The interviewer would like to know how you would react if put in an awkward, or potentially harmful situation like being asked by a co-worker to steal with them. Theft can occur in many ways in the workplace and is not necessarily reserved to blatantly taking a product. Ensure that you are aware of the different ways a co-worker may try to pass stealing off as 'no big deal.'
- Timecard fabrication, also known as 'buddy punching' where you punch in for a coworker who is not present
- 'Borrowing' money from the cash register
- Falsifying vendor or expense accounts
- Taking items from the lost and found
- Stealing data or documents containing trade secrets
- Taking expensive office supplies like ink, or adding personal items to supply orders
- Billing hours to clients that they did not work
Of course, you already know how to answer this question! Express that you would never engage in this type of behavior and discuss how you would go about reporting this type of situation. If this has happened to you in the past, you can talk about the case.
"Stealing is wrong, no matter which way you slice it. I have zero tolerance for unethical behavior and would report the situation immediately."
"I once had a coworker ask me to punch in for her when she was late. She didn't want to lose hours on her time sheet! I simply laughed and told her that she needed to wake up a bit earlier if she wanted to be at work on time. She apologized later for asking me to do something unethical. It didn't happen again."
"One of my senior managers, after giving his two weeks' notice, actually had the nerve to ask me to hand over the contact information for some of my major accounts. I was appalled by his behavior, reported it to our director, and he was terminated rather than being allowed to complete his two weeks' notice."
"At one point I caught another marketing manager billing hours to a client that was not even his. He knew the client was a major one, and that they did not ever look at their itemized report every month. I dug into the situation a bit and found that he had been adding about five billable hours per month for the past six months. I approached him about it, and he asked me to keep the secret. I reported my findings, and he lost his job shortly after. I did not want my agency to get a bad reputation for one dishonest person."
"I have never had a co-worker ask me to help them steal; however, I am aware that merchandise goes missing all the time, at the hands of employees, in a retail environment. I have formal training on how to approach situations like these and have zero tolerance for theft."
"I used to do ride alongs with a senior territory manager who would falsify his kilometer reimbursement requests all the time. I was new to my career and didn't want to be a whistleblower, so I let it go on. Now, however, I would know to report a situation like that and to never participate through inaction, again."
"I once caught an administrator taking office supplies from our school! She asked me not to tell anyone. I had a heart to heart with her and told her that I would have to report the situation, but if she returned the items that she took, I would assure the principal that she was trying to correct the situation. The theft didn't go over well, and she lost her job, but I didn't feel bad. You need to trust those with whom you work. Our school is already on a tight budget, and we certainly didn't need a staff member taking from what little our students already receive."