This is an interesting interview question that is trying to assess your sense of personal control and effectiveness in the world. Are you someone who takes responsibility and action to make your way through life, or do you look to others or luck to get by?
The ‘locus of control’ is a psychological concept that refers to an individual's perception about the underlying cause of events in their life. Do you believe that your destiny is controlled by yourself (internal locus of control) or by external forces (such as fate, luck, external circumstances or other people)?
In general, people with an internal locus of control are seen as more desirable by employers, and research has found that these people tend to be more achievement-oriented, get better paid jobs and climb higher within organisational ranks.
However, as with everything, there is a balance to be struck. Employers want responsible workers with initiative, but not neurotic control freaks who can’t deal with unforeseen events.
So in answering this question, be sure to portray yourself as someone who assesses situations, looks ahead, plans and prepares, and takes action and responsibility – including when things go wrong. You are an independent thinker who can be decisive, lead and delegate when necessary, you can roll with the punches and you don’t blame others for your mistakes.
You are also collaborative, seek input from others and can allow others to step forward when their skills are more appropriate for the task or situation at hand.
In other words, you are someone with boundless energy and enthusiasm to achieve and produce results, but you can also recognise that some things are not in your control and you have the wisdom to accept what you cannot change.
In rating your sense of personal control, a seven or eight would probably be a safe bet.