From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

October 2008
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Interview Question. Managing risk
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, Leadership, Mature professionals, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 9:44 am

Both in times like these, with slow-downs,
reductions-in-force, hiring freezes, and the
like, and in some career circumstances we
face risk-benefit trade-offs for actions or
decisions we make,

These are possible scenarios that one could
use to respond to interview questions inquiring
about how do you manage risk or how do you
deal with situations– are you risk averse?

Thus, in one career situation a person was
faced with the offer of being the technology
transfer point person developing an improved
product and bringing it into full production.
The sector manager asked him to come into
his office and asked him if he would accept.

Looking back on the situation, it was a prime
position to move up in corporation management
with high visibility, exposure to new areas and
technologies, and exciting challenges.  On the
other hand, this would pose a big change in
location (6 miles from home to 60 miles),
longer work hours (even weekend meetings
and travel), and, while not clear at early stages,
greater uncertainty where his next position would

This was a situation that required a decision
and senior people used it to assess decision
making ability and risk tolerance.

An interesting approach to managing risk is offered
by Mind Tools.  Mind tools provides a framework
and protocol that gives a logical flow to

Many times it is not easy to provide an answer
to these kinds of decisions.  They are not straightforward
and the response is expected immediately.  Just
like in an interview.  So, having a framework
for thinking about these situations can be helpful.

The decision offered at the moment was not to
accept the technology development position.
The individual responded to the director that he
wanted to finish implementing several specific
improvement projects in his current assignment
before moving on.  (Note:  work related item
benefiting the business.)

In hindsight, if I had used the Mind Tools format,
I could have delivered a stronger strategic
case for not accepting the position and kept
the door open for other similar assignments.

The way it was received was that I was not open to
such positions. 

It would have been entirely appropriate for me
to have checked in with a mentor to help
understand the nature of the question and
how my actions would be interpreted. 

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