for example. Oct 29 at 21:43
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    Obviously this is going to depend on your individual circumstances... but perhaps you once worked for Facebook or Google on the algorithm for categorising photos. You realised that the algorithm was offensively mis-labelling people of colour. You looked into the issue and found that the training data was not drawn from a representative sample of the global population, and that...
    – Saes
    Oct 30 at 10:20
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    ... the test data was similarly un-representative. What did you do about this? What did you learn? Would this have happened if the team working on this had been fully representative of the global population? Personally, I find it hard to believe this went live without team members putting their own holiday snaps through the process just to see what happened
    – Saes
    Oct 30 at 10:24
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    Diversity can revolve around lots of situations, but if you're in a job that builds something, whether in realspace or software, a lot of examples are going to revolve around "have you considered people like X?". Simple examples from my own work making fairly boring website stuff include "Can colorblind people figure out this page despite the background?", "Should we add a 'no honorofic' for people who don't like either sir or madam?" and "having a minimum length on a last name field is nice to block spam but some last names are really just 2 characters long".
    – Erik
    Nov 16 at 17:57
  • Good points @Erik - it's far too easy to fall into the trap of thinking about diversity just in terms of skin colour or similar but it's far wider than that. "I treat everyone equally" doesn't really work when that means everyone gets the red/green colour coded form.
    – Saes
    Nov 16 at 20:41

How should such questions be answered in an interview?

You just tell them you're a professional that works well in a team and you have no biases against anyone. These are not key questions they're just ticking some HR boxes. If pressed you bring up past teams as generalised examples and say you mostly just focus on your tasks.

If they want to discuss it in detail then unless you're into that sort of thing this probably isn't a company you will enjoy working for. Or it might just be an interviewer who took some training on these subjects. It would be a judgement call to work out which. You can usually tell.

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    @JackGifford maybe in some places. My locale they'd mostly just be HR boxes to tick
    – Kilisi
    Oct 31 at 14:03
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    I agree, that's exactly what I was trying to say - You will be asked those questions because they're a checkbox, but it will never come up again during your work at the company. Companies want to appear attractive to employee candidates and be able to put it on their website, but actual company culture will just be whatever. So if you only judge by what you see during the interview on this, then it might be really hard to find a company. Then you're back to square one with OP's questions about how do you tell if the company culture actually practices what they preach. Oct 31 at 14:09
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    @Questor it's called common sense and observation
    – Kilisi
    Nov 2 at 22:37
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    @Kilisi Which works wonders when you are autistic, and you have same ability to read the room as a log. As I said before this answer doesn't tell you how to do x. It just says that you should do x.
    – Questor
    Nov 3 at 16:20
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    @Questor then work it out just like everyone else. We don't do autistic in my locale, just recognise all people need to work harder at some things than others and less hard at other things.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 7 at 0:09

Diversity as a core value is about embracing that people are different, and that this is a good thing, and we should let people be different while still letting them be a part of the whole.

If you want to talk about how you embrace that core value, talk about how you consider the viewpoint of people different from you, in order to improve the quality of a product or service you are hired to provide, rather than simply assuming you entire target audience is "people who think and act like me".

For example, thinking and asking about things like:

  • Can colorblind people use this website properly?
  • Is the language used in our newsletter easy to understand for a wide audience?
  • Are we reaching our intended audience with this marketing campaign, or are they being turned away by the messaging in ways we did not consider?
  • Can people with reduced motor control use the device we make or is hard to control for non-functional reasons?
  • When we host an event, do we consider whether it's accessible for people with a wheelchair? Or people without a car?
  • When you sign up for our service, do you need to list a home address? Do we need our customers to have a listed home address, or could we easily service them without? How about without a phone number? Without an email address? Without a name?

But it's also about embracing all the ways in which your team is different and making sure that everyone has a good time despite it.

Simple examples of embracing diversity within a company can include:

  • adding a "none" option to a newsletter signup's "honorific" fields for people who don't like being addressed as "Sir" or "Madam"
  • moving a team bonding event to a restaurant that caters to the dietary restrictions of your team mates
  • updating the company new year event invitation to say "partner" instead of "wife" because you've got members with a husband (or girlfriend, or whatever)
  • stocking sodas along with the beers for the friday night drinks, for people who don't drink alcohol (for whatever reason)
  • keeping a side room empty and quiet during a party for people who need to take a break from the crowd
  • having a little celebration (or at least acknowledgement) for a non-traditional holiday that's really important to one of your colleagues

Most of these are pretty easy to do, but might mean a lot to help someone feel welcome to the company. Diversity doesn't have to be some kind of giant "we need to host a parade and write to politicians and have a huge event and make this our whole brand!" thing. It certainly doesn't need to be about pandering to the "minority of the month". Sometimes it is enough to just tell someone "Hey, I see you, and I want you to feel welcome here".

It should be manageable to come up with examples like these from your own work, and you don't have to get into politics. Diversity doesn't need to be about politics. (And if you worry the company is going to make it about politics, ask them afterwards what kinds of examples they have of embracing diversity, and then decide if that company is a place for you.)

  • 1
    Glad you expanded your comment to a really good answer.
    – Saes
    Nov 16 at 20:45

When answering interview questions revolving around broad, open ended core values, I tend to take the reins in a direction which I am passionate about.

If you're applying for a job at this company, there are most likely reasons you want to work there specifically above other competitors. If those reasons exist, explaining them within the answer to these open ended questions is a great way to show you are ready to join their team.

You can also use these open ended questions to pump yourself up in ways technical questions don't allow. You are being given a mic to talk about how you are a good fit for this company and this role. Bringing the question back to strengths you have and how they have applied to these broad core values is a great way to display further value you bring to the table.

At the end of the day, the company at some point chose these words to identify and resonate with, so if you can't find anything relatable with these core values, the company might not be a good fit for you. You'll have to work there with others who, at the very least, were able to also answer these questions in a way the interviewers approved of.

I really like what @Anketam said; interviews are a two-way street and you are looking to see if the company is a good fit for you.


Since every other answer is getting downvoted, I'm gonna throw my hat in the ring in a way that tries to avoid taking a political stance and just answers the meat of the question:

"How should such questions be answered in an interview?": If it's a subjective question, like what do those beliefs mean to you, then I hate to say it, but make something up. It's a question about your personal beliefs and interpretation, so it's not verifiable and I would argue not possible to lie about. I can almost guarantee that it will not matter anyway. The interviewers are more interested in finding people who can put on a facade that makes the company look acceptable than they are in finding activists to run the company. (Unless that type of work is actually in your field, though I doubt it from what you've said.)

Since it's possible, likely even, that you will be asked about specific times you exemplified these characteristics, you should also prepare an answer for that ahead of time. If you can't come up with an actual example for an answer, well, it's up to you what to do instead. Be aware lying in interviews is generally unethical.

"Without coming across as prejudice how can I inquire into the amount of this type of thing when interviewing with a potential workplace?": You won't be able to find out the full extent without giving a bad impression to the interviewers, but you can ask questions like "I like to focus on our mission and work, and avoid office politics. Do you think that this workplace would be right for me?" or "What types of training or activities do you require for employees?". I would avoid directly asking about whatever types of politics you are trying to avoid, in case the interviewer doesn't share your opinions. Some of this will also be on you to tolerate the occasional email - almost every office is going to have that, maybe save some very politically diverse offices where the topics are too hot to bring up.

At the end of the day, companies have to manage their PR. If the area in which you live favors a lot of diversity/DIE in companies, i.e. makes them more money or makes their employees happier (read: also makes them more money) then you may just have to put up with it or move. If the worst part of your job is having to ignore or pretend to agree with your coworkers, then there are certainly worse jobs to have.

  • "If the worst part of your job is having to ignore or pretend to agree with your coworkers, then there are certainly worse jobs to have." - would you say the same if the company values were "telling it how it is" and "letting boys be boys"? As much as my bleeding heart struggles to sympathize with the OP, having to cooperate with and report to people whom you disagree with on a fundamental level to the point of not being comfortable around them is a valid concern, and I'd think a key factor in deciding whether the job is good or bad for you. Oct 31 at 12:37
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    No, but that's not what the company values are. OP simply has to tolerate a company having different political views with no engagement or action required on their part. Work the job, ignore the twice-a-year email that mentions something political, and go home. Especially if OP is in a blue state - it's going to be a rough time if they don't grow up a bit on this. Oct 31 at 13:55

I will focus on the diversity question, because from you question and comments that is where you are struggling.

Expect that the team you will be joining, and all the customers , managers, suppliers you deal with will be diverse. It doesn't matter to you how they got that way.

They want to know that you understand that is the situation. If you have problems based on race, color, creed, sexual orientation, age, or disability, then expect a tough time keeping the job.

  • 1
    This doesn't answer the actual question. It's already clear WHY the question is asked. The tricky part is how to answer w/out resorting to a cookier cutter "hot air" answer like "I embrace diversity" or "I proactively encourage diversity at the workplace"
    – Hilmar
    Oct 30 at 14:46
  • I don't agree. Where I am, every company deeply values diversity ... on their website and in the advertisments. (In reality, they can be everything from diverse to nondiverse plus racist/sexist.)
    – guest
    Nov 17 at 21:53

As someone who is likewise opposed to the Marxist BS that is DIE (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity) - My response is always to look at the ones I can answer - so in your case I would talk about:

Teamwork and integrity.

I would also give one example to cover both - so it sounds like I'm not picking favorites.

If someone really pushed me on Diversity - I would simply state that a persons skin colour, gender, orientation or other characteristic has no bearing, nor ever will have any bearing, on any decision of mine in the workplace.

Because at that point... my honest answer is either going to rule me out as a candidate for them or it's going to rule them out as a company for me.

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    @mattfreake - because every company I've worked at has these values everywhere, but in practice - because I'm not in a Management or leadership role - they don't affect me. My experience has been most departments likewise don't care about this (except perhaps places like HR or Marketing) - so it's an acceptable compromise. Oct 29 at 19:50
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    @gidds - Yes, that is totally what I'm saying... (that was sarcasm). As I stated - someone's race/gender/orientation/etc. will never be a factor in any of my decisions - any other standard of behavior is, definitionally discriminatory. The leadership comment though is because I'm not in charge of a department, there is no pressure on me by upper management to meet various box-ticking diversity metrics. Oct 30 at 18:12
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    @mattfreake If I am not mistaken his honest answer is that a person's skin color, gender, etc... has no bearing on he treats them. Which as an honest answer will rule him out for a lot of 'diverse' companies which think that race/gender/orientation/etc matter a lot. And so they don't like people who don't takes those factors into consideration.
    – Questor
    Oct 30 at 19:40
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    @mattfreake Sometimes you just need a job? during college I worked at a grocery store and I definitely didn't see myself working there in five years...
    – Questor
    Oct 30 at 20:44
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    @Kilisi - I agree - I discriminate on Merit: If you can't do the job, I won't champion you to do the Job. Oct 30 at 23:51

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