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Have you ever worked in a situation where the rules and guidelines were not clear? How did you cope?

1 of 30 Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated on July 22nd, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

The interviewer wants to know how you go about achieving goals when you lack explicit instruction from your manager or company. Part of the point of 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.

Professional Answer Examples
Answer example

"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 the common protocols. 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 salesperson and promoted to manager."

Answer example

"I worked for a small family-owned agency for a while. Most processes were not formally written down or included in my onboarding training. I made it my project to create "what-if" scenarios, get answers from the bosses, and compile a troubleshooting list to work from."

Answer example

"As a manager, I understand the need for clear guidelines and expectations. In my current role, I created a playbook of sorts for my team to follow. I don't like to enforce rules explicitly; rather, I hope that my team will use their training, knowledge, and intuition to make the best decisions."

Answer example

"Working in an online marketing start-up company, there were many situations where rules and guidelines were not clear. I took it upon myself to identify the need. My team and I 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 in today!"

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 her own. This situation was not only odd but also tricky. To please my boss, I had to follow her rules but to move up in the company and please corporate; I had to follow theirs. Ultimately, I found an excellent middle ground that kept me productive, my boss happy with my sales and productivity, and was presumably pleasing to the store managers and corporate. I later moved to a different department into a leadership position. All that to say, I'm comfortable in awkward, figure-it-out situations, and can figure out a way to succeed and keep all parties happy, no matter what the parameters."

Answer example

"In startups, hard set rules are difficult to find. You are to sell and hit your metrics, but it's 99% a figure-it-out-yourself situation. This situation can be an awesome opportunity to pilot out your 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 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!"

Answer example

"During a transition period when we had no department chair, you could say guidelines were unclear. There was no one necessarily mandating that we hold our meetings, for instance. However, a few us knew that it was beneficial to us as teachers, and the department as a whole, to continue. We took turns leading the meetings and acting as though each of us was the supervisor for the following two weeks, passing the torch to the next teacher as she stepped in. This method allowed for us to continue growing and learning, collaborating, and also be ready to transition to the new official team lead seamlessly."

Answer example

"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 lead of the delivery team within 3 months because they trusted that I had the company's best interest in mind."

Surgical Technologist
Answer example

"I am never one to break the rules out of rebellion but I have bent one or two for the greater good of the patient. One time I can recall is when I had a patient in postoperative care. We have a rule of no mobile phones. It happened that his wife had a medical emergency and so I allowed him to have his phone with him after surgery. It didn't cause any harm to him and he was very thankful for the empathy we showed for his situation."

Written by:

Heather Douglass
Heather Douglass has over 20 years of experience recruiting and hiring candidates. She has a knack for resume writing. You can find her on twitter at @heatherinidaho.
Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
Ryan Brown
Ryan Brown, is the creator of MockQuestions. He has over ten years experience creating interview questions. His website has helped over 10 million job seekers in their interview preparation.
First written on: 12/04/2010
Last modified on: 07/22/2018

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View user-submitted Answers

Have you ever worked in a situation where the rules and guidelines were not clear? How did you cope?
I asked the manager what they would like me to do first and asked for a detailed list of instructions.
It happens at school al the time especially final projects or a lab work. What I do is that I go back and talk to the professor just clarify what he really want me to do. I try not to assume but rather asked mere questions to complete it.
At a country club where I managed the pool. Many groups would come to the pool and expected different treatment. The CEO manager would let me know it was up to my discretion as long as the problems never came across his desk. I just went with the flow on it and really only had two bad situation over a seven year time period.
Did not love it. Tried to create my own projects, had to train myself on various topics.
Working as a quality control supervisor there was not a benchmark for quality and I was not given proper training so I had learn it on my own or asked the manager which I was unsure about.
Everyday. Returns are not black and white. Lots of shades of gray. Customer Accomodations.
Every job I worked rules were clear and listed in employee hand book.
We often have to place signs up near the products that are on sale for the week at work. Our As seen on tv sale stickers were not specific on which items were apart of the sale. I did not want to place them incorrectly and misinform customers so I inquired with my supervisor to what the specific guidelines were for placing the signs. She was unsure herself and decided that we would hold off on that section for this week.
I already experienced that situation where the rules and the guidelines were not clear.I accidentally did was when I put all my homeworks in a sheet of paper and our teacher told us to pass it online.I was so disappointed on that time because I worked hard for it but I didn't pass it because we need to passed it via online. I just talked to our teacher if I can passed my homework because it's my fault and I mean it.I just want to try if my teacher would get my homework.
Very seldom does this arrise but when it does a new policy is sent out with paychecks for all to sign and then filed.
Yes, I had this kind of situation. I felt bad, without rules and guidelines we are like animals. Everyone do what they want, so this is a disorganized company . I don't like to work in this environment, it is chaotic.
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