Job interview question and answer: If you only had six months to live, what would you do with the time?

Posted October 13, 2011, by Andrea Riddell

Despite its initial air of morbidity, this question has less to do with actually dying and more to do with your aspirations and motivations. Your answer will give the employer an insight into how you prioritise your life and what you hope to achieve. This question will also test your ability to think quickly and perform under pressure.

Rather than blurt out that you would spend your time partying it up with your friends and sunbaking in Hawaii, think about what you would want to achieve in your life, particularly in your career, and what you would like to be remembered for. This will give the employer an indication of your values, how much importance you place on your career and your family, and what ambition you have in all areas of your life.

Like many job interview questions, your answer will depend on what type of job you are going for. If you’re applying for a job that requires creative thinking, then demonstrate this by having a creative answer. Talk about a variety of different things you would like to achieve in both your personal and professional life. Focusing on just your career or just your personal life will make you seem like you don’t have any career-related ambitions or that you have too many.

Perhaps you would like to spend your last days penning the novel you have always wanted to write. Maybe you would dedicate some time to helping out charities in developing countries. Or, perhaps you have always wanted to climb Mount Everest. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, show the interviewer that you are passionate about personal growth and development, and determined to achieve your goals and dreams.

It is all well and good to say you want to carve your own place in the world and make your mark before you’re six feet under, but you need to explain how and why you would go about doing this. If your answer is detailed it will show that you have given a lot of thought to your future. It will also help the employer see how you will fit into the office.

While your personal ambitions do not have to directly reflect the position you are applying for, they do need to show that you have the right mindset and qualities to succeed in it. Focus on activities that show you to be creative, independent, determined and adventurous. Make the employer want to get to know you and have you on their team. You want your interview to be memorable and the best way to do this is to let your personality shine through.

Andrea Riddell

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