(Closed) Interview question – "Most unethical thing you've ever done"

posted 4 years ago in Career
Post # 46
255 posts
Helper bee

I’m taking an Ethics class at night right now and “WOW” that question is probably the hardest inverview question I’ve ever heard! 

In class we’ve talked about how Ethics are situational and often are decisions between win-win or lose-lose; we normally have to pick the best of the bad outcomes or the best of the good outcomes.

One example I talked about in class was having to help close a manufacturing plant at work; these people were my collegues and friends, but I couldn’t tell them the plant closure was coming. The plant workers knew something was odd and I was even asked point-blank a couple of times if the plant was closing (“just be honest with me so I can start saving to get through unemployment” or “just me honest with me so I can curb my children’s expectations for Christmas” – really heavy stuff.)

I had to lie, it was aweful. I said I hadn’t heard anything about it. I was threatened with losing my job if a leak got back to me and there are always other consequences to consider. (e.g. Damage to company property or theft of proprietary information would harm countless shareholders.) I was awake several nights with a sick feeling in my stomach. It was a choice I had to make between bad and worse; I hated it. 

Post # 49
3221 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2016

Ms.PatientBee:  oh, that SUCKS. I would have had such a hard time not saying something at all, like “I haven’t heard anything about it, but what if your mother were hit by a bus and you felt you needed time off to care for her? It’s a good idea for everyone to have savings in case they need to be unemployed for a while suddenly,” or “if you curb your kids’ expectations for Christmas and everything goes well, why not take them on a short disney trip on spring break? or really surprise them with something that is beyond their expectations?”

Post # 50
3611 posts
Sugar bee

Seriously? A question like this would make me walk out of an interview. Well, maybe not walk out on the spot, but I wouldn’t accept a job offer at this company or even a request for a second-round interview. This sounds like it’ll be a bad place to work. Also, if I had to answer, I’d probably say stealing fancy Pilot pens from the office to use at home. I probably mostly used them to mark up work docs anyway. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Post # 51
12490 posts
Sugar Beekeeper


“Tell me about something you did – or failed to do – that you now feel a little ashamed of.

TRAPS: There are some questions your interviewer has no business asking, and this is one. But while you may feel like answering, “none of your business,” naturally you can’t.

Some interviewers ask this question on the chance you admit to something, but if not, at least they’ll see how you think on your feet. Some unprepared candidates, flustered by this question, unburden themselves of guilt from their personal life or career, perhaps expressing regrets regarding a parent, spouse, child, etc. All such answers can be disastrous.

BEST ANSWER: As with faults and weaknesses, never confess a regret. But don’t seem as if you’re stonewalling either.

Best strategy: Say you harbor no regrets, then add a principle or habit you practice regularly for healthy human relations.

Example: Pause for reflection, as if the question never occurred to you. Then say, “You know, I really can’t think of anything.” (Pause again, then add): “I would add that as a general management principle, I’ve found that the best way to avoid regrets is to avoid causing them in the first place. I practice one habit that helps me a great deal in this regard. At the end of each day, I mentally review the day’s events and conversations to take a second look at the people and developments I’m involved with and do a doublecheck of what they’re likely to be feeling. Sometimes I’ll see things that do need more follow-up, whether a pat on the back, or maybe a five minute chat in someone’s office to make sure we’re clear on things…whatever.”

“I also like to make each person feel like a member of an elite team, like the Boston Celtics or LA Lakers in their prime. I’ve found that if you let each team member know you expect excellence in their performance…if you work hard to set an example yourself…and if you let people know you appreciate and respect their feelings, you wind up with a highly motivated group, a team that’s having fun at work because they’re striving for excellence rather than brooding over slights or regrets.”

Post # 52
1352 posts
Bumble bee

I work in HR and have never heard of that question, so I don’t know the logic behind it. I do know that some questions are meant to test how you react to uncomfortable, unexpected, or new situations. For instance, if you’re working with the public or with clients, it’s important to be calm and coherent in those situations. So a good answer to “what kind of tree would you be” could be (with a smile, reacting to the humour): “I haven’t given this enough thought to provide a conclusive answer. If it’s important for your assessment, I can get back to you. But off the top of my head, I would be a fir tree because they are resilient”. 

I have no idea if that’s the logic behind the unethical act question, but this is one perspective!

Post # 53
6358 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: November 2009 - New York, NY

I don’t like the way the question was worded, as it implies that the candidate has been unethical.  During my hiring interviews I normally ask something along these lines:  “Give me an example of a time when you came across an unethical situation.  What was it and how did you handle it?”

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