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John Uttley

How To Ace A Value Based Interview

Value-based interview questions, and wholly based values based interviews, are on the rise as companies seek new staff that share their own organisational values. These are purely questions about your own values to understand what drives your behaviours and attitudes.

To bag the role, you’ve got to be fully prepared for this, because showing hesitation, or trying to bluff your way through it is a huge ‘red flag’ to the interviewer.

In this article, we’ll explore-value based interviews (and value-based questions) and how you can make a great impression.

What is a value-based interview?

A value-based interview is an assessment method that focuses on aligning a candidate's personal values with those of the organization. It aims to determine if a candidate's beliefs and principles resonate with the company's core values and culture. This interview format helps ensure a strong cultural fit and long-term employee satisfaction.

Put your sales hat to one side for a minute. ‘Value’ in this instance has nothing to do with money. Instead, it is all about your ‘core values’, as a person.

One of the 'fathers' of motivational theory, Vroom (1964), broadly stated that motivation for a given action was underpinned by how much an individual 'values' the desired outcome.  Therefore outcomes or results are determined by action; action is a direct result of behaviour and behaviour is underpinned by an individual's values.  Consequently, companies seek individuals with 'values' that 'match' those of their corporate culture and vision.

Another way to look at it is the etymology of the word 'motivation', which is a combination of the Latin word 'motivus' (to move) and 'ation', another Latin word for 'action' or 'process of doing something'. 

So, motivation is the ability to 'move someone to action'.  For some, this could be money. But if their house was burning down, I am sure they would be more 'motivated' to save their kids rather than their wallet's content, so one of their 'values' would be 'family'.  Make sense? 

The interviewer will want to explore your values and beliefs to establish if they will fit in with the company’s values and long-term ambition. Sounds simple, right? Well, if you’re fully prepared (read on for tips). Succeeding at a value-based interview need not be intimidating.

Just don’t try and ‘game the system’ – a skilled interviewer will spot if you’re telling fibs to try and sound like the perfect candidate.

Why do companies ask value-based interview questions?

VBIs have been around for a few years. Initially, they were used in specific sectors, like healthcare. The reason was clear enough: in the care environment, it is paramount to employ people who, you know, care about other people.

However, more recently the benefits of VBIs have been seized upon by other sectors, including sales. It makes business sense for your employees to share the same values and beliefs as the business. Everyone will be more likely to pull together, after all.

Imagine if a company that makes a big thing of teamwork, where project and problems are worked through together, hired a self-centred maverick salesman who thought he knew best and did his own thing? It’s got disaster written all over it. A VBI would’ve weeded out this ‘lone wolf’ from the outset.

How do I identify my values?

You’re going to need to do some ‘navel-gazing’, which might not come easily to most. However, if you follow this exercise through, you’ll have a much clearer idea of who you are as a person. It might be eye-opening, it might be lengthy. However, it will be worthwhile.

And after all, understanding your personal values can help in many aspects of your life, not just job interviews!

A second advisory: your values might change as you go through life, so you should evaluate them regularly. For example, whereas once money and status might have been important to you, perhaps work-life balance is more significant now?

Here’s a value evaluation process to follow:
  1. Identify a few occasions when you were most proud;
  2. Pick a few times when you were at your happiest;
  3. Choose some other moments when you were most fulfilled and satisfied;
  4. Google a list of common personal values (typically you might find a list of 200) and select ten that you would associate with your proud/happy/fulfilled moments;
  5. Determine your top values by writing down around ten;
  6. Now prioritise these values, putting those most important to you at the top;
  7. Reaffirm by asking yourself tough questions. Do these values fit in with your life vision? Are you proud of them?

Once you’ve settled on your list, you’re in much better shape to answer questions about what sort of person you are… and, crucially to then answer any follow-up questions by giving examples of when you used these values (by remembering your proud/happy/fulfilled moments).

Preparing for value based interviews

Performing well during value-based interviewing requires thorough prep work. By establishing your own values, you’ll be in a much better position to answer your interviewer’s questions.

However, that’s only half of the preparation required. Remember we said the interviewer wants to match your values to that of the company? You’ll, therefore, want to find out as much as you can about the company’s culture, values and ambitions in advance.  The first step is to look at the ‘About Us’ page on their website which will regularly detail a company’s values together with its mission and vision.

Speak to people that you know who have worked there, search through LinkedIn and Glassdoor to read reviews from previous members of staff, and scour the business's social media accounts for clues.

Once armed with this information, you can pre-empt any shortcomings a value-based interview might expose. Don’t give false answers, of course, but you can practise how best to portray yourself in each situation.

Answering common value-based interview questions

Here are four typical value-based interview questions:
1) Tell me about yourself?

Don’t give your life story, instead think back to your list of personal values and select several of them to describe yourself. Be prepared to provide examples (which you’ll have from the exercise outlined earlier). Just ensure your answers are relevant to the job that you have applied for.

For more information on answering the tell me about yourself question please visit our guide here.

2) What would be the main rewards you feel that you would get from this role?

Again, tune your answer to the job. So, if one of your personal values is helping others and you know the company is ‘hot’ on customer service, then talk about how ‘absolute customer satisfaction’ is an important part of your sales strategy.

3) Tell us about a situation where it was important you worked as part of a team?

You’ve maybe learned the company values teamwork. Reply with a detailed example of your experience working as part of a team, your role in it, what the outcome was and crucially what you learned from it. Because learning shows a desire to progress and perhaps a little humility – both great qualities.

4) Talk us through a situation where you were successful? Why do you think it was a success?

Does one of the company's values resonate with you? If so try to weave your knowledge of the company's values into your answer.

Date published: 2nd March 2024

A photo of Simon Bonner, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment

About the author

Simon Bonner

With over 25 years in B2B sales and recruitment, Simon is an English Graduate from UEA and specialises in recruiting commercial and FMCG sales positions. Simon joined the sales recruitment industry in 1998 before progressing into field sales and returning to recruitment in 2015. As an Associate Director, Simon is well placed to understand the needs of clients and candidates' needs, having spent ten years selling electronic security and managing National Accounts within OEM manufacturers and distribution channels. An avid Luton Town football fan, Simon dotes on his two daughters and enjoys keeping fit, socialising, food and wine.

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