The point to this interview question is to find out where your moral compass lands when company rules are not clear. Give the interviewer an example of a time when you had to cope with very few guidelines.
"One of my earlier positions was for a family run furniture company with very few guidelines or rules of engagement when it came to sales, service, and everyday protocol. It was pure chaos but I did my best by following what I intuitively felt was the best decision. I ended up being the top sales person and was quickly promoted to Manager."
"Working in a start up company, there were many situations where rules and guidelines were not clear. I took it upon myself to identify the need. People needed direction. So, I drafted the rules and guidelines and came up with a system for others to contribute. Together, we created the internal structure that the company operates within today!"
"I worked for a small family-owned operation for a while. Because it had just been the family for so long, most processes were not formally written down or trained. I made it my own project to create "what-if" scenarios, get answers from the bosses, and compile a troubleshooting list for the staff."
Sales answer example
"In startups, rules are hard to come by. You are to sell and hit your metrics, but it's 99% a figure-it-out-yourself situation. This can be an awesome opportunity to pilot out your own ideas and tactics almost all of the time, as long as you're comfortable with trial and error and creative license. I have loved this opportunity to create my own approach to my building my book of business.
Yes, it can be frustrating when you feel lost, but I've always found that my ideas coupled with putting my head together with teammates and those that have been there longer than I will yield results and allows me to have fun while I'm at it!"
Retail answer example
"I've had a position where the company did have clear guidelines and procedures, however the manager didn't follow that set of rules and instead implemented his own. This was not only odd, but also really tricky. To please my boss, I had to follow his rules, but to move up in the company and please corporate, I had to follow theirs.
Ultimately, I found a nice middle ground that kept me productive, my boss happy with my sales and productivity, and was presumably pleasing to the store managers and corporate, as I was eventually moved into a different department into a leadership position. All that to say, I'm comfortable in awkward, figure-it-out situations, and can generally figure out a way to succeed and keep all parties happy, no matter what the parameters."
Teacher answer example
"During a transition period when we had no department chair, I guess you could say guidelines were unclear. There was no one necessarily mandating that we hold our meetings, or really do anything. However, a few us knew that it was beneficial to us as teachers, and the department as a whole, to continue on, so we took turns leading the meetings and acting as though each of us were supervisor for the following two weeks, passing the torch to the next teacher as she stepped in. This allowed for us to continue growing and learning, collaborating, and also be ready to seamlessly transition, as much as possible, to the new official team lead."