Job Interview Question

If you had to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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This is a ‘work style’ type of question.  But it’s a complicated one.  Employers really want both.

If you’re a big-picture person, they’d like for you to also be able to handle the details.  CEOs need to be able to consider the data when they make decisions for long-term plans.

If you’re a detail-oriented person, they’d like for you to also be able to recognize the bigger picture and not get tunnel vision, because you need to be contributing toward the larger goal.

Organizations need both styles in order to grow.

So the best answer really is, “I’m a _________, but I can also __________.”

What you say first should absolutely depend on your job…accountants should be detail-oriented, and CEOs should be big-picture strategic types.

“I’m more of a detail-oriented person, but I can step back and look at the bigger picture, just like you step back and look at a map, to make sure that I’m on track for the larger goal.”

“I’m definitely a big-picture person because I think strategically in terms of where the organization needs to be in order to be successful and profitable, but I can focus on whatever necessary details I need to inform those decisions.”

And if you have a good story about a time when you used both skills in a successful project, now would be the time to tell it.  “I was the group leader for X project, so I had to keep an eye out for what everyone was doing and make sure we were on track for our goal, and keep a checklist of all the details that needed to be taken care of in order to get there.  We completed the project on time with excellent results.”  (And say what those results were.)

Big-picture jobs require strategy, creativity, the ability to see the forest and not get caught up in the individual trees.  Generally, the higher up you are in an organization, the more you should be able to see the big picture.  So if you’re working your way up the ladder into upper management, you should be (or should be learning to be) a big-picture person.   Other big picture jobs:  consultants, entrepreneurs, writers, counselors.

Detail-oriented jobs are in much greater supply than big-picture jobs.  There are always many more soldiers than generals.  But as they say, the devil is in the details.   You can lose the war for want of a nail.

Many of the highest-paying jobs are incredibly detail-oriented, so it’s a very valuable skill.  Detail oriented jobs:  engineers, scientists, mathematicians, surgeons, administrative assistants, researchers, just about any kind of technology-based job.


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